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

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Vietnam, We've All Been There is 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 11 illuminating interviews, novelists, journalists, a poet and a playwright reflect on the role of Vietnam in their works. Journalist Michael Herr says he ``privately'' thinks of his book Dispatches as a novel, while C.D.B. Bryan stresses that the details of his book Friendly Fire are too fantastic for fiction. Films about Vietnam, according to novelist Robert Stone ( Dog Soldiers ), miss ``the blurry space between events.'' Novelist Tim O'Brien ( Going After Cacciato ) disparages much contemporary literature on Vietnam as frivolous, and notes that his concerns are courage and justice, ``dramatizing the impact of moral philosophy on human life.'' Schroeder, a lecturer in writing at the University of California-Davis, is a probing questioner, and his book has the quality of a rich dinner-table discussion. He also interviews John Sack, Norman Mailer, Bobbie Ann Mason, Bruce Weigl, Wallace Terry, Larry Heinemann and David Rabe. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal
The more removed in time from Vietnam we become, the better we seem to be at coming to terms with the effects of the war and of the domestic upheaval that accompanied it. Schroeder, until now mainly known for his work in computer education, proposes that Vietnam's influence on American literature was so profound as to separate Vietnam War writings from those generated by previous conflicts. He interviews 11 writers John Sack, Michael Herr, Wallace Terry, C.D.B. Bryan, Norman Mailer, Robert Stone, Tim O'Brien, Larry Heinemann, Bobbie Ann Mason, Bruce Weigl, and David Rabe to support his thesis. While one may wish for a more critical approach than Schroeder offers, the responses to his questions do provide readers with additional background on the writers and their works. Recommended for academic libraries.-- John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.
Donna Seaman
Schroeder's set of 11 interviews, a decade in the works, features the war's best-known chroniclers, including Norman Mailer, Robert Stone, Tim O'Brien, and Michael Herr-- author of "Dispatches", Schroeder's pick for the best book ever written about Vietnam. Schroeder also speaks with John Sack, author of "M", one of the first Vietnam narratives to be published, with Bobbie Ann Mason, Larry Heinemann, and David Rabe, and with Wallace Terry, who compiled "Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans". Schroeder has preserved the question-and-answer format of the interviews, allowing readers access to the progression of these specific and anecdotal conversations. His queries probe the writers' motivations and examine how they channeled their war experiences or obsessions into various literary forms. The writers also discuss responses to their books and their impressions of how much or how little their audience knows or thinks about the war and its aftermath. A useful and revealing study of the literature of Vietnam and its influence.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275935610
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/28/1992
  • Pages: 232
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

ERIC JAMES SCHROEDER is a Lecturer in English and Director of Composition at the University of California, Davis. His primary field of scholarship is the literature of the Vietnam war. He has also published articles and given numerous conference papers on topics related to composition and, in particular, computer-assisted instruction. Dr. Schroeder is a co-founder and editor of Writing on the Edge, a journal concerned with the art of writing and the teaching of it. He is currently working on a second book about the Vietnam war.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
John Sack: "Playing a Diabolical Trick on the Reader" 13
Michael Herr: "We've All Been There" 33
Wallace Terry: "It Became an Absolute Crusade" 51
C. D. B. Bryan: "Propaganda in the purest Sense" 73
Norman Mailer: "The Hubris of the American Vision" 91
Robert Stone: "Keep the Levels of Consciousness Sharp" 107
Tim O'Brien: "Maybe So" 125
Larry Heinemann: "Novels Are More Polite than a Simple 'Fuck You'" 145
Bobbie Ann Mason: "Eventually I Had to Confront the Subject" 165
Bruce Weigl: "Poetry Grabbed Me by the Throat" 181
David Rabe: "A Harrowing Audience Experience" 197
Bibliography 215
Index 217
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