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Dispatches (Picador) Paperback – 25 Oct 1991

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Paperback, 25 Oct 1991
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (25 Oct. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330255738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330255738
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 125,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

If you've seen the movies Apocalypse Now and Platoon, in whose scripts Michael Herr had a hand, you have a pretty good idea of Herr's take on Vietnam: a hallucinatory mess, the confluence of John Wayne and LSD. Dispatches reports remarkable front-line encounters with an acid-dazed infantryman who can't wait to get back into the field and add Viet Cong kills to his long list ("I just can't hack it back in the World", he says); with a helicopter door gunner who fires indiscriminately into crowds of civilians; with daredevil photojournalist Sean Flynn, son of Errol, who disappeared somewhere inside Cambodia. Although Herr has admitted that parts of his book are fictional, this is meaty, essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Vietnam.

Michael Herr, who wrote about the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine, gathered his years of notes from his front-line reporting and turned them into what many people consider the best account of the war to date, when published in 1977. He captured the feel of the war and how it differed from any other theatre of combat, as well as the flavour of the time and the essence of the people who were there. Since Dispatches was published, other excellent books have appeared on the war--may we suggest The Things They Carried and The Sorrow of War--but Herr's book was the first to hit the target head-on and remains a classic. --Simon Kelly

Review

'We have all spent ten years trying to explain what happened to our heads and our lives in the decade we finally survived - but Michael Herr's Dispatches puts all the rest of us in the shade' HUNTER S. THOMPSON --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ghostgrey51 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 April 2011
Format: Audio CD
There have been many fine reviews of Michael Herr's near legendary accounts of his experiences as a journalist in Vietnam during the months surrounding the Tet Offensive. A book though, depends on how well you read, rush it or just browse because you think it fashionable to have this book, and you'll miss the subtleties. The advantage of an audio book is that in the hands of a good production team and an experienced talented narrator you are grabbed and drawn into to someone else's evocation.
I once had an audio tape of a radio broadcast of an abridged version, the interpretation of which was in the style of a world weary reporter looking back into his past and good it was too.
However this does not compare with an unabridged production narrated as the reporter who is only just now putting his words down. Ray Porter does not rant or gibber his way through, which some might expect, this is a thoughtful, intense commentary with bursts of disbelief, anger and dismay, conveying the fresh impression in the author's mind and transporting us back to that fearful war. I was particularly impressed by the sharp emphasis Porter places on the odd word to convey the horror, the danger or despair we are dealing with.
Porter's skilful portrayal of the individuals is exceptional, the use of accents being accurate and not cartoonic; testing point for a UK listener, yes the English cameraman Page does sound english.
The accounts of Khe Sahn, and Hue sound as good as radio plays, the portrayal of the ordinary US soldiers painful.
My wife took pity on me and my broken tape and bought this for me for Christmas, I've listened to it three times since and it still moves, and horrifies me. Not only an exceptional audio book but a worthy contribution to the archive of the works of the American experience in Vietnam.
Warning, harsh language and harrowing accounts abound, not for children.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
Insightful and real. I was a combat photographer for the Army in I Corps in 1968 to 1969.His activities mirrored mine to the degree that on every page I just kept nodding my head, yes, that was the way I saw it, too; yes,that happened to me, too. And just keep recording it on paper and on film. His acceptance of distorted reality kept him going and me as well. Herr made me realize that no amount of preparation could get one ready for the horror that was Viet Nam and, that I was not crazy, only traumatized.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
A whole book of cameo snapshots - surreal, stoned, " cassette roll and rock in one ear and door gun fire in the other" with these linked memories woven together Herr has taken us back to the time he watched the madness. If you ever want to try and understand the Vietnam war, or want to see it, the blood, the fear, the humour, cynicism, the irony, she sheer futility of it all, through the eyes of a professional observer then this is the only book for you. I first read it twenty years ago and every time I read it, it just gets better. It's multi layered, a book you can dip into at any page and marvel at Herr's ability to recount the insanity with evocative prose of immense power. If I could write like this, I'd want nothing more from heaven. Its humbling, funny, profound, disturbing. Its awesome.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stewart M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 April 2009
Format: Paperback
This is not a book about why the Vietnam War was fought. It may not even be a book about what it was like to actually fight in the war, but it is a book that clearly, and often with a twisted and strange language, shows what it was like to be surrounded by a war in which you were only an observer.
It is worth reading the book just for the cast of characters it contains - Tim Page, Dana Stone and Sean Flynn could not have been invented and if you have watched either "Full Metal Jacket" or "Apocalypse Now" you will recognise the soldiers within the book.
Don't read this book if you want an account of tactics and battles - a point some of the other reviewers seem to have missed. This book is about the Vietnam War looking from the inside outwards towards the world; it is about the war as an experience, not an historical event.
The freedom that Herr and the other journalist had to go where they pleased, when they please gave rise to both language and images that did not sit well with government - and the way that wars have been covered since this time reflect the desire to control the flow of information from war zones.
This is a stunning book, the likes of which may never be produced again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. J. M on 2 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having bought this book only for a University course (War & the Media being the topic) for an excellent price. I didn't really read it as much first time round but scan for quotes and info to use for essays. But a short while ago I just picked it up from the shelf and re-read it, and am I glad that I did. Anyone who's seen Full Metal Jacket will notice the film is very much borrowing actual events Herr encountered in Vietnam and much, much more. Herr is a brilliant guide to his years spent in Vietnam and the countless characters he met and shared these experiences with.

This is a good weekend filler and can't be recommended enough to anyone who has an interest in War, Vietnam or just wants a good read.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By lexo1941 on 6 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
If you want to find out why the Vietnam war happened, don't read this book, because it won't tell you. If you want to find out how the course of the war unfolded, don't read it - same reason. If you want to find out about how utterly bizarre it was to fight in the war on the American side, then read it. That's what it does better than any other book I've read.

Michael Herr was a war correspondent who went to Vietnam and reported on what he found there in a style that can best be described as 'disciplined gonzo'; no wonder he was hired by Coppola to work on the script of 'Apocalypse Now', that other mad, trippy, scary account of the American end of the war. Herr is not interested in strategy, justifications, the rhetoric of America's heroic mission to liberate the Vietnamese from themselves. Like most of the soldiers he meets, he takes it for granted that that's all a crock of manure. From his perspective, the war is a futile and drug-soaked mess, in which America's participation lacks any kind of honour and dignity. The fact that that's a perfectly rational perspective is still often forgotten by people who like to pretend that the Vietnam war was a well-meant affair that just went astray because those pesky GIs smoked too much grass.

There are other, perhaps more crucial perspectives on the war, not least that of the Vietnamese, who were not only the true victims of it but also, most importantly, the winners - the peasant nation that kicked the crap out of a superpower and forced it into a humiliating retreat. But if you want to understand something about the damage Vietnam did to the aggressors, read 'Dispatches'. Only an illiterate person would deny that it's some of the finest American writing of the last century.
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