A Short Rhetoric for Leaving the Family

A Short Rhetoric for Leaving the Family

by Peter Dimock, Dimock Peter
     
 

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Hundreds of novels have explored the war in Vietnam. This is the first to explore the world of the architects of that war, and it cuts terribly close to home. Dimock brilliantly exposes the pained heart of a single family and offers a vision of what their way of life still costs us all. His book raises with startling freshness ancient yet urgent questions about

Overview

Hundreds of novels have explored the war in Vietnam. This is the first to explore the world of the architects of that war, and it cuts terribly close to home. Dimock brilliantly exposes the pained heart of a single family and offers a vision of what their way of life still costs us all. His book raises with startling freshness ancient yet urgent questions about relations between image, word, and act.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A highly unusual look at the immorality of war; recommended for most collections." -- Library Journal

Dalkey Archive Press

Library Journal
This concise first novel by a Random House editor takes the form of a letter by the narrator to his 12-year-old nephew and to his apparent illegitimate ten-year-old son. The narrator leaves the two boys a substantial amount of money, which they will inherit when they reach adulthood. His only request is that they read the letter he has composed about their family. It is, essentially, a rhetoric on five photographs related to the Lanham family's political past and involvement in the Vietnam War. The photographs show a Buddhist monk walking from what seems to be the American embassy, the narrator's father--instrumental in escalating the war in Asia--stepping from the president's plane, a man on fire in the middle of a street, a helicopter flying over a burning village, and the narrator's brother with other soldiers--one holding a necklace of ears--posed in front of a neat pile of dead villagers. The narrator's argumentative style, using standard rhetorical methods, implicates not only the Lanham family but the entire nation in the death and destruction wrought in Vietnam. A highly unusual look at the immorality of war; recommended for most collections.--David A. Beron , Univ. of New England, Biddleford, ME
Melissa Malouf
Jarlath Lanham, the narrator in this odd and compelling first novel, . . . is fascinating. If you put the phrase 'knowledge is power' alongside Bacon's 'all knowledge and wonder . . . is an impression of pleasure in itself,' you might begin to catch on to the disturbing effect of Dimock's 'pleasured speech.'. . . A Short Rhetoric [is] eminently rereadable.
Raleigh News & Observer 12-27-98
Kenneth Lindblom
An effective, multi-layered, volatile, powerful indictment of the vulgar 'skills' of real-life warmongers. . . .A Short Rhetoric for Leaving the Family, like the Pentagon Papers which inspired it, is filled with bloodless, lifeless prose that becomes bloodier and more vital with each reading.
American Book Review Jan-Feb 1999
Kirkus Reviews
An excruciating debut novel that portrays'in terms taken directly from Cicero's rules of rhetoric—-a dysfunctional American family haunted by the Vietnam War. Jarlath Lanham is one of those old-family boys always eager to tell you, in the most conceited manner possible, just how impressively dreadful his family is. Usually such characters go on and on about incest, child abuse, or other sexual deviancies. For Jarlath, however, politics is the name of the game. His father, you see, was a "Special Assistant" to the White House during the 1960s, responsible for plotting and guiding the course of the war in Southeast Asia, and his brother A.G. was an Army officer whose unit was accused of war crimes in Vietnam. Jarlath possesses photographic evidence of A.G.'s guilt, and his refusal to surrender it to his father has made him a family pariah: they charged him with endangering the welfare of his young nephews and committed him to a mental institution, but now (some 15 years later) he's writing a letter to his nephews explaining his actions and exposing the corruption of the Lanhams. The problem? He's as intent on ingraining the classical order of rhetoric on his nephews' minds as he is on exposing the truth about his father and brother, and his letter quickly degenerates into rant ("If you want to hold in memory a large number of things and make them available for speech [and I'm assuming you do], it is important to equip yourself with a large number of backgrounds, so that in them you can set a large number of images"). Perhaps rhetoric is meant as a guiding metaphor, but it soon swallows the story whole in its own rhetoric, which is far less measured than Cicero's. For a taste ofthe bizarre, this isn't a bad start, but the weirdness fits poorly with the soap-opera plot and deadly earnest tone.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564782106
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
02/28/1990
Series:
American Literature (Dalkey Archive) Series
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Toni Morrison
This is a singular book. Peter Dimock's A Short Rhetoric for Leaving the Family possesses the rich, intricate, and subtle patternings of the verbal lacemaker's craft. A remarkable debut.
Ariel Dorfman
An intriguing, even perplexing, enactment of memory that journeys into the disturbing coldness that lay at the heart of America's Vietnam.
Christian G. Appy
With this lean and haunting novel, Peter Dimock has made an important and original contribution to the literature of the American War in Vietnam. It takes us behind the policymakers' icy and appalling language and makes us privy to a family catastrophe and the horrors of the war to which it is inextricably linked.
(Christian G. Appy, author of Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers in Vietnam)

Meet the Author

Peter Dimock has long worked in publishing-at Random House, and as senior executive editor for history and political science at Columbia University Press, where he worked with authors including Angela Davis, Eric Hobsbawm, Toni Morrison, and Amartya Sen. His first novel, "A Short Rhetoric for Leaving the Family", was published by Dalkey Archive Press in 1998.

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