DISPATCHES by Michael Herr
Kirkus Star


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"Vietnam, man. Bomb 'em and feed 'em, bomb 'em and feed 'em"--a chopper pilot summarized the war strategy for Herr. And with Herr's belated volume of unfiled dispatches from the front, the awareness grows that this war--like no other since WW I--continues to produce a rich lode of literature, part litany, part exorcism, part macabre nostalgia. Like his buddies Scan Flynn and Dana Stone--later MIA in Cambodia--Herr was a correspondent with a license to see more than just a single mud hole. Using the "Airmobility" of the helicopters, he hopscotched the country from Hue to Danang to the DMZ to Saigon ("the subtle city war inside the war" where corruption stank like musk oil). He was at Hue during the battle that reduced the old Imperial capital to rubble, at Khe Sanh when the grunts' expectations of another Alamo were running high. Between mortar shells and body bags he reflected on the mysterious smiles of the blank-eyed soldiers, smiles that said "I'll tell you why I'm smiling, but it will make you crazy." And Herr, who is full of twisted, hidden ironies, is all wrapped up in the craziness of the war, enthralled by the limitless "variety of deaths and mutilations the war offered," and by the awful "cheer-crazed" language of the official communiques which always reported spirits high, weather fine. He knew, and his buddies knew, that this kind of reportage was "psychotic vaudeville"--though not for a moment would he deny the harsh glamour of being a working war correspondent. He came home eventually, to do the "Survivor Shuffle" and miss Vietnam acutely, and he writes with a fierce, tight insistence that never lets go.
Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1977
ISBN: 0679735259
Page count: 276pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1977


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