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What It Is Like To Go To War Paperback – September 11, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: With unflinching honesty, bestselling author Karl Marlantes captures What It Is Like to Go to War in his compassionate, powerful narrative on Vietnam. Marlantes does not shy away from recounting experiences that, outside the arena of war, are horrifying or embarrassing and addresses a soldier’s self-imposed “code of silence” as an attempt to fit back in to a society that “simply wants us to shut up about all of this.” While American pop culture celebrates the warrior spirit and winning the battle, “reconciling the moral conduct we are taught…with the brutal acts we do in war has been a problem for warriors of good conscience for centuries.” Marlantes tempers the brutal truths of fear, power games, and courage with a thoughtful prescription for our soldiers’ well-being; caring for our soldiers and their families differently will benefit society as a whole. In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes sets a new standard for understanding the experience of war. --Seira Wilson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Marlantes brings candor and wrenching self-analysis to bear on his combat experiences in Vietnam, in a memoir-based meditation whose intentions are three-fold: to help soldiers-to-be understand what they’re in for; to help veterans come to terms with what they’ve seen and done; and to help policymakers know what they’re asking of the men they send into combat.”The New Yorker
What It Is Like to Go to War is a well-crafted and forcefully argued work that contains fresh and important insights into what it’s like to be in a war and what it does to the human psyche.”The Washington Post
Marlantes is the best American writer right now on war . . . With What It Is Like to Go to War a second Marlantes book resides on the top shelf of American literature.”Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
What It Is Like to Go to War ought to be mandatory reading by potential infantry recruits and by residents of any nation that sends its kidsMarlantes’s wordinto combat.”San Francisco Chronicle
In this thoughtful, literate work of self-exorcism, Marlantes tells tales of incredible bravery as well as brutality.”People Magazine
A precisely crafted and bracingly honest book."The Atlantic
Marlantes knows what he writes. . . Raw, unsettling honesty pervades the work.”Time.com
Marlantes has written a sparklingly provocative nonfiction book. . . He is an exceptional writer and his depictions here are vivid.”BookPage
A gripping, first-person plea to consider the impact on the human spirit of being a soldier.”Huffington Post
Karl Marlantes, author of the excellent What It Is Like To Go To War, cautions his audience to understand the cost to the human psyche in sending others to kill in our names or for policies decided by politicians determined to use (and abuse) the power entrusted to their office.”Daily Planet
Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like to Go to War is a deeply personal account of dealing with his harrowing time as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam. . . . Marlantes’ fiction might be just too wrenching for some readers to believe.”Logos
This absolutely unique and lucid personal account and analysis will be read with profit by scholars, general readers, and most particularly, by veterans of close combat. . . . The author is qualified by experience, education, temperament, and skill as a writer to make penetrating observations. Many are graphic, bold, and shocking. Some are erudite; some are ethereal; all are worthy of careful consideration. . . . His method is to reflect on a point important to him, to illustrate it with an anecdote or a combat experience, and to mull it over in sparkling prose that has the reader hanging on every word. . . . Mastery of our language and the creative use of poetic devices and images make his pronouncements memorable. . . . Marlantes has joined a short list of authors whose experience, sensitivity, and skill enable them to share wisdom with those among us who would understand.”Parameters
What it is Like to Go to War is already considered by many a modern classic. . . . The former Marine has three main goals in this unflinchingly honest look at what it means to be a soldier in a war: to let potential soldiers understand what to expect, to help veterans better cope with what they’ve experienced, and to help policy makers truly comprehend what it means when they send combat troops into a war zone.”Bradenton Herald
To say that this book is brilliant is an understatementMarlantes is the absolute master of taking the psyche of the combat veteran and translating it into words that the civilian or non-veteran can understand. I have read many, many books on war and this is the first time that I've ever read exactly what the combat veteran thinks and feelsnothing I have ever read before has hit home in my heart like this book.”Gunnery Sergeant Terence D’Alesandro, 3rd Batallion, 5th Marines, U.S. Marine Corps
Wrenchingly honest. . . . Digging as deeply into his own life as he does into the larger sociological and moral issues, Marlantes presents a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.”Kirkus Reviews
What It Is Like to Go to War offers profound insight on how we must prepare our youth who become our warriors for their hard and uncompromising journey through war’s hell and back home again.”Vietnam Magazine
