Tag Archives: Michael Herr

Book Review: Dispatches by Michael Herr

Michael Herr Vietnam

Wow, well my first book after not reading for a year is Michael Herr‘s Dispatches and what a book this is. Michael Herr was a Vietnam war correspondent for Esquire Magazine from 1967 to 1969 and the book is based on his experiences during this time.

John Le Carre called Dispatches “The best book I have ever read on the men and war in our time.” If you’re looking for a political history or a book on war tactics, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a book on war – what it looks like to the men who are fighting it and reporting on it – how it changes their DNA -breaks them, alters them, gets under their skin in a way that leaves them fundamentally changed – then this is your book.

What’s even better, is that Michael Herr knows how to write – he delivers sentences that take you to the moral heart centre of war. The first chapter is entitled “Breathing In”, the last is “Breathing Out” in which he describes how men of war reconcile themselves to real life in some way.

“Back in the world now, and a lot of us aren’t making it. The story got old or we got old…We came to fear something more complicated than death, an annihilation less final but more complete, and we got out. Because (more lore) we all knew that if you stayed too long you became one of those poor bastards who had to have a war on all the time and where was that?”

But long before you get to this point he makes you familiar with the newness, then the oldness and then the horror of some kinds of deaths, the loneliness, the function and dysfunction, the fucked-upness, the innocence, the bravery and the not-so-brave, the friendships, the love, and yes, the glamour of war and how seductive and life changing it is. “I think that Vietnam is what we had instead of happy childhoods.” Well how crazy is that, but somehow by the end of this book you get it.

This book was written a long time ago – but it’s as relevant today as it was thirty years ago because for some reason we can’t seem to stop fighting stupid wars and a whole new generation of men and women are survivors of this kind of terrible glamour.

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2011 Reading List

Last year this time I came up with the great idea that I would read 100 books in 2010. Of course I forgot about the Olympics, I also forgot to calculate exactly how much reading this would require and last but not least I forgot about life. So I never attained this goal. Am I sad? No.  Instead I read at my leisure and came across some amazing writers.

This year Dave and I gave each other books and lots of em’. My reading list for this year is looking like this:

The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
The Sentimentalist by Johanna Skibsrud
Vimy by Pierre Berton
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steve Galloway
The Third Reich at War by Richard Evans (Dave said this was an amazing book)
Dispatches by Michael Herr
The Trouble with Islam Today by Irshad Manji
Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis by Alana Mitchell
The Shallows (I decided to read this after reading this review) Nicholas Carr
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

Any recommendations? I love to hear about great books either fiction or non-fiction so drop me a line if I’m missing out on something great.

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