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Why Are We in Vietnam?: A Novel Paperback – August 5, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Review

It is impossible to walk away from this novel without being sharply reminded of the fact that Norman Mailer is a writer of extraordinary ability. (Chicago Tribune)

A shattering social commentary . . . The book is a tour de force, a treatise on human nature, society, and war in flip disguise. (Dallas News)

A book of great integrity. All the odd qualities are here: Mailer's remarkable feeling for the sensory event, the detail, 'the way it was,' his power and energy. (The New York Review of Books)

Original, courageous, and provocative. (The New York Times)

About the Author

Among Norman Mailer's other achievements are The Naked and the Dead, The Armies of the Night, for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1968, and The Executioner's Song, which won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 215 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (August 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312265069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312265069
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,278,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Brooke Greiner on December 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
When I got back from Vietnam in 1970, I sought out every voice I could find that might answer, for me, the question in the title.
And while it's important to know the politics and history and economics and all that jazz, I think the Final Key to understanding America's worst self-inflicted wound might be in this book.
This kid, D.J., belongs on the same shelf as Scout and Jeb in "Mockingbird" and Holden Caulfield in "Catcher" and Benjamin in "The Graduate", and that anonymous American Hero in "Red Badge of Courage."
They all say that our children have something important to teach us.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Two raunchy, young Texans go to Alaska with their fathers to hunt bighorn sheep from a helicopter. Vietnam is mentioned in the last two sentences of the novel. If you can't figure out the relationship, you probably think that John Wayne was a great American hero ...
In a way, it's a pity that Mailer tied this story so closely to a specific war, because the book is powerfully relevant to Americans' view of themselves in many other historical contexts. But it's not a dull dissertation; it's entertaining, lively, and often hilarious. Still very much worth reading.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By IRA Ross on April 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
Two boys in their older teens, nicknamed D.J. and Tex, go with their corporate executive fathers on a hunting trip to Alaska. They all hope to carry home the heads of bears and other animals as trophies. Both boys, who are close friends, live in the lap of luxury with their families in Texas. Their excursion becomes a last fling before they enter the real world of adulthood and the horrible realities of Vietnam of the mid to late 1960s. The wooded environment into which they enter not only mesmerizes the boys, but proves to be as shocking as a pitcher of icy cold water being splashed in their faces. While in Alaska they experience nature, in all its beauty, grandeur, and horror. In part of their hunting trip they fly over the terrain in a helicopter; other times they walk carrying no weapons at all. Mailer also delves, often scurrilously I might add, into the adults' past sexual adventures with women, much of it probably fantasy and male braggadoccio. While there are some lulls in the beginning of the book, the action eventually starts to build and build and build until a crescendo is reached. In the wild, they discover, it is kill or be killed; it is the survival of the fittest. D.J. and Tex become caught up in this and D.J., especially, sees their relationship, fleetingly, in a sexually predatory way.

While becoming immersed in this whirlwind of a novel, I thought of the "The Deerhunter," a powerful film also addressing the issues of macho behavior against the backdrop of the War in Vietnam. Norman Mailer's novel, as good as it is, confirms many of my worst beliefs about male hubris, love of violence, and war.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Really this novel should be called "Why We Are in Vietnam", because after reading this work, the answer to Mailer's original question is plain to see. His best work, and for once not overly-long! A good book to show you just how powerful good writing can be.
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