From the author of the bestselling and award-winning Matterhorn comes a brilliant nonfiction book about war and the psychological and spiritual toll it takes on those who fight.
“I wrote this book primarily to come to terms with my own experience of combat. So far—reading, writing, thinking—that has taken over thirty years.”
In 1969, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his war experience. In his first work of nonfiction, Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our soldiers for war.
Just as Matterhorn is already acclaimed a classic of war literature, What It Is Like to Go to War is set to become required reading for anyone—soldier or civilian—interested in this visceral and all-too-essential part of the human experience.
Karl Marlantes, a cum laude graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, was a marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten Air Medals. He has lived and traveled all over the world and now writes full time. He and his wife, Anne, have five children and live on a small lake in Washington.
©2011 Karl Marlantes (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A staggeringly beautiful book on combat…[Marlantes] is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker.” (Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author)
Karl Marlantes [Matterhorn: A Novel of the Viet Nam War] returns with What It is Like to Go to War. His new book is a nonfiction, philosophical, historical, memoir and reflection on his days as a Marine in Viet Nam. Frankly, I have never read anything quite like this book and suggest that anyone who is concerned for the country or has a friend, son, daughter, brother, sister, or lover who has experienced battle (virtually or otherwise) will find it very helpful. This book is beautiful, gut wrenching, and deeply moving. Marlantes has done us all a great service and has shown great courage in revealing his personal story. He has rewarded us many times over for his thoughtful analysis and reflection on war and what it means to the human spirit. The sections on how to welcome the veteran home and to help one with post traumatic stress are worthy of group discussion. I hope that this book gains a wide readership immediately. It is, in my view, going to become a classic of the genre. Please make time for this book. Bronson Pinchot's narration is excellent.
I love to read!
Yes,it succeeds on an emotional level that you miss in print.
Very thought provoking. The part on "NUMBNESS" is so true and insightful.
The TOTALITY of thought about the oral experience will bring a curious person who has never "BEEN THERE" as close as they will ever come to the experience of being THERE.
Yes- made me face my experience and cried at the epiphany....
Everyone should read it. Especially those people thinking of joining the military.
I think it should be required reading for high school students.
nuggets of insights throughout the book. This book has application to psudo-war situations like business and coaching.
The deep thought and crisp articulation.
clear and emotionally delivered; the author couldn't have read it any better.
I would listen to a passage and then have to spend an hour in thought; extemely impactful.
Every returning soldier should read plus every politician who votes to send troops into harms way. But it should also be read by business executives as it has as much bearing in this less extreme world.
Mr. Marlantes segues quite a bit in this book, and sometimes I had difficulty switching mental gears. I think I might have understood the change in thought if I'd seen a paragraph break or something. Overall, the listening was enjoyable, but I really could not tell the voice belonged to Bronson Pinchot!
A Rumor of War by Phil Caputo. He wrote his book before PTSD became a diagnosis; however, his descriptions of the "blank stare" and the soul-crushing effects of war were right on the mark.
Oh holy cow, yes. PTSD is one of the things that one either associates with crazy vets strung out on drugs and alcohol, unable to keep a job or a home, or a label one hides behind to excuse poor behavior. NOTHING prepared me for Iraq or GTMO. In both deployments I was on a detainee health mission. I wasn't in combat (well, minus rockets fired at us). I didn't experience any of the raw trauma my fellow nurses did in the early years of the war and during the surge. My unit jokingly called what we were traumatized from was the Groundhog Day effect (referencing the Bill Murray movie). However, it was no joke. When I got home, I was lost. I sought help. I answered honestly the millions of questionnaires the Army had us fill out.... over and over and over. Yet, if I wasn't suicidal, which I wasn't, no one cared too much to figure out what was wrong with me. Overloaded behavioral health system, I guess, and I kept getting the, "You're a nurse, you'll seek out help if things get worse, right?" Mr. Marlantes hits the core of the problem of PTSD in that unless one is prepared physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, the effects of war will suck the life right out of you. It was a year and a half after I redeployed (means to go home for you non-military folk, not go back to theater) that I finally got the help I needed. It didn't take much- therapy, meds, and going to church- but I'm finally at peace with Iraq. As I prepare to head to Afghanistan this spring, I know more, but trust me, I WILL be talking about what I'm feeling and I WILL be attending church. This book is a must read for any person who has been to the Gulf during OEF or OIF. Even if you think you don't have PTSD and you're just crazy, you might feel differently after reading this book.
