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Dispatches (Everyman's Library Classics…

Dispatches (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) (original 1977; edition 2009)

by Michael Herr, Robert Stone (Introduction)

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2,180332,981 (4.16)100
Title:Dispatches (Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics)
Authors:Michael Herr
Other authors:Robert Stone (Introduction)
Info:Everyman's Library (2009), Hardcover, 296 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Dispatches by Michael Herr (1977)

Recently added bygc249, ALVO, SMHGLBH, KA_Books, hiden33, JohnPhelan, Civitella, private library, celesteporche, yvonne4vvc
Legacy LibrariesThomas C. Dent
  1. 10
    In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War by Tobias Wolff (kraaivrouw)
  2. 10
    Chickenhawk: Back in the World. Life After Vietnam by Robert Mason (Peter4444, chrisharpe)
    Peter4444: The autobigraphical recount of a young man who flew UH-1 Iiroquois helicopters in Viet Nam. He flew personnel rather than gun ships, but his take on what Viet Nam came to mean for him and how he ended up back in civilian life are a must-read, as well as the sequel "Chickenhawk: Back In The World"… (more)
  3. 00
    In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Dispatches was the central source for the film Apocalypse Now. It's non-fiction, but it conveys the hallucinatory horror of the Vietnam War in the same way as O'Brien's novel.
  4. 00
    Naples '44 by Norman Lewis (gust)
  5. 00
    The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn (gust)
  6. 00
    Territorio Comanche by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (chrisharpe)

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According to LibraryThing stats this is the second most read book on the Vietnam War, after The Things They Carried. Critics have called it one of the best books of the war. Micharl Herr passed away a few weeks ago so I thought I would honor his memory by reading his most famous book. Although Herr's prose style is disjointed and lacks narrative, chronological order or main character (other than Herr himself), it is brimming with the sights, sounds and smells of the war told through small stories, "dispatches". I feel as though I just took a trip back in time. It's so dense with incident it will reward re-reading on occasion. With all that said, with the distance of time Herr's narrative feels overdone at times. Speaking of nightmares that will never end, etc.. there has been healing in the past 50 years and as time passes those comments will seem increasingly remote, perhaps even cliche. However they do give a sense of how that generation reacted to the war - there is a sense of betrayal, abandonment. All wars suck in their own special way, but nothing like the toxic mix of problems that came together in Vietnam. ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Jul 12, 2016 |
I was saddened to read the obituaries of Michael Herr who died just a few days ago at the age of seventy-six. For a lot of people, particularly men, of around my age his book Dispatches captured the essence of the Vietnam War, a campaign with which I have always had a bit of an obsession.

I turned twelve years old in 1975, just as the Americans withdrew from South Vietnam and, shortly afterwards, the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. For the previous few months I had been captivated by the seemingly interminable reports each night on the television news showing firefights, helicopter sorties and general mayhem as the war drew gradually towards it close. Of course, I had very little idea what it was all about but to a young boy it simply all looked very exciting.

The Vietnam War was perhaps the first multimedia engagement, with footage broadcast nightly to the rest of the world, courtesy of a huge corps of reporters (from both the traditional press and the burgeoning television companies who were eager to fill their news programmes with footage from the front). Michael Herr spent several years as part of that press corps, travelling all over the country in military helicopters and planes, writing articles for Esquire, Time and Life magazines.

The book is very difficult to describe – Herr effortlessly conveys the horrors of engagement, the terror and the brutality, yet also the camaraderie and sensitivity that the troops displayed, all set against the backdrop of the draft and the Civil Rights movement back home. His style is vibrant – Herr was, after all, one of the earliest and most adept exponents of what was then the emerging literary form of ‘New Journalism’. Fact written as seamlessly and engagingly as fiction.

Herr’s prose is meticulous, often veering towards the poetic, paradoxically often hitting its most purple patches when tackling the most awful subject matter. He also captures the zeitgeist of the times. Rest and recreation spells in Saigon were played out to an amazing sound track of 1960s rock, fuelled by handfuls of hallucinogens and downers. There is a wistfulness there, too (‘Of course, coming back home was a down. What could you do for a finish’), and a feeling that the rest of his life would always be coloured by his experiences in Vietnam. (‘I think that Vietnam was what we had instead of happy childhoods.’) He doesn’t glamourise war, but there is an inescapable sense that participation made combatants different from the rest of us. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jun 28, 2016 |
A gritty, somewhat gruesome foray into investigative journalism. Vietnam in all its whacked out glory. If you didn't live through those times, I recommend this book and Frances Fitzgerald's _Fire in the Lake_. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
In Dispatches Michael Herr recaptures his time in Vietnam in a vivid and stylishly harsh manner. As an independent journalist, he was able to choose which story to follow and often would catch helicopter rides between locations. He covered a huge part of Vietnam, including Saigon, Khe Shan and Hue. This is an excellent read about Vietnam but it is full of fear, death and the ravaging effect that this war had on both the people there and America as a whole.

He was able to get up close and personal with the serving soldiers and it is here, with a backdrop of rock and roll music, the psychological effects of drugs and the general demoralization of the troops, that one gets the clearest picture of the turmoil and uncertainty that the average grunt was facing. In covering the war, Michael Herr became one of them, eating their food, smoking their joints, and sharing their bunkers as bombs fell around them. One particular story of him being the only living passenger on a chopper full of body bags was particularly harrowing.

Michael Herr guides his reader through the craziness that was Vietnam and by the end of the book I felt numb and drained. From the chaos to the inhumanity, Herr doesn’t flinch from showing us the way it was. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Sep 25, 2014 |
Overtly pretentious, nihilistic, narcissistic, self-absorbed, chaotic, disjointed, and totally unbearable hallucinogenic drug-fueled ranting, coupled with feeble, far-fetched psycho-babble, attempting to extol the supposed machismo of waving a camera in a war zone and Herr's pseudo-intellectual ego-mania jotted down on paper after 'having lived through it all'. So what ?

It takes a lot more to make a book really interesting, turning a war into a cold turkey-kind of experience gets boring after a while (i.e. after 20 pages in this case). So much so in fact, that I started cranking up the reading speed to get it over and done with, only to find much more of the same mind-numbing drivel. Totally useless and irritating, a sledgehammer of stupefying bullshit.

I suppose in the sixties and seventies, this used to be exactly what people expected of puerile 'cult' war correspondents beating themselves on the chest, today you'd at least require some background info and insights with regards to the countries and conflicts visited to make it stick in the reader's mind. The Vietnam War doesn't really come to the fore anywhere in this book, which is unsurprising.

This is very Burroughs-esque indeed. And that should definitely NOT be taken as a compliment ! ( )
1 vote Luchtpint | Aug 2, 2014 |
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There was a map of Vietnam on the wall of my apartment in Saigon and some nights, coming back late to the city, I'd lie out on my bed and look at it, too tired to do anything more than just get my boots off.
Bob Stokes of Newsweek told me this: In the big Marine hospital in Danang they have what is called the "White Lie Ward," where they bring some of the worst cases, the ones who can be saved but will never be the same again. A young Marine was carried in, still unconscious and full of morphine, and his legs were gone. As he was being carried into the ward, he came out of it briefly and saw a Catholic chaplain standing over him.

"Father," he said, "am I all right?"

The chaplain didn't know what to say. "You'll have to talk about that with the doctors, son."

"Father, are my legs okay?"

"Yes," the chaplain said, "Sure."

By the next afternoon the shock had worn off and the boy knew all about it. He was lying on his cot when the chaplain came by.

"Father," the Marine said, "I'd like to ask you for something."

"What, son?"

"I'd like to have that cross." And he pointed to the tiny silver insignia on the chaplain's lapel.

"Of course," the chaplain said. "But why?"

"Well, it was the first thing I saw when I came to yesterday, and I'd like to have it."

The chaplain removed the cross and handed it to him. The Marine held it tightly in his fist and looked at the chaplain.

"You lied to me, Father," he said. "You cocksucker. You lied to me."
...what a story he told me, as one-pointed as resonant as any war story I ever heard; It took me a year to understand it:

"Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened."

I waited for the rest, but it seemed not to be that kind of story; when I asked him what happened he just looked like he felt sorry for me, fucked if he'd waste time telling stories to anyone as dumb as I was.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679735259, Paperback)

Michael Herr, who wrote about the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine, gathered his years of notes from his front-line reporting and turned them into what many people consider the best account of the war to date, when published in 1977. He captured the feel of the war and how it differed from any theater of combat ever fought, as well as the flavor of the time and the essence of the people who were there. Since Dispatches was published, other excellent books have appeared on the war--may we suggest The Things They Carried, The Sorrow of War, We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young--but Herr's book was the first to hit the target head-on and remains a classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:58 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A documentation of the day-to-day realities of the war in Vietnam experienced by men on patrol, under siege at Khe Sanh, strapped into helicopters, and faced with continuing nightmares after their return to the United States.

(summary from another edition)

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