With war such a part of contemporary American life, this book is deeply important, as timely and urgent as contemporary on-the-ground reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq.”The Minneapolis Star Tribune
A sound debunking of anything smacking of the glory of warfarebut written with compassion, honest and wit for men and now women who fight and for all of those who care about them.”St. Louis Dispatch
A slim spiritual guide. . . Marlantes’s book is a sincere plea for better soldiers and veterans.”Seattle Weekly
What It Is Like to Go to War is a courageous, noble and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today’s world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril.”Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara
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Top Customer Reviews
This and COL Summers book On Strategy: The Vietnam War in Context are the two must-read books on Vietnam. Summers tells of the strategic failure, and Marlantes tells of the moral failure. But he does much more. He starts out by telling of a perhaps well meaning but ultimately futile chaplain visit that failed to address the issues, just covered them over. And thus--in his own words--the author was not spiritually prepared for combat. He notes: “Training must move beyond how you kill; it must include why you kill, how killing fits in the grand scheme of things, and how you are likely to feel afterward.” More than war-stories and memoir, this book provides a philosophical, psychological and spiritual analysis of what the war did to people. He delves into Summers’ realm by talking about the lack of clear objectives and the mindless fudging of the numbers with the unnecessary body count/kill-ratio (In the book Prodigal Soldiers, the LTs of VN as Generals corrected this in Desert Storm). If you’re looking for a straight memoir (war-stories), this isn’t for you. If you want to learn both what war is like and how it impacts the human soul, this is about the best you’ll find.
by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2011)
N.B.: Citations from Kindle e-reader
Military chaplaincy is part of the traditional mission work of our church. Thousands of veterans are returning to our neighborhoods, churches, and campuses. Do we understand them? Can we understand them?
I have never been a soldier. I have never been in combat. I have never been in a situation of “kill or be killed.” I have never had to kill anyone. I am not a member of “the Club,” which has “always been a club with its own secrets and its own societally imposed rules of silence.” (location 2769-73)
I can never understand the combat veteran because I’ve never been there. Anyone involved in mission and ministry knows the truth that only people of the culture can understand the culture:
• Only alcoholics can understand alcoholics.
• Only Native Americans can understand Native Americans.
• Only victims of abuse can understand other victims.
I can sympathize with the vet, but I cannot empathize, and s/he knows it. Yet, we have to be in ministry with this very needy portion of our society. This book can help us realize why we can’t understand.
Marlantes is a decorated Vietnam War veteran. He has been there. He’s a member of the Club. Very honestly and courageously he tries to help us understand why we can’t understand, why vets typically just don’t talk with us about it. “Not talking about it… is the veterans’ protection against our great fear of being misunderstood.” (location 2865-70)
The chapter topics help us realize the dimensions of this sub-culture:
• Numbness and Violence
• The Enemy Within
• The Club.
With a great deal of introspection and real-life experiences, Marlantes brings us into the powerful world he entered as a young man and still lives out of:
The combat veteran is still not out in the open where the whole of culture can benefit from the sorrow and price and society’s attitude toward war and fighting can mature psychologically and spiritually. (location 2925-30)
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with vets, particularly those who have been in frontline combat. It is a great book for group discussion. Probably vets will not want to be there at first, for fear of judgment and pressure to share what s/he wants to keep secret. However, I guarantee that readers/discussers of this book will look at vets differently – and sympathetically, whether mainstreaming in their churches and classrooms or opting out along alleys and street corners.
I found that the books title, What It Is Like To Go To War, is somewhat misleading. It is much more than a first person description of leading a charge in combat, or watching your fellow soldiers get wounded and killed. That's all in there, but it is mixed in with an examination of the whole psychology of being a soldier, before, during and after combat. It discusses leadership, motivation, politics and personalities. It is about what it takes to be a modern warrior, the scars fighting leaves behind, and what it takes to return to normal after combat is over. The insight and scholarship in this work are first rate. You will come away having learned something about human nature under the most extreme conditions, and acquire a new respect for our fighting men (at least most of our fighting men). It should be required reading for all US officers.