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Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Vietnam

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2004

    Excellent stories

    The best stories--like the ones in this amazing collection-- are both timeless and timely. The setting might be Vietnam of 30 years ago, and the characters the medical personnel who served there during the war, but the timelessness shines. And as far as the timeliness--well, one word will do. Iraq. I do most of my fiction reading on vacations. I read the first couple stories of DON'T MEAN NOTHING when I bought the book and then forced myself to put the book away, saving it for precious vacation reading material. Even then, I read two stories a day, taking them like a illicit drug. And like an addict, when the book came to end, I was severely wishing there were another dozen to read. The authentic and intriguing details of setting and scene only serve to enhance the characters, and it was this assemble of ordinary folk (acting pretty much as ordinary folk would in extraordinary situations) that made the collection such a riveting read for me. The story 'Butch' made me-macho surfer dude--misty-eyed, and 'Monkey on Our Banks' made me laugh out loud, because I knew a monkey just like that one in my boarding school (it once stole and ate a bunch of candy laxative, with predictable results in the girls' dorm). Highly recommended

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2002

    well crafted stories

    Susan O'Neill's stories help us better understand the experience of nurses in the Vietnam War, and, not so incidentally, of the men who populate her stories as minor characters. Readers should find this collection a pleasing fictional counterpoint to the valuable memoirs by women who served in Vietnam. O'Neill has structured the stories to take place in the three hospitals she herself served in, a suggestion that there is a rich autobiographical basis for the people and events here. These stories strike a nice balance between the pathos and humor of military service. To complement O'Neill's fiction I especially recommend In the Combat Zone, a collection edited by Kathryn Marshall, and two fuller autobiographical accounts of American women in the Viet Nam War: Home Before Mourning, by Linda Vandevanter, and A World of Hurt, by Mary Reynolds Powell. Readers interested in Vietnamese women's stories might start with Lady Borton's After Sorrow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2001

    A different view of Vietnam from a powerful new voice.

    Michael Herr ended his classic account of Vietnam 'Dispatches' by telling us we had all been there. Many wonderful books about Vietnam followed, but many others left me thinking a negative variation of what Herr had said, ¿I¿ve already been there.¿ Then I picked up Susan O¿Neill¿s recent collection of short stories 'Don¿t Mean Nothing' and discovered there were indeed places in Vietnam where other writers had not taken me. O¿Neill¿s short stories are based on her experiences as an army operating room nurse in Vietnam, and the stories depict the ¿war¿ from a truly different point of view. 'Butch' is a touching story of a male nurse¿s aid who takes a Vietnamese boy into his life and heart. 'Prometheus Burned' is an intense tale of a nurse who comforts an injured soldier who just knows he¿s going to die. 'Monkey on Our Backs' is pure comedy about a nurse¿s efforts to rub out a bothersome pet. And there are fifteen more of what O¿Neill calls her ¿true and shameless lies¿ that made me laugh, cry and think not only about Vietnam, but about war, in a way I never have. O¿Neill¿s powerful, honest style conveyed her stories straight from her heart directly into mine, and Don¿t¿ Mean Nothing now occupies a very prominent place on the Meaning of War portion of my bookshelf. If you¿re looking for some true fiction that will take you to a place in Vietnam you¿ve never been, buy Don¿t Mean Nothing.

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