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The Cat from Hue: A Vietnam War Story Paperback – December 17, 2002
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With over half a decade of service as a war correspondent in Vietnam, John Laurence earned deserved accolades for his reportage, especially for his documentary The World of Charlie Company. In this superb book, The Cat from Hue, he returns to that time, drawing on long-buried memories to capture the confusion, deceit, and terror of the era.
In 1968, John Laurence unhappily found himself dodging bullets and poking among ruins of the ancient Vietnamese city of Hue, eventually wandering square into the sights of a gun held by a North Vietnamese soldier, who could easily have shot him dead but did not. It was not his first encounter with mortal danger, and not his last; as this long, intricately constructed memoir unfolds, death greets the reader on nearly every page, along with the more mundane facts of war--the language of soldiers, the things they carried, the numbed resignation to battle as "an edge against fear." (Superstition plays a role, too: Laurence figured that the "coins, charms, four-leaf clovers, religious medals and all kinds of talismans" that he kept with him would somehow shield him from bullets, as perhaps they did.) In the company of a shell-shocked kitten, the cat of his book's title, Laurence goes on to document the lives and deaths of young soldiers during the invasion of Cambodia, men who, though personally decent in the main, were part of "a monster that inflicted so much random violence and death it produced an entire new body of evil, a catalogue of cruelty that overshadowed any possible virtue that might have come from defeating the Communists."
Harrowing, sometimes hallucinatory, written from among the weeds and rubble, and one of the best in a crowded field, Laurence's book deserves the widest possible audience. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The cat is the least of it in this terrific, if overlong, opus that evokes the Vietnam War from an on-the-ground TV correspondent's point of view. During the war, Laurence put in three tours of television duty in the war for CBS News. He provides riveting, searingly evocative depictions of the U.S. Army, Marines and South Vietnamese Army in action in the American war's early days (1965-1966), at its height (in 1968) and during the 1970 Cambodian incursion. Laurence and his crew specialized in covering the war up close, and he saw more than his share of action. His depiction of the bloody 1968 battle of Hue which Laurence accurately calls an "urban brawl between two armed and largely adolescent tribes, a street fight of fast action and merciless bloodletting" is frighteningly realistic. Laurence spices his extremely readable narrative with many direct quotes taken from his audio and videotapes of the fighting men in action and, later, as they reflect on the war and their parts in it. He also gives a clear picture of his day-to-day life in the war zone, along with revealing wartime portraits of many other Vietnam War correspondents and photographers, including Peter Arnett, Morley Safer, R.W. Apple Jr., Gloria Emerson and others. Aside from the unrevealing title, the only problem with this book is Laurence's penchant for cramming in vignettes, as if he couldn't bear to leave anything out, perhaps telling us too much about himself in the process. High on the superfluous list is virtually the entire cat story, which involved Laurence's adopting and shipping home a bedraggled feline he rescued from the battle of Hue. Buffs will be riveted, though as will anyone who survived the era. (Sept.)Forecast: Look for steady sales among regular readers of Vietnamiana and excellent coverage via Laurence's media cronies. Despite its size, this book is a possible breakout among boomers, if not among those on either end of the age spectrum.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Great read and great descriptions of individuals in the stress of combat.
I'd hazard a guess that the cat is the "invisible wound" that everyone brought back from Vietnam--eternally slashing and tearing inside him while at the same time, an integral part of his soul.