In 1991, Esquire reporter released a book that the Last King of the Good Time, Hunter S Thompson, said, well, “Dispatches’ puts the rest of us in the shade.”
Raw and relentless, Michael Herr captures the sheer intensity of Vietnam’s battles, the violent obscenities of soldiers, the nightmares, chaos and insanity.
Crazy isn’t just squirming over those in the fight and Herr’s recounting of his conversations with other journalists were often as haunting as any conversation he had with soldiers.
One exchange sticks in my mind after all these years. (The book was published in 1991 and Michael would go on to write the script of ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ source of the unforgettable and useful ‘Me So Horny”.)
Michael is talking to The New York Times bureau chief who expresses a fear that he will “file on his nightmares.”
I will never forget that line as it told me something I needed to know about extreme stress and reality.
When experiencing one, be careful of the other.
Perhaps, then, Mr Williams “filed his nightmare’ and a terrible lie was born. But rather than jeer, there is so much to be studied and learned here.
I just don’t want him reporting news. I want to know why it happened.
Here is some more amazing war journalism if you are so in the mood…simply click on the title
DISPATCHES by MICHAEL HERR
A BRIGHT SHINING LIE by NEIL SHEEHAN
Sheehan, a UPI reporter and later with The New York Times, spent years with Colonel John Paul Vann, a gung-ho military leader committed to spreading American fables across the world. Vann was at the beginning of America’s involvement in Vietnam and Sheehan tells how it all came to war.
THE FOREVER WAR by DEXTER FILKINs
The image that remains is Filkins sliding through a spinal chord on his way into Manhattan on 9/11. This is the best book, so far, of the endless quagmire that is the Middle East.