Re: Aftermath; War, Literature & the Arts

Maggie Jaffe (mjaffe@MAIL.SDSU.EDU)
Tue, 27 May 1997 05:59:50 -0800

Dear Sixties People:

For those of you interested in Vietnam War literature, I recommend two new
texts, edited by Donald Anderson, writer and professor of English at the US
Air Force Academy: *Aftermath: An Anthology of Post-Vietnam Fiction* (Henry
Holt, 1995, $12.95 paper), and *War, Literature & the Arts,* (vol. 8,
number 2, 1996), a focus issue on W. D. Ehrhart's work as poet, editor,
prose writer, soldier and educator.

*Aftermath* deals with the psychological impact of the Vietnam War on
veterans, their wives, mothers, and children in the period following the
war. The collection of short stories features Tim O'Brien, Tobias Wolff,
Maxine Kumin, Louise Erdrich, Robley Wilson, Thom Jones, Robert Stone,
Anderson himself, and several others. Except for Thom Jones' "The Pugilist
At Rest," a gripping story of the narrator's alcoholism and epilepsy, none
of these are battlefield stories. For this reason among many, *Aftermath*
is a critically important book.

*WL&A* starts off with a provocative essay by Lorrie Smith which enumerates
why Ehrhart is often neglected by academics, while other Vietnam veteran
poets are not. As Smith points out, the very thing which makes Ehrhart a
memorable poet-the precision and clarity of his thought, his uncompromising
critique of the war-is held against him. Smith adds that as a middle-class
white male Ehrhart's color and gender marginalizes him as well, in spite of
his unyielding critique of imperialism.

Donald Anderson provides a narrative about Ehrhart's career in the Marine
Corps, including quoted passages from *Busted* and *Vietnam-Perkasie.* And
Thomas Bowie analyzes *Mostly Nothing Happens* where the war has finally
come home, as American city streets implode into violence, poverty and
despair of the 90s. Poetry and fiction by Ehrhart. Other poets included
are Karen Alkalay-Gut, H. Palmer Hall, Vince Gotera, Ed Meek, and myself.
Fiction by Don Kunz, Terry Rizzuti, and Allen Learst. The bibliography on
Erhart is also helpful, if not nearly in depth.

John Clark Pratt's "Tim O'Brien's Reimagination of Reality: An Exercise in
Metafiction," includes an hilarious exchange of letters from O'Brien's
Harvard dissertation committee on why his diss. was rejected.
Interestingly, the chair of his committee described (in parenthesis) the
difficulty in getting readers: "I might note that no one else in our
English Department expressed any expertise or interest in Vietnam War
literature" (117).

Book reviews of Kali Tal's *Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of
Trauma*; Joanna Bourke's *Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain and
the Great War*, and Paul Fussell's *Doing Battle:
The Making of a Skeptic* round out the journal.

War, Literature & the Arts
Donald Anderson, Editor
Department of English
2354 Fairchild Drive, Suite 6D45
U.S. Air Force Academy, CO 80840-6242
Telephone: (719) 333-3930 / FAX: (719) 333-3132

The cost of one-year, two-year, and three-year subscription is,
respectively: $10, $18, and $24 for individuals; $20, $36, and $48 for