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Dispatches (Picador) [Paperback]

Michael Herr
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Oct 1991 Picador

‘The best book I have ever read on men and war in our time.’ John Le Carré

‘Having read Dispatches, it is difficult to convey the impact of total experience as all the facades of patriotism, heroism and the whole colossal fraud of American intervention fall away to the bare bones of fear, war and death’ William S. Burroughs

‘Splendid . . . he brings alive the terror of combat in a way that rivals All Quiet on the Western Front’ Tom Wolfe

‘In the great line of Crane, Orwell and Hemingway . . . he seems to have brought to this book the ear of a musician and the eye of a painter, Frank Zappa and Francis Bacon’ Washington Post

‘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

‘If it were only unconventional journalism, it would stand with the best there is – but it's a good deal more than that . . . I believe it may be the best personal journal about war, about any war, that any writer has ever accomplished’ Robert Stone

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (25 Oct 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330255738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330255738
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,187 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


'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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome. 2 Dec 2000
By A Customer
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in its translation of a classic work 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling war reportage 16 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This stunning piece of war reportage deserves to rest along side the true fictions of Tim O'Brien and Bao Ninh. Based around Herr's time in Vietnam as war correspondent for Esquire magazine it is a beautifully lyrical examination of the nature of modern warfare. Looking at the glamour as well as the horror of war it doesn't toe the trite "War is hell" line of Hollywood but searches for a more complete understanding. Unafraid of being self-critical this is a powerful and compelling book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure stream-of-consciousness genius 31 May 2007
If you're looking for a straight ahead factual narrative of the Vietnam war, then look elsewhere (please do, that sort of book needs to be read). If you're looking for a book that captures the disjointed, hilarious, terrifying and disgusting only partly comprehended reality of the war from the point of view of a closely involved non-combatant, then please read this masterpiece. Some of the best English-language prose of the last forty years is in this book. I'd put my mortgage on it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 2 Mar 2010
By S. J. M
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War and men. 21 April 2009
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars all good
Arrived quickly all good as advertised
Published 4 days ago by Jonah6264
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most engaging book on the personal experience of war
Few books could possibly even contemplate being as honest, well-informed and brave in their depiction of human conflict.
Published 13 days ago by Parsa
5.0 out of 5 stars It's fkng good.
Brillian. Don't bother watching 'Apocalypse Now', 'Platoon' or any of the other Vietnam war movies, just read this. Read more
Published 1 month ago by PHaire
1.0 out of 5 stars but I just can't recommend this book
Sorry, but I just can't recommend this book. Overly written & the try hard prose difficult to understand. Try chicken hawk for a straight insight to the conflict.
Published 1 month ago by Mr Maxwell P Barnes
5.0 out of 5 stars As the cover says from John le Carre it is the best war book ever.
The Viet Nam war, is very difficult to understand, buried under layers of politics and myth. For me there are two books that make it clearer. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Terence Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars I have had a several copies over the years
I have had several copies , because they get well read i need another copy when it starts falling apart, this is crying out for a Kindle version, plus my reading style, is such... Read more
Published 4 months ago by buffer
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one war book.....
One of the great books about the madness of Vietnam and the late 60's/early 70s culture. At times you can smell the danger. Read more
Published 6 months ago by PJW Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I bought this.
Five stars cos it arrived early and I really got into this book. Can see why it is reviewed the way it is. Gives u yet more insight into an already very publicised war. Read more
Published 12 months ago by WhisperingEye.xxx
5.0 out of 5 stars Straight To hell Boys.....
Got into this through my research into the Clash Combat Rock album.....it was a popular read amongst the band. Read more
Published 13 months ago by T. Satchwell
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
this book tells of the horrific reality of war and of the falsifying of battle statistics to give americans a 'favourable' view of progress in a disastrous campaign. Read more
Published 16 months ago by G. F. Underwood
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