Cover image for Warring fictions : American literary culture and the Vietnam War narrative
Title:
Warring fictions : American literary culture and the Vietnam War narrative
Author:
Neilson, Jim.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, [1998]

©1998
Physical Description:
256 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1550 Lexile.
ISBN:
9781578060870

9781578060887
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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 academic 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.


Summary

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.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

Neilson (Trident Technical College) presents a Marxist critique of selected Vietnam War literature. Using Noam Chomsky's political thinking as a backdrop, the author accuses most contemporary academic and commercial literati of being politically weak, ideologically co-opted by market and consumerist pressures. Trendy postmodernism fails because it focuses primarily on rhetoric and style and not enough on historical reality. To Neilson's dismay, authors like Graham Greene, Michael Herr, and Tim O'Brien seem content to debunk the US exceptionalist myths but provide little substance in return. Although somewhat friendlier to feminist and postcolonialist critics, Neilson makes a considerable effort to discredit them as well: gender analysis fails because its perspective is too limited; postcolonial analysis castigates US racism and calls for more war fiction from ex-soldiers of the NLF and the North Vietnamese Army. Ultimately, this book connects readers with the worn principles of class struggle; damns US-sponsored economic hegemony worldwide; bathes its audience in war guilt; and raves against capitalist evil. Neilson's historical realities are nothing less than naive and historically unsatisfying; his outdated politics remind this reviewer of the most horrid rhetoric created during the 1960s. His book is of questionable value, but may be useful to graduate students and researchers. R. C. Doyle formerly, Universit'e des Sciences Humaines de Strasbourg


Choice Review

Neilson (Trident Technical College) presents a Marxist critique of selected Vietnam War literature. Using Noam Chomsky's political thinking as a backdrop, the author accuses most contemporary academic and commercial literati of being politically weak, ideologically co-opted by market and consumerist pressures. Trendy postmodernism fails because it focuses primarily on rhetoric and style and not enough on historical reality. To Neilson's dismay, authors like Graham Greene, Michael Herr, and Tim O'Brien seem content to debunk the US exceptionalist myths but provide little substance in return. Although somewhat friendlier to feminist and postcolonialist critics, Neilson makes a considerable effort to discredit them as well: gender analysis fails because its perspective is too limited; postcolonial analysis castigates US racism and calls for more war fiction from ex-soldiers of the NLF and the North Vietnamese Army. Ultimately, this book connects readers with the worn principles of class struggle; damns US-sponsored economic hegemony worldwide; bathes its audience in war guilt; and raves against capitalist evil. Neilson's historical realities are nothing less than naive and historically unsatisfying; his outdated politics remind this reviewer of the most horrid rhetoric created during the 1960s. His book is of questionable value, but may be useful to graduate students and researchers. R. C. Doyle formerly, Universit'e des Sciences Humaines de Strasbourg


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Manufacturing Canonsp. 1
1 Commercial Literary Culturep. 17
2 Academy Literary Culturep. 39
3 La Condition Humainep. 55
4 Official Distortionsp. 89
5 Rock-And-Roll-Warp. 135
6 America as Homep. 165
7 Undying Uncertaintyp. 191
Conclusion: True War Storiesp. 211
Notesp. 223
Referencesp. 229
Indexp. 245
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Manufacturing Canonsp. 1
1 Commercial Literary Culturep. 17
2 Academy Literary Culturep. 39
3 La Condition Humainep. 55
4 Official Distortionsp. 89
5 Rock-And-Roll-Warp. 135
6 America as Homep. 165
7 Undying Uncertaintyp. 191
Conclusion: True War Storiesp. 211
Notesp. 223
Referencesp. 229
Indexp. 245