Dispatches – Michael Herr

“Despite every other kind of progress, humanity still lives and dies in conditions of either war or peace, a truth reflected in our literature. There is still a place for a great war book such as Dispatches. Like its precursors, from Homer to Hemingway, whose company it keeps, Dispatches seems to begin mid-sentence, plunging its readers into the war zone before they can take up defensive positions: There was a map of Vietnam on the wall of my apartment in Saigon and some nights, coming back late to the city, I’d lie out on my bed and look at it, too tired to do anything more than just get my boots off. That map was a marvel, especially now that it wasn’t real any more. As visitors to a place that could not be mapped (‘for years now there had been no country here but the war’), Michael Herr’s readers must quickly acclimatise to the sur-real experience of Vietnam in 1967, as though they have no choice: there’s a war on. Combined with the compelling urgency of Herr’s narration – every line set down as if it’s about to be interrupted by incoming shell-fire – there’s Herr’s mesmerising voice itself, perhaps the single greatest achievement of a book that, nearly 40 years on, offers the definitive account of war in our time, especially the Vietnam war – among the most terrible of the postwar wars. Inspired by the example of 1960s New Journalism, Herr’s voice (after Tom Wolfe) is his own shit-scared, or doped-out, interior monologue spliced with scraps of rock’n’roll and the everyday jargon of the ‘grunts’, the American GIs in the swamps, jungles and choppers of ’Nam in their search-and-destroy missions against ‘Charlie’, the Viet Cong. … ”
NPR: Remembering Michael Herr, Whose ‘Dispatches’ Brought The War In Vietnam Home (Audio)
NPR: Through A Correspondent’s Eyes: Revisiting Vietnam (Audio); Excerpt, ‘Dispatches’ – Michael Herr: Breathing In
W – Dispatches
[PDF] Esquire: End It!! And End It Now!

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This entry was posted in Books, Henry Kissinger, Lyn. Johnson, Michael Herr, Nixon, R. McNamara, Tet 1968, Viet Cong, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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