Just as "M*A*S*H" used Korea as a means to disguise a comic commentary on the then-current Vietnam War, Kirkland author Phillip Jennings...

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“Nam-A-Rama”


by Phillip Jennings

Forge, 332 pp., $24.95

Just as “M*A*S*H” used Korea as a means to disguise a comic commentary on the then-current Vietnam War, Kirkland author Phillip Jennings makes Vietnam comment on Iraq in his uneven satirical novel, “Nam-A-Rama.”

And Jennings is more upfront about it than the makers of “M*A*S*H” ever were. In the preface, he wryly thanks mankind “for its continuing penchant for eschewing common sense and simple decency,” adding that “our pursuit of peace through obliteration seems unabated by our experiences.”

A former Marine who fought in Vietnam, Jennings doesn’t think that wars should never be waged. But he does believe that the urgency of settlement talks might increase if “a squad of rabid men run through the Oval Office once a day spraying AK-47 fire above the president’s head.”

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Phillip Jennings



The author of “Nam-A-Rama” will read at 5 p.m. April 3

at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Free. (206-366-3333; www.thirdplacebooks.com).

The plot of “Nam-A-Rama” is a loopy fantasy involving “Cowboy Larry Bob” (aka President Lyndon Johnson) and his last-ditch attempts to stop the war by sending a Marine lieutenant, Jack (the narrator), and Jack’s semicrazy best friend, Gearheardt, on a secret mission to Hanoi. There they meet Ho Chi Minh and Barbonella, a radical actress known for her role in a sexy space flick.

Other characters go by names like Gon Norea, Whiffenpoof and Mickey Mouse (the Disneyland employee Jack once dated). A little of this “Dr. Strangelove”-style goofiness goes a very long way, especially as the cost of the war in blood and treasure becomes increasingly burdensome.

Still, whenever the book threatens to plod and lose its energy, Jennings saves it with a throwaway touch that scores. When Jack and Gearheardt finally arrive in Hanoi, they discover that one of Ho’s generals is reading a battered World War II novel for pointers on strategy. Of course, it’s “Catch-22.”