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Why Are We in Vietnam?

A Novel
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
Length: 4 hrs and 58 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

When Why Are We in Vietnam? was published in 1967, almost twenty years after The Naked and the Dead, the critical response was ecstatic. The novel fully confirmed Mailer's stature as one of the most important figures in contemporary American literature. Now, a new edition of this exceptional work serves as further affirmation of its timeless quality.

Narrated by Ranald ("D.J.") Jethroe, Texas's most precocious teenager, on the eve of his departure to fight in Vietnam, this story of a hunting trip in Alaska is both brilliantly entertaining and profoundly thoughtful.

©1967 Norman Mailer. (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. Preface © 1977 by Norman Mailer.

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 03-12-19

So back to Alaska where the boys got their power.

"So back to Alaska where the boys got their power."
- Norman Mailer, Why Are We In Vietnam

I've been making my way through, piggly wiggly, Library of America's new collection of Mailer: Four Books of the 1960s. The two I read previous to this were both fictionalized history, his contribution to New Journalism: The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History and Miami and the Siege of Chicago. So, I started this (not doing my homework) expecting it to be more of the same. Nope. I was off by a long-shot. This is post-modern fiction. An experimental novel that reads like Hemingway got hot and heavy with William Burroughs. Mailer barely mentions Vietnam (last page as the narrator/protagonist heads to Vietnam). What Mailer is doing with this novel is exposing the character and the corruption of America that lead us to Vietnam. This book explores the fight, f#c%, and food; the shit, the show, and the sport that makes the American male. He also shows how this all has been corrupted and twisted in our need to win, to conquer, to co-opt.

I went back and forth with this one. Some Mailer I love. Some I can barely stand. This one? I don't know. There were moments of brilliant filth, poetic degradation, and insane insight. He gets a lot right. I'm just not sure, in the end, how powerful it really is and how much is just self-indulgent. I think Mailer often gets dumped on for the wrong reasons. I think, as a writer, he deserves a bit more respect. But he definitely is uneven. I think he was playing with form, pushing envelopes, being provocative. Those are all very good things. I'm just not sure I would list this as one of his top-shelf novels (or books).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful