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The Vietnam Reader: The Definitive Collection of Fiction and Nonfiction on the War [Paperback]

Stewart O'Nan
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 20 1998
The Vietnam Reader is a selection of the finest and best-known art from the American war in Vietnam, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, film, still photos, and popular song lyrics. All the strongest work is here, from mainstream bestsellers to radical poetry, from Tim O'Brien to Marvin Gaye. Also included are incisive reader's questions--useful for educators and book clubs--in a volume that makes an essential contribution to a wider understanding of the Vietnam War.

This authoritative and accessible volume is sure to become a classic reference, as well as indispensable and provocative reading for anyone who wants to know more about the war that changed the face of late-twentieth-century America.

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"A few years ago," Stewart O'Nan, editor of The Vietnam Reader, writes in his introduction, "when I began teaching the American literature of the Vietnam War, I tried to find an anthology my students could use.... But as I searched through libraries and catalogues, new- and used-book shops, I discovered there wasn't one." So O'Nan set out to create one himself. What began as course material has grown into a remarkable collection of writing that will appeal to a broad audience of readers interested in the Vietnam experience. O'Nan includes a little bit of everything--fiction and nonfiction from acclaimed writers such as Tim O'Brien, Louise Erdrich, Michael Herr, and David Halberstam; poetry and drama by Michael Casey and David Rabe; even songs such as Barry Sadler's "The Ballad of the Green Berets" and Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son." There are also essays on the major Vietnam films, from The Deer Hunter to Full Metal Jacket, and a smattering of famous photographs from the war.

What makes this collection extraordinary is not just the quality of the writing it contains but also the breadth of attitudes O'Nan represents. For instance, he juxtaposes an excerpt from Ron Kovic's antiwar memoir, Born of the Fourth of July with James Webb's gung-ho paean to fighting the good fight in Fields of Fire. Chapters of Tim O'Brien's hallucinatory fiction Going After Cacciato resonate with excerpts from his earlier memoir If I D ie in a Combat Zone as well the journalism of Michael Herr (Dispatches) and Philip Caputo (A Rumor of War). Creating sections such as "Early Work," "The Oral History Boom," "Memoirs," "Homecoming," and more, O'Nan seeks to convey as much of the war experience from as many different perspectives as possible. Anyone interested in history and in fine writing will find The Vietnam Reader worthy reading. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

It is probably not possible to boil down the Vietnam conflict into a pocket-size distillation, but the editors of this thorough and well-chosen collection of reporting and writing have made a worthy attempt. From a vivid Time magazine account of the deaths of several U.S. advisersAwhich packs a wallop in a mere three paragraphsAon through exemplary work by David Halberstam, Peter Arnett and selections from the journals of Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Michael Herr, these two volumes attempt to let every side have its point of view. Soldiers, commanders, scribes and protesters all give their own versions of the hellish fighting and its ramifications. The collection also sheds light on how much the newsgathering business has changed since that time. The accounts hereAexcept perhaps for those rooted in the burgeoning "new journalism"Aare based more in fact than in spin, making one wonder how today's reporters would chronicle those bygone events. Readers may gloss over some of the analysis and editorializing, much of which is rooted in its own time. But when Halberstam profiles John Paul Vann, a high-ranking officer who saw that the U.S. effort in Vietnam was doomed; when U.S. News & World Report offers in-the-thick-of-it commentary from pilot "Jerry" Shenk; and when Tom Wolfe chronicles Ken Kesey's appearance at Berkeley in his own inimitable fashion, then suddenly it's "Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam, we've all been there," as Herr writes. This book will help readers understand better what it was like to live through that tumultuous period of American history. Maps, 32-page photo insert. BOMC main selection. (Oct.) FYI: The Vietnam Reader, edited by Stewart O'Nan and also out in October, from Holt, is a wide-ranging anthology of fiction and nonfiction, songs, photography and poetry about the war, little of which overlaps with the above two volumes. ($15.95 paper 800p ISBN 0-385-49118-2).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars some people need to re-evaluate Aug. 28 2003
Format:Paperback
The title says it all: FICTION and NON FICTION and if you read the intro to this book it says that O'Nan is a teacher of Vietnam LITERATURE not history. The selections in the book are examples of popular vietnam some are fiction. The picture of the little girl and the napalm bombing is one of the most famous pictures concerning the war.
I think this book is a great overview of vietnam era literature and reccommend it to anyone interested in vietnam lit. It also contains photos, poetry, song lyrics ( remember country joe and the fish?), and commentary on several movies. it is also seperated into categories like the first major wave of work that came towards the end of the war and the second major wave of work which can about a decade after the war which gives a nice chronological view.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent review of Vietnam literature Feb. 21 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
... O'Nan has put together some of the best literature written by Americans about the Vietnam War since the late '60s. A quick look at the table of contents should put anyone's doubts to rest--especially since O'Nan has included a generous amount of space to Tim O'Brien, certainly the finest American writer about the Vietnam War. I had two problems with this book, besides the fact that this should be available in hardback. 1) O'Nan has failed to include anything from Thom Jones's book "The Pugilist at Rest"--an excellent writer, close on O'Brien's tail in terms of sheer storytelling. 2) This book includes nothing by Vietnamese writers--which I find a huge oversight...
This book does not pretend to be history...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wide-ranging collection of classic excerpts. Jan. 17 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Stewart O'Nan has managed to fashion a thematic collection of excerpts from many of the most significant literature to come out of the Vietnam War. These excerpts encourage a new generation to reasssess the war in the context of the nation's identity. O'Nan frames the excerpts within a chronology of when the works were first published. Also, O'Nan includes wonderful essays on the films that created our images of Vietnam. O'Nan's collection seems designed as a core textbook for any teacher who wants students to understand that the Vietnam War lives on in some of the best American writing. One drawback: only a few selections or perspectives from women writers or participants.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THERE'S A PROBLEM HERE Dec 10 1998
Format:Paperback
THERE'S A PROBLEM WITH THIS BOOK. AND ITS A BIG PROBLEM. IT'S ONLY IN PAPERBACK.
THIS IS A BOOK THAT SHOULD BE KEPT, READ, RE READ, AND THOUGHT ABOUT, FOR YEARS. IT SHOULD BE A REMINDER AND A TRIBUTE FOR AS LONG AS THE GENERATION THAT FOUGHT THE WAR, AND FOUGHT AGAINST IT, LIVES. TO DO THAT, IT SHOULD BE HARDBOUND.
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