Writing and War

It is disheartening to learn that Afghanistan is now officially the longest war in U.S. history. It would have been inconceivable to Americans in 1975, that in a few short decades after the Vietnam War, we’d enter into another long conflict.

Politics and military strategy aside, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already produced a number of important books including the non-fiction work The Good Soldiers by David Finkel, which earned him a 2012 MacArthur grant.

Jacob Silverman has a review in Slate about four new war novels taking up the subject of U.S. fighting men in the Middle East.

Today’s new books have to be considered in light of the cartloads of literature that came (and continue to come) from the Vietnam War.

Vietnam veterans and celebrated writers Tim O’Brien and Tobias Wolff spoke last year about war and writing (video below). O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried is a stunning read by a master storyteller and a must for anyone who is interested in war and literature.

In the Stanford University talk Wolff commented that many anti-war films about Vietnam, such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, can actually inspire young people to join the military (Wolf sites Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford’s memoir Jarhead where he writes about Marines watching Platoon as a way of getting enthused for combat).

O’Brien said he obviously writes anti-war books, but curiously enough, he meets readers who join the Service after reading his work. Here is the video of O’Brien and Wolff:

Tim O’Brien in Conversation with Tobias Wolff on “Writing and War” from Stanford Humanities on Vimeo.

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