I have always wondered how a person deals with killing another person in the line of duty. This book gives me a glimpse of the mental torment that goes through the mind of a soldier during and after a battle. Karl Marlantes is a gifted writer who is able to put into words both the horror and exhilaration of war. Our armed services should heed Karl's advice to better prepare our soldiers for war on an emotional basis with the hopes of avoiding post tramatic syndrome. This is profoundly insightful book which draws on Karl's personal experiences as he graples with the social, moral, and spirtual tension of being a warrior and a human being.
Mr Marlantes provides a rare glimpse into the mind of a Rhodes scholar who has experienced the extremes of war, and whose intellect allows him to share a deeper understanding of humanity and war. I cannot do his vision justice in this brief review, and recommend you give it a listen.
Bronson's performance matches that of the Matterhorn, with its collection of entertaining voices, but here his voice talent shines in the many quotes from ancient foreign books and myths.
Previous reviews noted a wish for more gripping war stories per Mattehorn, but I was pleasantly surprised at the way he explained Matterhorn events as real life horrors for him - which made the book even more meaningful for me.
i was only 17 years old when the vietnam draft ended
the guys, a year ahead of me, were the last to " get a number "
it was a ranking system based solely on your date of birth
? do you ever wonder what really makes warriors tick
? do you think you have the willful talents that combat requires
? does war's brutal majesty hold some fascination for you
karl marlantes has written a more than thoughtful book for you
it is a sequel to his excellent vietnam novel " matterhorn "
this book beautifully outlines for americans " the way of the warrior "
marlantes is obviously a troubled and more than talented man
from a blue collar childhood in oregon to rhodes scholar at yale
but then his almost visceral need for combat pulls him to vietnam
? how can i love a mean and evil thing so deeply, marlantes asks
? why does war make me feel alive, in a way, nothing else does
? how do i turn off my warrior self as i try to return to civilian life
marlantes' post-vietnam life has been spent answering those questions
in a way, the book is a deeply personal, philosophical wrestling match
if those same issues churn in your soul; this book is a great guide
The author and I inhabit the same age cohort. His descriptions of the moral domain of combat, and the context in which the war in Viet Nam was fought, but particularly what it was like to come home, broke my heart. It is so important that others read this account so that we can begin, collectively, to understand the terrible forces unleashed in those of us who find ourselves pursuing this path as young people.
Aside from being a great story teller, Marlantes has taken a depth psychological view of the subjective domain of the Warrior. He writes about the "temple of Mars", in a way that enlivens the commentary on morality that is his central thesis.
I like to think that I was savvy enough to have seen the handwriting on the wall by the end of the summer of 1966, where I'd been closely exposed to the life of a Marine fire team during an exercise at Camp Pendleton. As a 20 year old midshipman, I knew deeply that the grunt who was leading our little patrol, though he was my age, was inhabiting a different universe than mine, but not that different than the guy in Texas who had just wiped out 20+ students firing as a sniper from the Texas Tower. I decided at that point, I wasn't looking to get a Marine commission. Didn't think I needed to be a hero, and realized I'd rather have a steel hull around me than a jungle. Consequently, I have no PTSD. As a result, my coming to terms with Viet Nam has taken a different shape. I became a family therapist and have spent well over thirty years grappling with the struggles that all of us, particularly men, have in reconciling the parts of ourselves that go to war. I am very thankful for this book in a way that is quite personal and yet hope that everyone can find some link to the personal stories about war that haunt American lives.
This book is brutal and extraordinary - honest, forthright, the product of deep thought over decades, and a product of obvious personal pain. I could not recommend this book more highly if you are interested in the topic, and particularly if you know someone hungering to sign up for active duty in any military.
'What It Is Like to Go To War' is not a glorification of causes or combat, or really even pro- or anti-war. I found this a very clear-eyed, realistic, and also soft-hearted and broken meditation focused on the effects and causes. My favourite chapter was on 'the club' of men and the boys who want in; Marlantes' personal story is the motor which keeps the text moving.
The book also builds its argument well, meaning it gets better and goes deeper toward the end of the book. The only drawback to the listen is the occasional didactic tone Marlantes engages in specifically around policy - "we can't expect young kids to become warriors and then come back to us...we should...we must...etc" - which is aggravated by the narrator's sometimes overly-strident tone. Given the author's deliberately emotional arguments and his close-to-the-bone experience, this is very pardonable, and the book serves an effective argument over a layer of devastating memoir. To be clear, his experiences are visited in detail and are unavoidable.
Finally I have to say also that if you are a combat veteran, this is one author you are likely to respect and book you are likely to well, 'enjoy' among the BS which litters the so-called gods of war genre.
Very powerful biographical story of a Vietnam War Marine officer. Should be required reading for all Americans, especially those who make war decisions. Like Sebastian Junger's book "War," this is an unabashed look from the inside of the experience of being in a front line unit.
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