The Vietnam Experience: A Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films

The Vietnam Experience: A Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films

The Vietnam Experience: A Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films

The Vietnam Experience: A Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films

Synopsis

The Vietnam War was one of the most painful and divisive events in American history. The conflict, which ultimately took the lives of 58,000 Americans and more than three million Vietnamese, became a subject of bitter and impassioned debate. The most dramatic--and frequently the most enduring--efforts to define and articulate America's ill-fated involvement in Vietnam emerged from popular culture. American journalists, novelists, playwrights, poets, songwriters, and filmmakers--many of them eyewitnesses--have created powerful, heartfelt works documenting their thoughts and beliefs about the war. By examining those works, this book provides readers with a fascinating resource that explores America's ongoing struggle to assess the war and its legacies.

Excerpt

The Vietnam War remains one of the most traumatic and painful events in all of American history. Throughout much of its duration, the bitterly contested conflict, which would ultimately result in the loss of fifty-eight thousand American lives, provoked profound debate in the streets and households of America. Supporters of intervention in Indochina contended that U.S. involvement was both necessary and just, whereas critics insisted that the U.S. military effort there was ill-considered or immoral. Both sides brought healthy quantities of passion and invective to the debate, and the resulting split in American society shook the country to its core. This division never wholly healed. Long after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973—and South Vietnam’s fall in 1975—Americans continue to grapple with the lingering impact of the conflict on its participants, both in Vietnam and at home, and with the repercussions of the war on notions of national identity and character.

Some of the most dramatic and compelling efforts to explore the Vietnam War’s impact on its participants and on the collective American psyche have been made by American writers, filmmakers, and musicians. the themes of these works reflect no emerging national consensus; indeed, the best of the songs, novels, poems, plays, and films that rose to prominence during and after the war are notable not only for their power but for their diversity of opinion and ideological orientation. Yet all of these works’ creators sought to convey some fundamental truth about the war as they saw it, and this passion is evident in works as diverse as Larry Heinemann’s novel Paco’s Story, Oliver Stone’s film Platoon, and Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘‘Born in the U.S.A.’’

The Vietnam Experience: a Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films is intended to provide readers with a comprehensive guide to the most notable of these American creative works (two works covered in this

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