Tag: Vietnam

Tim O’Brien tells it like it was about the Vietnam War

Here at Lemuria we have really been getting into the Vietnam War lately. Our owner, John, absolutely loves Mark Bowden’s new book Hue 1968, and Lisa and I have been indulging ourselves in the works of the beats, Tim O’Brien, and various other counter-culture books written or made popular during the time of the Vietnam War. If you know me, this will come as no surprise, but I sometimes have the feeling that I “missed the bus.” The sixties are a really interesting time to me, because there was so much happening here in the U.S. and around the world that both brought people together and tore them apart. The Vietnam War has such questionable motivations, ones that many people did not support or even understand.

Tim O'Brien during the Vietnam War. Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center

Tim O’Brien during the Vietnam War. Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center

One man whose voice, I think, is an extremely essential part to the understanding of the Vietnam War, what so many soldiers were dealing with at that time, and why so many people opposed it, is Tim O’Brien.

If I Die in a Combat Zone Box Me Up and Ship Me Home is a book by Tim O’Brien that tells of his time before and during the Vietnam War. O’Brien, like many young men in our country at that time, was drafted into the war. A good part of the beginning of this book tells of O’Brien’s confusion, discontent, and utter lack of support for the war. He contemplates running away to Canada because he so badly does not want to fight in a war that he does not understand nor see as necessary.

combat zoneThis book is tough; it has a way of making the reader feel many, sometimes awful, feelings. This book is told in stories, through characters, and simply with O’Brien’s very own thoughts and opinions. He encountered some truly horrible people and situations and he does not hold back at all, immersing the reader as much as he can in the horrors and realities of war.

Having read both If I Die in a Combat Zone Box Me Up and Ship Me Home and The Things They Carried, I believe Tim O’Brien truly has a gift for writing about his experience serving in the Vietnam War. O’Brien has showed me a part of the sixties I did not know much about, one that was an ocean away, but still affected so many people. I think both of these books are a vital part of Vietnam literature and show the terrible side of war and what war can do to man. And, of course, who better to write about it than someone who was there and experienced what life was like both before and after the war?

North Vietnamese soldier’s story is complex, compelling

By Lisa Newman

sorrow of war 2Bao Ninh features prominently in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s series on the Vietnam War. Ninh is a Vietnamese writer and former North Vietnamese soldier. Ninh’s novel, The Sorrow of War, is one of the only pieces of Vietnam War literature to make it out of Vietnam.

Published in Vietnam in 1991, the novel stands out for its descriptions and lack of sentimentality. Most of the Vietnamese war literature was heavy with patriotism, stories of slaughter and bravery. Not surprisingly, the Vietnam War literature of the United States could not move beyond the North Vietnamese soldier as a faceless “gook” or northing more than the “NVA” or “VC.”

Ninh weaves a complex story, told in stream-of-consciousness style. The work is a descriptive account of a solider’s experience of war, but also a love story–one not lost in the original Vietnamese title, Thân Phân Cûa Tinh Yêu, or The Destiny of Love.

The novel was controversial for the Vietnamese government–as it presented the first individual human perspective on the experience of war, the loss of human life and love, as well as life after the war–while it won great respect from Vietnamese and American veterans. American critics have compared the novel to Erich Maria Remarque’s World War I novel, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929).

sorrow of war UPFirst published in Vietnam in a low-budget format by the Writers Association Publishing House of Hanoi in 1991, the book was translated into raw English by Phan Thanh Hao and rewritten by Australian war journalist and author Frank Palmos. At this point, the English translation was given the title “The Sorrow of War” and was published in Great Britain by Secker and Warburg in 1993 and in the United States by Pantheon in 1995.

Ninh has never published another book, but he reports editing a weekly literary publication in Hanoi for many years. In a 2006 interview, Ninh remarks on the changing political climate of Vietnam and the lessening of government propaganda. Despite the relaxing of tensions, he explains that writing has been difficult since the publication of The Sorrow of War.

“I became famous, so people know about me and other writers respect me…but it also affected me badly because I became self-conscious.”

As Vietnamese and Americans talk more about the war and its aftermath, perhaps it will be easier for Ninh and other Vietnamese writers to share their stories.

Collecting First Editions: ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes

By Lisa Newman

Karl Marlantes, a decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam war, spent thirty years writing Matterhorn: A Novel. While writing the book was its own lonely struggle, getting it published was another beast. This story is about the power of independent presses and bookselling.

matterhorn EL LEONKarl Marlantes found a publisher in El Léon Literary Arts, a small press privately funded through donations. Led by author Thomas Farber, the operation is known to run on a $200 a year travel and entertainment budget and publishes literary works that might not seem commercially viable by mainstream publishers. By the time the 700-page Matterhorn was printed in softcover and review copies were sent out, a group of booksellers got the attention of El Léon by submitting Matterhorn to a first-novel contest. Soon Farber began getting calls from larger publishers. Eventually, a deal with the independent press Grove Atlantic was made and Matterhorn was released in hardback in 2010. Behind the scenes, Grove Atlantic’s Morgan Entrekin championed Matterhorn to booksellers across the country. The success of Matterhorn is due to the perseverance of its author, small presses, and the diligence of booksellers. It is a story of authenticity as opposed to overblown media hype.

matterhorn FESThis authenticity leads to a collectible book. The copies of Matterhorn printed in softcover at El Léon became advanced copies for Grove Atlantic’s hardcover edition. For collectors, that softcover is the true first edition. Matterhorn follows in the tradition of other great war novels like Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and James Jones’ The Thin Red Line.

Sebastian Junger, noted author, filmmaker, and journalist, reviewed Matterhorn for The New York Times:

Karl Marlantes’s first novel, Matterhorn, is about a company of Marines who build, abandon and retake an outpost on a remote hilltop in Vietnam. According to the publisher, Marlantes—a highly decorated Vietnam vet—spent 30 years writing this book. It was originally 1,600 pages long; now it is 600. Reading his account of the bloody folly surrounding the Matterhorn outpost, you get the feeling Marlantes is not overly worried about the attention span of his readers; you get the feeling he was not desperate or impatient to be published. Rather, he seems like a man whose life was radically altered by war, and who now wants to pass along the favor. And with a desperate fury, he does.

Karl Marlantes followed Matterhorn with a nonfiction book on Vietnam called What It Is Like to Go to War. His reflections on Vietnam are featured prominently in “The Vietnam War,” a film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Marlantes is at work on his second novel.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén