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Meditations in Green Paperback – August 12, 2003
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“Takes one’s breath away.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Brilliant, scarifying . . . extravagant, rhapsodic and horrific. . . . It has an overwhelming impact.” —New York Times Book Review
“Precisely that brutal hallucination we desperately wanted to end.” —Don DeLillo
“Profoundly moving . . . . [This] book lingers, hauntingly, in the memory.” —Newsday
“The best that any fiction about this war has offered.” –Newsweek
“Wright evokes a new historical truth about Vietnam . . . vivid with the rapture and terror of apocalypse.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Unholy brilliance and pain and Catch-22 lunacy.” –Gloria Emerson, author of Winners & Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses, and Ruins from the Vietnam War
“Stylistically, Mr. Wright uses short bursts of soaring language between the longer passages of the narrative. He calls his literary riffs ‘meditations’–free flights of imaginative prose. Anyone who has seen the lush foliage of wartime Vietnam–the contrasting bursts of orange flame rising out of the green jungle–will know what an inspired, and accurate, metaphor Mr. Wright has created.” –The New York Times
“Shockingly vivid . . . the raw power of one man’s remembered experiences can still put you away.” –Penthouse
“The first fiction about Vietnam that moved me to pity and tears.” –Richard Elman, National Public Radio
“Possibly the best story yet to come out of the Vietnam War.” –Publishers Weekly
From the Inside Flap
Sardonic, searing, seductive and surreal, the award-winning Meditations in Green is regarded by many as the best novel of the Vietnam War. It is a kaleidoscopic collage that whirls about an indelible array of images and characters: perverted Winky, who opted for the army to stay off of welfare; eccentric Payne, whos obsessed with the film hes making of the war; bucolic Claypool, whos irrevocably doomed to a fate worse than death. Just to mention a few.
And floating at the center of this psychedelic spin is Spec. 4 James Griffin. In country, Griffin studies the jungle of carpet bomb photos as he fights desperately to keep his grip on reality. And battling addiction stateside after his tour, he studies the green of household plants as he struggles mightily to get his sanity back. With mesmerizing action and Joycean interior monologues, Stephen Wright has created a book that is as much an homage to the darkness of war as it is a testament to the transcendence of art.
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I started reading this one and I found myself struggling. Too much coloring in and conscious stream had me rolling my eyes and rereading too many lines. About 50 or so pages in it started to turn for me. After that, I was devouring it.
Not having read Catch-22 (yet) I can't make the analogies some reviewers have. Here's my take, Meditations in Green is a cerebral novel of one man's (Private Griffin) journey through Vietnam interlaced with his life after Vietnam.
The book is by chapters and each chapter is loosely broken into 3 parts: 1. The musings of a plant. 2. Life after Vietnam. 3. Life in Vietnam as a soldier. All the players in the book are so well developed that you feel you know them. The writing style is, like the players, laid back but crisp some how. Very descriptive text allows you to somehow "Feel" the story as opposed to just view it. The conversations are real and flow with a banter that is common to all of us. Wright has 100% nailed the whole absurdity and incomprehensible BS that follows the military around and on which the military tends to thrive.
Griffin's character is one of intelligence and given to inward analysis along with viewing the world through a skeptical lens. His conversations with his buddies, and anyone in general, drip with sarcasm and a wit that makes you smile. You imagine him as always having that academically bored look all over his face and a sigh with every breath exhaled. Despite seeming older than his years, you feel a kind of naivete from him as he stumbles and resets his way through Vietnam and it's many follies.
He tells us stories of his acquaintances in Vietnam who either met untimely death, got sent home, went mad or just accompanied him through his tour. The skepticism he displays and reluctant respect he pays his superiors is spot on and reminded me so much of my time in uniform.
One exchange I particularly enjoyed went something like this (paraphrasing):
After a US plane crashed on take off and both occupants were killed. Two soldiers stood talking about one of the dead.
"Damn, he only got here last week"
"That would make a great epitaph: He only got here last week"
That kind of tired, unmoved and unimpressed sarcasm resonates through the book and, I have to admit, I enjoyed it....... a lot.
I'll try more of Stephen Wright's work as it's refreshing in a worn out and tired sort of way that pulls no punches and doesn't even start to attempt to be clever. We won't be remembering Wright as a "Shakespeare" or "Jane Austen" but, for those who read his work, he will hold a place in their top 10 I'm sure.
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