Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam
Book: Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam , by Larry Heinemann, ISBN10: 1400076897, ISBN13: 9781400076895, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, June 2006, Paperback
Larry Heinemann is the author of three novel: Close Quarters (1977), one of the earliest novels of the Vietnam War; Paco’s Story (1986), winner of the National Book Award; and Cooler by the Lake (1992). He lives in his native city of Chicago, Illinois.
Read by the authorThe Nation Book Award-winning author of Paco's Story returns with a haunting memoir of his year as a combat soldier in Vietnam-and the ghosts he encounters on his return 30 years later. In 1966, just as the American military buildup in Vietnam was going into overdrive, a working-class 22-year-old from Chicago was drafted into the army. Larry Heinemann serviced one year of combat duty with the 25th Infantry Division, most of it in the vicinity of Cu Chi. It was the most horrific and consequential year of his life, and it served as the raw material for his two classic war novels, Close Quarters and Paco's Story. The memoir chronicles a 1992 railway journey Heinemann took from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City as the guest of the Vietnam Writers' Association. Along the way, he encounters Vietnamese war veterans and views sites that trigger powerful memories. His journey ends with a crawl through the tunnels of Cu Chi and a climb up the sacred mountain that is this book's namesake. A work of mourning and an act of reconciliation, Black Virgin Mountain considers the psychic costs of a war that is still taking its toll.
This may be the only book written by an American veteran that harshly condemns Gen. William Westmoreland and sings the praises of Vietnamese Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap. Heinemann's autobiographical Close Quarters (1977) is one of the most underappreciated in-country Vietnam War novels; Paco's Story (1987), a biting tale of the war's brutal emotional aftermath, won the National Book Award for fiction. Part memoir, part travelogue, part personal political treatise, Heinemann's first nonfiction effort is also a winner. His evocative look at his eventful 1967-1968 tour with a 25th Infantry Division mechanized infantry battalion contains a bitterly strong indictment of the politicians and generals who waged the war, and tracks his transformation from a nonpolitical son of the working class into a disillusioned young soldier who became virulently politicized. That narrative is framed by a trip Heinemann took to Vietnam in 1992 with fellow American Vietnam veteran writers as guests of the Vietnam Writers Association. What he found on that and subsequent visits jibes with nearly all of the other "going back" books by American veterans: a warm welcome from a nation at peace. The book's title refers to an epiphanic climb in 1992 to the top of Black Virgin (Nui Ba Den) Mountain-a talisman of sorts to many Americans who served in Tay Ninh Province during the war: "I'm home, I say to myself; I have arrived home; this place is home." (Apr. 19) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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