American Literary Culture and the Vietnam War NarrativeeBook - 1998
Although the Vietnam conflict ended two decades ago, a fierce cultural war over how its literature is to be perceived continues to be waged. Warring Fictions accuses American critics of twenty years of whitewash and reminds us that Vietnam was not just an American anguish and its fiction a rock-and-roll acid trip. From the blind patriotism of "The Green Berets" to the postmodern hip of "Dispatches" this book brings history and politics back to the Vietnam War novel.
It is a brilliant case study of canon formation and of the role commercial and academic literary institutions have played in assessing Vietnam War fiction; it exposes their complicity in the writing of recent American history and rebukes academic literary culture that speciously purports a radical calling for itself. Beyond an aca-demic audience, this book will challenge all who are piqued by studies of the war and of Vietnam War fiction. And it raises important questions about the interlocking interests and ideologies of literary culture, the publishing industry, the mass media, and the academy.
With its exemplary command of actual history and its well-documented investigation of the Vietnam fiction canon, this book throws a probing light on a literary culture whose tastes and attitudes have helped enforce a conservative interpretation of the war. In extraordinary readings of "The Quiet American," "The Ugly American," "The Prisoners of Quai Dong," "The Laotian Fragments," "Dispatches," "The Things They Carried," and "In Country," "Warring Fictions" provides a radical historical perspective on the fiction that emerged from the Vietnam War.
Jim Neilson is an instructor in the department of arts and sciences at Trident Technical College.