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Dispatches (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics Series) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 17, 2009
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Written on the front lines in Vietnam, Dispatches became an immediate classic of war reportage when it was published in 1977.
From its terrifying opening pages to its final eloquent words, Dispatches makes us see, in unforgettable and unflinching detail, the chaos and fervor of the war and the surreal insanity of life in that singular combat zone. Michael Herr’s unsparing, unorthodox retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, rendering clarity from one of the most incomprehensible and nightmarish events of our time.
Dispatches is among the most blistering and compassionate accounts of war in our literature.
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“The best book I have ever read on men and war in our time.”
—John le Carré
“In the great line of Crane, Orwell, and Hemingway . . . Herr reaches an excruciating level of intensity . . . He seems to have brought to this book the ear of a musician and the eye of a painter . . . The premier war correspondence of Vietnam.”
—The Washington Post
" . . . Dispatches puts the rest of us in the shade."
—Hunter S. Thompson
About the Author
Robert Stone, a National Book Award winner, lives in New York City.
- Publisher : Everyman's Library (February 17, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307270807
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307270801
- Item Weight : 15.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.88 x 8.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #411,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I first read Dispatches in the late 70s and I've gone through several copies and 8 or 10 readings in the intervening years. I finally got a clue and bought the book on Kindle today so I don't have to go looking for it or buy yet another copy when I feel the urge to read this prose that can still give me chills almost four decades after I first found it.
Rest in Peace, Michael, and thank you.
Top reviews from other countries
Herr’s writing style (dubbed New Journalism) took me by surprise. I was not prepared for what was overwhelming me from page one. I felt I was taken by the throat and without proper context, scene setting or introductions thrown into the brutality, horror, destruction and madness of the war. Consequently, it took time to find my bearings and to understand the language spoken, jargon used, topics discussed and the humor and logic soldiers had. The result was that I found myself utterly bewildered and mesmerized at the same time. Added to this is Herr’s eloquence in articulating his observations and emotions. It produced so many moments of brilliant prose captivating the essence that it created further breathtaking and jaw-dropping moments of shock and awe for me.
Herr contributed to the scripts of “ Apocalypse Now Redux [DVD] [1979 ]” and “ Full Metal Jacket  [DVD ]”, so watching both films after “Dispatches” is almost a must. I decided to read it in conjunction with " Vietnam: The Real War: A Photographic History by the Associated Press " to add a visual dimension. Finally, I watched the brilliant but dark 2002 Dutch documentary “First Kill” where Herr and other Vietnam veterans are interviewed about the violence, fear, seduction and pleasure in war. It provides further insight in Herr’s motivations to go to Vietnam, his experiences during the war and his conclusions about the attraction man has to war: “If war were hell, and only hell, […] I don’t think people would continue to make war.”
And that is in my opinion the most disturbing aspect of “Dispatches”. There is an undercurrent throughout the book that despite all the evil, destruction, fear and lunacy, war is also glamorous, exciting, pleasurable and even beautiful. I think Herr wrote “Dispatches” partially to come to terms with the above by “trying to piece together their very real hatred of the war with their great love for it that rough reconciliation that many of us had to look at.”
The fact that after forty years dozens of people feel compelled to write a review for “Dispatches” here tells something of the impact it continues to have on readers. I am no exception. “Dispatches” will haunt me for a long time to come. Highly recommended. 6 stars.
I did like his cynicism about the pen pushers fighting a war from their desks, wishing (perhaps?) they were actually the grunts facing off against the VC. Who among us could not at least grimly smile about the "mad Colonel" stories. Would have been nice to get at least a paragraph as to why he was there in the first place, as there are several mentions of the reporters being able to go home whenever they wished.
In preparation for his findings, he’s having me do some reading.
“Dispatches” is what he recommended, and I can see why: it’s a total assault on the senses. It’s visceral, epic, humble, bombastic, naïve and cynical all in one. And it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious.
It’s not a history, of course. It’s a trip, rather.
Michael Herr proudly offers a view from the lowest possible vantage point. His account may not even be 100% factual: rather than waste his time interviewing the officers, he spends all his time with “the grunts;” it’s their story he sets out to tell, and if some of it they made up, so be it.
In short, if you want to find out what it FELT like to fight the war, if you want to feel the horror and the confusion, if it’s the Vietnam era “All Quiet on the Western Front” you’re looking for, then you’ve come to the right place.
Obviously it does not cover the entire conflict but does cover some of the most graphic and hairy times of what was and still is a very misunderstood conflict.
The journalism is faultless and the writing superb, it draws you in and blows you away. It has real insight and portrays the 'honest' views and feelings of the grunts serving over there, even the ones who have clearly lost the plot. It was a time of free love, mind expanding drugs and a musical revolution and the average age of soldiers was 19. In one year most fighting troops fought more days than a soldier did in WWI and WWII
and most didn't know why they were there. All this and more Michael Herr covers brilliantly and it still holds the slot of best 'Nam book ever.