Sunday, January 22, 2006

Whoopee! we're all gonna die

If policy books aren't your speed, there are other Vietnam War focused books well worth your time. Michael Herr's Dispatches should probably be on the top of your list. The focus of the book is to show how bizarre the war was and it presents it a phatasmagoric manner, the whole book is pretty trippindicular. The book served as the basis for some of the more strange scenes in Apocalypse Now. In a move prefiguring James Fry, Herr admitted that some of his "reporting," was, shall we say, exaggerated. Be that as it may, the book still rocks and you should read it.

If you want the perspective of the soldier having to fight in Vietnam, check out A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, who did in fact serve in Vietnam as a soldier and a reporter. I thought the book did a great job of portraying the boredom and absurdity of base life and the high tension and fear of patrols. Once again, some interesting parallels to Iraq.

This one won't be for everyone but it is one of my favorites. Once Upon A Distant War follows a few young reporters in Vietnam from 1961 to 1963. The ones covered are big names like David Halberstam and Peter Arnett, so you see how they got their start. At the start they tend to support the war, but as events develop, they begin to question. At one point some of the reporters run into one of their heroes, Richard Tregakis, author of Guadalcanal Diary. The young ones squirm as the older generation scolds them for not supporting the US effort. You have to be interested in the press to really like it, but if you are, check it out.

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