Original and best....

Well, I think it is, anyway....I never warmed to M*A*S*H the TV series, although I did love Robert Altman's blackly comic film, but before either of them, and better than both, is Richard Hooker's original novel. There's a bit of a history to this, Richard Hooker (H. Richard Hornberger), was a surgeon, who served in the Korean war with the American army. He spent much of the war with the 8055th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.), and it was from here that the story of MASH evolved with most of the incidents based either on his own experiences, or on those of colleagues and friends.

It's hilariously, blackly funny, a great companion piece to Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Although, interestingly Hornberger had never intended the novel to be anti-war, he just wrote it as he saw it - the Korean War evidently just speaks for itself. Personally though, I think it's rather better than Catch-22, sparsely written (probably thanks to Hornberger's co-writer, the sports writer, W.C. Heinz), it has a journalistic quality about it. The facts are just presented as they are, take them or leave them. This attitude sometimes makes it hard to see what heroes these young men and women were who worked with the mobile units - sometimes under fire, often in difficult conditions - extremely hot or very cold, and working phenomenally long hours - and performing feats of surgery that they had probably not often attempted back home in their teaching hospitals in the States, for many of the medical staff were very young. In spite of this the sterling work of the medical staff of the US Army contributed to the highest battlefield survival rates seen up to that point, and much of their work would be instrumental in saving lives back home in peace time. Fuelled by drink, gambling, and a wonderful sense of humour, the exploits of the 4077th have to be read to be belived.

Very funny and with a real heart MASH is just plain astounding - it also happens to be one of my favourite novels.


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