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Going After Cacciato Paperback – September 1, 1999
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In Tim O'Brien's novel Going After Cacciato the theater of war becomes the theater of the absurd as a private deserts his post in Vietnam, intent on walking 8,000 miles to Paris for the peace talks. The remaining members of his squad are sent after him, but what happens then is anybody's guess: "The facts were simple: They went after Cacciato, they chased him into the mountains, they tried hard. They cornered him on a small grassy hill. They surrounded the hill. They waited through the night. And at dawn they shot the sky full of flares and then they moved in.... That was the end of it. The last known fact. What remained were possibilities."
It is these possibilities that make O'Brien's National Book Award-winning novel so extraordinary. Told from the perspective of squad member Paul Berlin, the search for Cacciato soon enters the realm of the surreal as the men find themselves following an elusive trail of chocolate M&M's through the jungles of Indochina, across India, Iran, Greece, and Yugoslavia to the streets of Paris. The details of this hallucinatory journey alternate with feverish memories of the war--men maimed by landmines, killed in tunnels, engaged in casual acts of brutality that would be unthinkable anywhere else. Reminiscent of Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Going After Cacciato dishes up a brilliant mix of ferocious comedy and bleak horror that serves to illuminate both the complex psychology of men in battle and the overarching insanity of war. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Simply put, the best novel written about the war. I do not know . . . any writer, journalist, or novelist who does not concede that position to O'Brien's Going After Cacciato."
"A novel of great beauty and importance."
"Stark . . . rhapsodic. . . . It is a canvas painted vividly, hauntingly, disturbingly by Tim O'Brien."
—Los Angeles Times
"As a fictional portrait of this war, Going After Cacciato is hard to fault, and will be hard to better."
—John Updike, The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
O'Brien structures his book in an odd manner, jumping between the chase after Cacciato and flashbacks to various "war stories" involving Berlin and his squad. While at first somewhat jarring, as he usually jumps right when some major action is occurring, eventually it makes for a more interesting and exciting read. The war stories and the Cacciato plot work well together, mixing action sequences and thoughts on war and warfare, so that every chapter (or every other chapter) is fresh material. The inclusion of the war stories also accomplishes two things: 1) It includes Vietnam in the novel, as the majority of the Cacciato sections of the book occur outside of Vietnam; and 2) It gives O'Brien a chance to explore the lessons of war, an opportunity which he takes at every turn.
The majority of the lessons learned in the "war stories" involve the death of a squad member. It's no secret that they died, in fact many of the deaths are alluded to from very early on in the book.Read more ›
Some reviewers have complained about the distortion caused by the intertwining storylines and shifts in time and focus, but they are not muddled at all and the book is very easy to maintain. This is what elevates the book beyond mere storytelling or fictionalized factual accounts. You can read other reviews for a synopsis of the story - my two-cents is that this book lives up to the hype and works to perfection. O'Brien is one of only two fiction writers still in their 'prime' so to speak and putting out books somewhat regularly that I will look for and buy (other being Phillip Roth).
Overall, a very worthwhile read.
The novel is about an idealistic soldier, Cacciato, who one day decides to leave the war. He abandons his post and heads off to Paris. Then the story becomes more surreal as his squad pursues him through the streets of Mandalay and Delhi and through Kabul and Tehran as they all get closer to deliverance. Meanwhile, the protagonist, Paul Berlin, recalls how things used to be when a young lieutenant was in charge of the brigade, as well as everything from childhood to one particular night on the observation post. The plot begins to play with reality to an increasing extent, but the story remains engaging to the end.
One wonderful thing about this book is its absolute recollection of the life of a soldier. In a book like this that exposes the reader to the true life of a soldier, the details must be present and plausible, and being as O'Brien was a veteran, it is safe to assume that they are, in fact, realistic. However, his insight leads to an intense examination of the life and mindset of a soldier. The soldiers in the story talk like soldiers, but they just seem like real people with a horrible burden thrust upon their shoulders. Also, O'Brien's writing is delightful. Speaking from a purely syntactical standpoint, the way he crafts his sentences is a pleasure to read, even if it describes something horrible in Paul's life.
Although it is not strictly a war novel, the essence of the war is conveyed throughout. Required reading for anyone wanting to understand the war, or see the perfection of the craft of writing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a novel that needs to be read twice to fully understand. One reading does not do it justice and might leave the reader a bit confused by the surreal story line. Read morePublished 1 month ago by James M Warren
a completely different kind of book not at all what I expected after reading another of his books.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great read, the author's writing is riveting. Read after reading "The Things They Carried" which was so poignant and thought provoking. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nona Teti
I thought the book was disjointed. I know the what he was trying to convey but the book did not flow very well. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Al in MBK
It was missing a whole chapter! Luckily my son's teacher was nice enough to print it out for him!Published 5 months ago by Shelley Hudak
'Going after Cacciato' is not simply a war story, nor is it simply anti-war rhetoric. Somehow it is both these things, and so much more. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mitchell Gooley
I didn't think a book about being a soldier in Viet Nam could top Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," a book I have read several times and have used to teach writing... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Manzanita