The Vietnam Reader is a selection of the finest and best-known art from the American war in Vietnam, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, film, still photos, and popular song lyrics. All the strongest work is here, from mainstream bestsellers to radical poetry, from Tim O'Brien to Marvin Gaye. Also included are incisive reader's questionsuseful for educators and book clubsin a volume that makes an essential contribution to a wider understanding of the Vietnam War.
This authoritative and accessible volume is sure to become a classic reference, as well as indispensable and provocative reading for anyone who wants to know more about the war that changed the face of late-twentieth-century America.
O'Nan, himself the author of a well-received novel about the struggles of a Vietnam vet to readjust to civilian life (The Names of the Dead), has compiled a lengthy, varied, and somewhat idiosyncratic anthology of fiction and nonfiction by American writers about the war and its aftermath. The book was inspired, he notes in his preface, by his discovery that there was no wide-ranging compilation on the subject. O'Nan's selections, primarily excerpts from full-length works, include fiction by Tim O'Brien (Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried), James Webb (Fields of Fire), Larry Heinemann (Paco's Story), Stephen Wright (Meditations in Green), and John Del Vecchio (The 13th Valley), plus excerpts from memoirs by Robert Mason (Chickenhawk), Ronald J. Glasser (365 Days), and Michael Lee Lanning (The Only War We Had). O'Nan also includes the lyrics of a variety of period songs ('The Ballad of the Green Berets,' 'Born in the USA'), critical summaries of films about the war, and some poetry. His adroit notes point out some of the most salient features of this literature (the relative neglect of the Vietnamese experience of war; the evolution of the American soldier protagonist from hero to cynical survivor; the persistent attempt to puzzle out what the war tells us about our society and government), and a glossary, bibliography, and chronology further help set the work in context. While the inclusion of more less-familiar writers would have been welcome, this is nonetheless a powerful, deeply revealing collection, and the best available introduction to a major body of modern American literature.