A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

4.5 46
by Neil Sheehan

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Sheehan's tragic biography of John Paul Vann is also a sweeping history of America's seduction, entrapment and disillusionment in Vietnam. See more details below


Sheehan's tragic biography of John Paul Vann is also a sweeping history of America's seduction, entrapment and disillusionment in Vietnam.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam in 1972, controversial Lt. Col. John Paul Vann was perhaps the most outspoken army field adviser to criticize the way the war was being waged. Appalled by the South Vietnamese troops' unwillingness to fight and their random slaughter of civilians, he flouted his supervisors and leaked his sharply pessimistic (and, as it turned out, accurate) assessments to the U.S. press corps in Saigon. Among them was Sheehan, a reporter for UPI and later the New York Times (for whom he obtained the Pentagon Papers). Sixteen years in the making, writing and re search, this compelling 768-page biography is an extraordinary feat of reportage: an eloquent, disturbing portrait of a man who in many ways personified the U.S. war effort. Blunt, idealistic, patronizing to the Vietnamese, Vann firmly believed the U.S. could win; as Sheehan limns him, he was ultimately caught up in his own illusions. The author weaves into one unified chronicle an account of the Korean War (in which Vann also fought), the story of U.S. support for French colonialism, descriptions of military battles, a critique of our foreign policy and a history of this all-American boy's secret personal liehe was illegitimate, his mother a ``white trash'' prostitutethat led him to recklessly gamble away his career. 100,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker; BOMC main selection ; a uthor tour. (October)
Library Journal
Vann was a figure of legends, first as a military advisor and later as a civilian official, renowned for his bravery and special insight into and openness about the developing failure in Vietnam. He appeared to sacrifice his military career in 1963, demonstrating uncommon integrity, and died in 1972 after leading the successful defense of Kontum. Sheehan, the New York Times reporter who obtained the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg, reveals a flawed herocapable of deceit in furthering his reputation and his cause and of insatiable sexual exploits that had already ended hopes of promotionbut still a remarkable man. More importantly, Vann serves as the anchor of a detailed, well-researched, very respectable, and readable attempt to explain the Vietnam experience. Excerpted in The New Yorker. Highly recommended. BMOC main selection.Kenneth W. Berger, Duke Univ. Lib., Durham, N.C.
From the Publisher
"Masterly. . . . One of the few brilliant histories of the American entanglement in Vietnam." —The New York Times

"A brilliant work of enormous substance and ambition. In telling one man's story [A Bright Shining Lie] sets out to define the fatal contradictions that lost America the war in Vietnam. It belongs to the same order of merit as Dispatches, The Best and the Brightest, and Fire in the Lake." —Robert Stone, Washington Post Book World

"A compelling, graphic, and deeply sensitive biography [and] one of the few brilliant histories of the American enthanglement in Vietnam. . . . Sheehan's skillful weaving of anecdote and history, of personal memoir and psychological profile, give the book the sense of having been written by a novelist, journalist, and scholar all rolled up into one." —David Shipler, The New York Times

"If there is one book that catpures the Vietnam War in the sheer Homeric scale of its passion and folly, this book is it. Neil Sheehan orchestrates a great fugue evoking all the elements of the war." —Ronald Steel, The New York Times Book Review

"An unforgettable narrative, a chronicle grand enough to suit the crash and clangors of whole armies. A Bright Shining Lie is a very great piece of work; its rewards are aesthetic and . . . almost spiritual." —The New York Review of Books

"Enormous power . . . full of great accomplishments . . . Neil Sheehan has written not only the best book ever about Vietnam, but the timeliest." —Newsweek

"It is difficult to believe that anyone will write a more gripping or important book on America's war in Vietnam than A Bright Shining Lie, a towering book that has been 16 years in the making. . . . Sheehan shows, perhaps more convincingly than anyone else who has written on the subject, that our intervention in Vietnam was in fact a terrible blunder, damaging to America and devastating to the Vietnamese and the other people of Indochina—a mistake as tragic as it was unnecessary." —Detroit News

"[A Bright Shining Lie] is more than a biography. It is also a compelling and clear hstiroy of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Mr. Sheehan's book . . . is the best answer to any American who asks: 'How could this have happened?'" —Wall Street Journal

"Using the life of one man as his framework, Neil Sheehan has written the best book on America's involvement in Vietnam since Frances FitzGerald's Fire in the Lake." —Kirkus Reviews

"One of the milestones in the literature about the war. . . . In these times, a readable book about the Vietnam war, like any other clear warning, is worth its weight in life." —Christian Science Monitor

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Random House Publishing Group
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5.80(w) x 8.24(h) x 1.75(d)

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