An unusual round-up: excerpts from stellar Vietnam-War writing (not antiwar writing)--followed by a hard-hitting discussion...



An unusual round-up: excerpts from stellar Vietnam-War writing (not antiwar writing)--followed by a hard-hitting discussion of the war's legacy by the three of the authors and four others of their split generation who also identify with the war (among them paraplegic vet Robert O. Muller, of Vietnam Veterans of America, and ex-staff officer John P. Wheeler III, a cofounder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund). The excerpts are a stunning array: the incantation (""They did not know even the simple things. . ."") from Tim O'Brien's Waiting for Cacciato; Baksir and Strauss (Chance and Circumstance) on the ""Darwinian social policy"" of the draft; James Fallows' memory (""What Did You Do in the Class War, Daddy?"") of snagging a physical deferment with fellow Harvard students; Philip Caputo's recollection (Rumors of War) of the ""senseless,"" cathartic obliteration of Ha Na; Michael Herr (Dispatches) at the shelling of Khe Sanh (""The nights were very beautiful. Night was when you had the least to fear and feared the most""); James Webb's wounded vet (Fields of Fire) returning to belligerently antiwar Harvard. In the ensuing discussion, each of the participants tells how he got into the war (or didn't), what he did, what he's doing. Then, with reference to each other's experiences and writings, they talk--and argue--about ""the polarization, almost culture by culture, within our age group"" (Muller); about the embitterment and rage of the returned vet (Caputo: ""I wanted to go in there and wipe that restaurant out""), the feeling of being discriminated against, of being regarded as ""suckers"" or ""killers""; about what made the Vietnam War different from other wars (the long periods in actual combat, the death rate, the abrupt, no-decompression return); about what they might contribute, now, beyond proving (Wheeler) ""that we are a screwed minority."" Reconciliation, all agree, is a must--to forestall ""the danger of mass civil disobedience."" Six pointed essays then illumine the war's diverse legacies among blacks, women, antiwar activists, the post-Vietnam generation. An exceptional enterprise--for the caliber of Vietnam War writing in evidence; for the contributors' vigor; for making many things clear--and nothing simple.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Prentice-Hall

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981