Vietnam, We've All Been There: Interviews with American Writers

Vietnam, We've All Been There: Interviews with American Writers

Vietnam, We've All Been There: Interviews with American Writers

Vietnam, We've All Been There: Interviews with American Writers

Synopsis

Vietnam, We've All Been There a unique collection of interviews with noted American writers who made the Vietnam war a subject of their work. The writers represented here were chosen by Dr. Schroeder because their books, plays, poems, and reportage are among the best of the particular genre in which each one works - Norman Mailer, David Rabe, and Michael Herr among them. Provocative not only for the opinions and memories of the interviewees, this book is also interesting for its focus on the variety of literary forms and styles that emerged from the Vietnam experience. The author makes the point that the more successful literature to come out of the war was from writers who stretched the limits of particular forms, giving birth to narratives that broke all the rules. For example, where journalism usually demands facts, Michael Herr, the author of Dispatches, insisted on much more. He described psychological states, assessed personal losses, and personified the war in ways that were radically different from accepted reporting. As Dr. Schroeder reminds us, Vietnam deeply affected everyone who lived through it - thus there were many cultural effects that still beg for examination and thought. He spent nine years gathering these interviews and during that time the war was a constant presence in his life. For many Americans even a lifetime may not make it possible to come to terms with the war. And while it is important not to forget where we've been, it is also important to move forward. In this book, the writers we hear from, like the works they created, help us to remember the past with a reflective wisdom that is essential to informing our future.

Excerpt

The title of this book comes from the last lines of Michael Herr Dispatches: "And no moves left for me at all but to write down some few last words and make the dispersion, Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we've all been there." These lines have haunted me, but only over time did their fundamental truth become clear. Vietnam affected everyone who lived through it. It refused to remain a foreign conflict in a strange country far away; it came home in ways that we're still trying to work out. Those who served in Vietnam were touched most deeply by the war. Statistics continue to testify to the war's devastating, prolonged effects: homelessness among veterans, joblessness among veterans, incarceration rates of veterans--all of these continue to be a legacy of the war.

But the war had cultural effects as well. Numerous articles and books have been written on the media's coverage of the war, for instance. Many commentators agree that both print media and television had difficulty in covering the war. Several of the journalists I talked to claimed that they were motivated to go to Vietnam because they didn't feel that the media was telling the truth about Vietnam. They wanted to tell the truth. In Dispatches Michael Herr says, "Conventional journalism could no more cover the war than conventional firepower could win it. All it could do was take the most profound event of the American decade and turn it into a communications pudding." The same might also be said about the way that other forms of media have treated the war, film in particular; the recipes for The Green Berets (1968) and Rambo: First Blood: Part II (1985) are almost identical-- the flavor has been changed slightly but the consistency is the same. And while it's true that there have been plenty of mediocre books written about . . .

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