Every war is absurd, but to the American psyche, Vietnam is still the disastrous military folly by which all others are judged. And Dispatches, more than any other book, has shaped what we think the Vietnam War was and what it meant. Michael Herr’s 1977 memoir of his experiences as a war correspondent for Esquire is an intense, disorienting and often exhilarating look into the unique madness of this conflict. Herr fills his frame with the authentic details that a less brave, less honest reporter would have self-censored out: the drugs, the brutality, the hookers, the pointlessness and the fear and exhaustion of a conscripted Army fighting a hopeless war. (While not a direct adaptation, much of the spirit of Dispatches made its way into the screenplay of 1987’s Full Metal Jacket, which Herr co-wrote.) Employing techniques that would become hallmarks of New Journalism, Herr produces writing that is like prose rock ‘n’ roll, filled with syncopation, quick cuts and an almost hallucinatory quality that matches the hash that some of the soldiers he introduces us to are fond of smoking to numb their pain.
Autobiography / Memoir
Self-Help / Instructional