If the Civil War pitted brother against brother, the Vietnam War is best understood as pitting father against son. Some of Vietnam's longest lasting battles were fought in heavy rages and even heavier silences across the dinner table. James Carroll is a veteran of many such skirmishes. A novelist now, this book is his story of what it was like to be an anti-war priest in the '60s while his father was an Air Force general deeply involved in Pentagon planning. What makes the book particularly moving is that Carroll comes to realize that his father is no mono-dimensional saber-rattler (indeed, he suspects that his father's military career came to its sudden end because of the stances he took inside the corridors of power against expanding and intensifying the war). But the terrible truth was that neither the father nor the son ever managed to transcend the boundaries of their particular roles to meet each other in a candid, reciprocal relationship. And Carroll is honest--he tells us this, painfully. A very fine book, which along the way reports interestingly on some nearly forgotten '60s episodes.
From Publishers Weekly
Carroll, a novelist (Family Trade), poet and former priest, has written a moving memoir of the effect of the Vietnam War on his family that is at once personal and the story of a generation. His father was an Air Force general who won his stars by being one of the bright lights of the FBI-and a favorite of J. Edgar Hoover-rather than by working his way up through the military. One of Carroll's four brothers dodged the draft in Canada, another was an FBI agent ferreting out draft dodgers and he himself-a former ROTC Cadet of the Year at Georgetown-became an "antiwar" chaplain at Boston University who demonstrated in the streets but ducked the cameras for fear his father might recognize him. Carroll was earmarked from birth to be a priest (his father had trained for the priesthood but dropped out just before ordination) and received personal encouragement from Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Spellman, a family friend. Carroll's heroes evolved from Elvis to Pope John to Martin Luther King, rebel theologian Hans Kung, poet Allen Tate (his mentor) and Eugene McCarthy-most of whom his father considered enemies. After much personal struggle, Carroll left the priesthood, married and became a father, but the break with his own father was never repaired. At once heartbreaking and heroic, this is autobiography at its best.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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