TOURING NAM: The Vietnam War Reader by Martin H. & Augustus R. Norton--Eds. Greenberg

TOURING NAM: The Vietnam War Reader

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Still another anthology of writings on the Vietnam War--by and large mundane and highly skippable. There are 26 fiction and non-fiction selections, by about half that many authors (including seven from Tim O'Brien's 1973 If I Die in a Combat Zone), loosely grouped and labelled (FNGs/Fucking New Guys, Contact, Odd Jobs, etc.). Much of the material--the O'Brien excerpts, the three each from David Reed's 1967 Up Front in Vietnam and Charles Anderson's 1982 Vietnam: The Other War--consists of straightforward, what-it-was-like chronicling, without the craziness or bite of a Michael Herr or the men in Wallace Terry's recent Bloods (p.753). Reed can be plain pappy ("" 'We're safe at last--no Charlies can get us now,' Nutter said""); Anderson, besides discoursing on blacks, gives a slow-tease, pulp-fiction description of a ""fat, panting sergeant"" abusing a Vietnam servant (""The girl slumped to the floor, crying softly into a sleeve of her blouse""). Among the fiction, a story by Lee K. Abbott, ""The Viet Cong Love of Sgt. Donnie T. Bobo,"" typifies hard-boiled sentimentality, while two episodes from Tom Suddick's A Few Good Men, ""Caduceus"" and ""A Shithouse Rat,"" lean heavily on irony and symbolism. Always, the editors let us know in their introductory remarks, there is a lesson: ""As in all wars, the innocents paid most deafly for our folly."" (And again: ""We were often blind to our cruelty and its costs."") The selections aren't as banal as such preachments suggest, but overall it's an undistinguished, often synthetic sampling with no particular shape or perspective.

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow