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

by Michael Herr, Robert Stone (Introduction)

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1,972303,439 (4.17)92
Member:mccuish6
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
Rating:***1/2
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Work details

Dispatches by Michael Herr (1977)

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» See also 92 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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 drivel. Totally useless and irritating.

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 ! ( )
  Luchtpint | Aug 2, 2014 |
Dispatches is a magnificently sprawling word-on-the-page, in-your-face account of humans-at-war and captures the gross wretchedness of the Vietnam War. A conflict as we all now know, fought for no other purpose than 2 bloodily unfeeling ideologies who could not care less for their peoples - - caught in the middle: the "grunts" of both sides though Herr naturally, understandably concentrates on his armed forces personnel - - Herr throws out line after line of instant graphic comment and observation in the heat of battle and in the grind of waiting, preparing for it and its grim aftermath. More than that, by focussing on the individuals' buried alive by the brutality of the melee he puts the US Military Command through the ringer of factual reality on the ground exposing their glib, colossally complacent summations, misinterpretations, miscalculations. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon... who'd want to be a President & Commander-in-Chief as that bunch of 4 & 5 star numbskulls gave advice! ( )
  tommi180744 | Aug 22, 2013 |
Dispatches is Michael Herr's first-person account of his experience as a freelance journalist - embedded with various USMC units in Vietnam, 1967-68. It is, admittedly, an extremely difficult novel to get traction on as the opening passages seem wildly discursive. The trick is to let go of trying to parse out sentences or even whole paragraphs, and just roll with it as whole as the picture comes into focus. In many ways, Dispatches is like an Impressionist painting: best appreciated with some distance from the object rather than with intentness upon its component parts. What emerges from the writing is the inanity of The Vietnam War for all the high ideals propounded by Mission commanders. In many ways, the insensibility of the War is reflected in Herr's rambling, at times near stream-of-consciousness, prose. The images coalesce into the run-up, action of, and the end of the three-and-a-half month Battle of Khe Sanh.

As the North Vietnam Army (PAVN) feinted and eventually engaged at Khe Sanh, the Marine base there was besieged. The US committed all resources to operations at Khe Sanh, President Johnson mandating that the base be kept at all costs. Ultimately, the base was destroyed, the Marines pulled back and, the US claimed victory on the premise of casualty figures and the fact that PAVN forces withdrew suddenly afterward. PAVN forces also claimed victory, as after all, they destroyed the base and forced the Marines to evacuate. Dispataches questions the significance of the dual claims of victory and the sudden withdrawal of the North Vietnamese Army, especially in context of the Tet Offensive.

Herr's portrayals of the men who fought and reported in the war are the smaller brushstrokes that make up the bigger picture of that time and place. Herr talks and travels with Marines and other reporters, perhaps none more poignant and intriguing than that of his colleagues, Sean Flynn , Dana Stone and Tim Page. Flynn, Stone and Page were photojournalists who cut careless, romantic figures. They were each extremely intelligent, talented men whose ambitions and impulses exacted dear prices. Their legacies and fates are equally breathtaking.

Ray Porter is the American narrator who reads Dispatches. The book is either the result of giving a typewriter to an inebriated soul and/or; drugs and alcohol to a journalist. Either way, managing the text and propelling it forward had to have been a challenge. Ray Porter met the challenge, framing the material in a natural voice without caving into a hyperbolic interpretation of extreme and intense situations. There may be a mispronunciation or two ("artillery" is pronounced as "artillerary" in one instance); but over all the delivery is on point.

Redacted from the original blog review at dog eared copy, Dispatches; 03/22/2012 ( )
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Apr 4, 2013 |
I bought this after seeing Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Back in those days, military slang could not be found in the dictionaries that were available, so it was a hard slog, quite apart from the difficult subject. But a very rewarding read, and not only because of the many new phrases I learned. ( )
  MissWatson | Mar 28, 2013 |
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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.
Quotations
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:36 -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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