Master of Arts in English
First Committee Member
John Irsfeld, Chair
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Graduate Faculty Representative
Number of Pages
While Stanley Kubrick's film Full Metal Jacket has remained in the national consciousness twenty years after its release, the author of its source material, Gustav Hasford, has not. Few people know or remember that the Oscar-nominated film was not an original work but was adapted by Hasford, Kubrick, and Dispatches author Michael Herr from Hasford's 1979 novel The Short-Timers. Fewer people remember that following the well-reviewed The Short-Timers Hasford published a sequel, The Phantom Blooper, as well as one final novel A Gypsy Good Time, a frenetic parody of detective fiction. To say that Gustav Hasford is primarily remembered as the originator of Full Metal Jacket, or as the owner of the largest library book theft case in United States history, would be inaccurate because Gustav Hasford, for the most part, is not remembered.
There are several reasons as to how Gus Hasford came to slip through the cracks of history. For starters, his books have been out of print since 1992, partially because Hasford refused to let The Short-Timers be reprinted under the title of `Full Metal Jacket' and in doing so passed up the chance to reap the financial benefits of added royalties or the exposure another reprinting would have brought him. Additionally, Hasford died at the age of in 1993 at the age of 45, just after his last book was quietly released and with the third book in his planned Vietnam trilogy barely started. The eccentric Hasford found it difficult when alive to retain goodwill amongst either the literary or film communities, feuding with publishers and directors alike. After his death, with his literary career cut short and disgruntled publishers in no mind to market or reprint his books, Hasford fell almost entirely into the oblivion of public memory, both his work and his life essentially forgotten.
For my Master's Thesis I propose a study both of Hasford's life and his work for the purpose of shedding light on a talented but forgotten author. No extensive biographical study of Hasford has been attempted since the obituaries that followed his death in 1993, and scholarly examination of his literature has been limited to a few scattered book reviews and a short overview of Hasford's work by his cousin/de facto literary executor. I intend to examine Hasford's life, which included amongst other highlights a tour as a marine combat correspondent, a stint in jail following the largest library fine ever assessed, several weeks spent living on Harlan Ellison's couch, a sophomore novel he would send to book reviewers inscribed with a proclamation that the work was "Dead on Arrival" because his editor had ruined it, and a personality so tempestuous that it led legendarily difficult-to-work-with Stanley Kubrick to eventually throw up his hands and insist that Hasford was a man HE could not deal with. Additionally I will undertake a critical examination of the key themes running through the two books in his unfinished Vietnam Trilogy, The Short-Timers and The Phantom Blooper, as well as the related biographical undertones in A Gypsy Good Time, for all intents and purposes the unintended ending to that trilogy. It is hoped that through my research some long-overdue critical attention will be paid both to Hasford's novels and to Hasford himself so that he can begin to be recognized as the key contributor to Vietnam War fiction that he was.
Full Metal Jacket; Gustav Hasford; Phantom Blooper; Short-Timers; Vietnam War Fiction; War and literature; Criticism; War stories; American; Film criticism; Authors; American; Biography; Film adaptations
English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America
Ross, Matthew Samuel, "An Examination of the life and work of Gustav Hasford" (2010). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 236.