Why am I so excited by this particular challenge? I have often joked that if I went to go get a doctorate, that I could-at any given time- write my thesis about Vietnam War literature, since I have read that particular genre so extensively. In my review of The Things They Carried, I speak of feeling a connection with this literature and with the war, since I was a young girl.
I wasn't sure about why that connection exists, but speaking with a good friend of a good friend at a party last week, I think I might have nailed down why this particular literature and era calls to my inner being as it does.(And yes...I know..life of the party!! That's me! Baby in tow and talking about books. *giggles* Thank heavens for my Pee Wee Herman laugh!). As we were speaking about what we were reading, my current read being My Detachment by Tracy Kidder, he asked why I was drawn to Vietnam War literature. He felt that WWII literature was more compelling, because of the singularly horrific organization of evil which was present in the Axis regimes. As I understood it, he felt that such evil being allowed to manifest and exist in such a way was such a puzzle that all humanity could think of it for all of time and still not come to a firm understanding or resolution as to why it happened.
For me, however, while I do not disagree with any of the points he made, Vietnam War literature tugs at my soul and my consciousness in a far more personal way than the abstractions and altruisms of much WWII literature. Thinking about this, my working conclusion is that there is something about how muddled and how completely un-understandable the Vietnam War is in all its facets with which I deeply relate. I think that I connect with the idea of having been sold a bill of goods. Having been born in the 1970's , raised in the 1980's and come into my adulthood in the 1990's, my entire life centered around an illusion of peace and security. The suburban over-achiement myth has left so many of my peers and contemporaries as broken, wounded, essentially empty people. We collectively pretended for decades that there was no grey, when in fact nearly all of life is a muddled, overlapping mess of black and white. We began with firm ammendment of the will, yet ended with a deep, far-reaching purposelessness.
Vietnam War literature primarily focuses on just this dichotomy, the process of going through that confusion and loss of a sense of purpose, it's after effects both short- and long-term, and sometimes the resolution of taking these things and while never making sense of them, using them as a foundation from which to build a new life replete with purpose.. Mostly this is true, because the War itself and the people who lived during the War careened through these phases if not personally, collectively.
It will be interesting to come back to this post and the end of 2010 after reading more and re-examine my thesis. In the meantime, I hope you will consider joining the War Through The Generations Challenge this year! Check back throughout the year for my book reviews!
(PS-Please be patient and gentle with spelling and grammar errors--I have a feeling that most posts will be written just like this one--with a baby in arms, a toddler climbing on my back and shoulders ad interruptions from no less than 3 other people. :) )