Nobody Says it Better

I was gonna put up some new paintings, but I left the SD card in the studio, so it'll have to wait a day or so.

However, this is better: Let's me talk about the military memoir canon. Like any good canon, there are holes, and one of mine was (but not no more) Michael Herr's Dispatches. It really does sit at, or very fucking near, the top of the genre, so why I waited all this time to read it is a mystery. Herr spent a year or so as a correspondent for Esquire. Not just any year either, but the pivotal and ultra-violent period that included the "siege" of Khe Sanh and the Battle for Hue.

As my own work has progressed, I've become less and less interested in reading military history. Sometimes this is because of the awful writing [allow me to digress and mention The Lions of Kandahar, as a book I was really looking forward to read, but after a few pages of pot boiler phrasing, had to put down.

What I really care about is the memoir, because what I really care about is how war infuses, destroys, liberates and crystallizes the human experience. Herr: "remembering compulsively, telling war stories. But then, there's nothing wrong with that. War stories aren't really anything more than stories about people anyway." And if I might also paraphrase Tim O'Brien, "And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war.... It's about love and memory." (The Things They Carried)

Another fun thing to do when reading Dispatches, is pick out lines that you've heard in various Vietnam war movies. Herr was hired to do much of the narration dialogue for Apocalypse Now, and there are a number of lines in the book that are inserted directly into Full Metal jacket.

I'm almost finished now and will be sad to leave behind Herr, Sean Flynn (son of Errol) and Tim Page. I didn't realize the attachment was strong until I came to the sections where Herr starts to discuss his and other war correspondents attempts to claim lives for themselves after Vietnam.

Scanned and placed below is one of those "when we got home" sections, where Tim Page has had a piece of Shrapnel removed from his brain and, subsequently, a British publishers asks his to do a book that will take the glamour off war. Start from the cerulean arrow if you like.

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