Late Thoughts on An Old War
The Legacy of VietnamBook - 2004
Beidler brings back the war he knew in chapters on its vocabulary, music, literature, and film. His catalog of soldier slang reveals how finely a tour of Vietnam could hone one’s sense of absurdity. His survey of the war’s pop hits looks for meaning in the soundtrack many veterans still hear in their heads. Beidler also explains how “Viet Pulp” literature about snipers, tunnel rats, and other hard-core types has pushed aside masterpieces like Duong Thu Huong’s Novel without a Name. Likewise we learn why the movie The Deer Hunter doesn’t “get it” about Vietnam but why Platoon and We Were Soldiers sometimes nearly do.
As Beidler takes measure of his own wartime politics and morals, he ponders the divergent careers of such figures as William Calley, the army lieutenant whose name is synonymous with the civilian massacre at My Lai, and an old friend, poet John Balaban, a conscientious objector who performed alternative duty in Vietnam as a schoolteacher and hospital worker.
Beidler also looks at Vietnam alongside other conflicts—including the war on international terrorism. He once hoped, he says, that Vietnam had fractured our sense of providential destiny and geopolitical invincibility but now realizes, with dismay, that those myths are still with us. “Americans have always wanted their apocalypses,” writes Beidler, “and they have always wanted them now.”
Baker & Taylor
A Vietnam veteran and scholar draws on personal memories of his time in Vietnam, bringing the war back in chapters on vocabulary, music, literature, and film, and examining how the immediacy of Vietnam's costs is dealt with in an evasive way by America.
The author, who served in Vietnam as a platoon leader in an armored cavalry unit, combines autobiographical reflection and cultural criticism in a series of essays that consider varied facets of how the Vietnam War has impacted American culture. Along the way, he considers issues of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Vietnam's influence on American English, the war and racial politics, portrayals of the war in the movies, the popular music preferred by GIs and by antiwar protestors, the inadequacies of Robert McNamara's In Retrospect as a real apology for the war, and the continuing inability of Americans to learn the lessons of Vietnam (especially in light of the ongoing Iraq War) Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Blackwell North Amer
Philip D. Beidler, who served as an armored cavalry platoon leader in Vietnam, sees less and less of the hard-won perspective of the common soldier in what America has made of that war. Each passing year, he says, dulls our sense of immediacy about Vietnam's costs, opening wider the temptation to make it something more necessary, neatly contained, and justifiable than it should ever become. Here Beidler draws on personal memories to reflect on the war's lingering aftereffects and the shallow, evasive ways we deal with them.