An affecting account of war and its consequences undercut by overly ornate prose.

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THE NAM WITHIN

Reese’s debut memoir chronicles his tour of duty in Vietnam and subsequent struggle with PTSD. 

After watching the televised version of the Tet Offensive in 1968, Reese enlisted in the Marines in a fit of patriotism. As a result, he did a 13-month tour of duty as a rifleman in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, with the 2nd platoon of Charlie Company. His experience was harrowing, and the emotional aftermath continues to resonate. The author leaps back and forth in time from the period before his service in Vietnam starting in 1969, his service as a soldier, and the many years following, during which he attended Stephen F. Austin State University courtesy of the GI Bill, married, and became a father to two children. While in Vietnam, Reese contends with the brutalities of war: deadly ambushes by the enemy and the constant state of anxiety, the grim necessity to take the lives of strangers, and the crushing experience of seeing friends die before his eyes. When the author returns to the United States, he’s tormented by memories of his service but also drawn to reconnect with his fellow Marines, longing to restore that deep sense of purpose and fellowship. He attends a reunion of his Marine division in 1996 and even returns to Vietnam in 2000 in search of some elusive sense of closure.  Reese’s remembrance is impressionistically constructed. Rather than a linear history, he furnishes a series of mostly brief vignettes. As he announces in the beginning, his primary emphasis is less an accounting of events than an interrogation of emotions—with unflinching candor, he plumbs the depths of his trauma. And his discussion is consistently a sensitively nuanced one—despite the gruesomeness of his experience, he repeatedly affirms his pride in being a Marine as well as his loyalty to his fellow soldiers. One of the most heartening aspects of the book is the support he enthusiastically offers and receives from those who suffered in the same war. Conversely, one of the saddest aspects is the encapsulating nature of the soldiers’ grief—it seems difficult for them to receive assistance from those who weren’t there, the participation in the war a precondition for understanding its emotional toll. The author boldly takes poetic risks with his prose, which is highly stylized and broodingly meditative. However, occasionally those risks don’t pay off and result in melodramatic overwriting, especially with dialogue. In response to a question from his wife, the author says, “That past has become a stranger to me. Like late-afternoon shadows that turn to face a deadening dusk, I am lost. Its clear-color outlines now bleed, to fading stonewashed madras. Once-distinct sounds mute into distant thunder from the crashing lie of heat-lightning, and cloud-formed shapes diffuse in wayward winds. Frozen and red, the touch of the wind becomes numb.”

An affecting account of war and its consequences undercut by overly ornate prose.

Pub Date: April 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73205-080-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Cindystrong, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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