Fatal Light: A Novel (Contemporary American Fiction)

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9780140119459: Fatal Light: A Novel (Contemporary American Fiction)

A devastating portrait of war in all its horror, brutality, and mindlessness, this extraordinary novel is written in beautifully cadenced prose. A combat medic in Vietnam faces the chaos of war, set against the tranquil scenes of family life back home in small-town America. This young man's rite of passage is traced through jungle combat to malaria-induced fever visions to the purgatory of life in military-occupied Saigon. After returning home from war to stay with his grandfather, he confronts his own shattered personal history and the mysterious human capacity for renewal.

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Product Description:

A young medic goes from his sleepy West Virginia hometown to the soul-searing terrain of the Vietnam War to learn about American "innocence" in a war that brings new horrors each day. Later the medic returns home to confront his shattered personal history and the mysterious human capacity for renewal. "Of all the many books written about the war . . . this one will be among the handful destined to endure," said Philip Caputo about this beautifully written and powerful first novel.

Review:

In 1967, a West Virginia 18-year-old is ordered to report for induction later that year, a far cry from the college football scholarship he had hoped for and the promise of luminous places. His father plies him with military memories of sex and music; his mother puts on an unwavering face; and his girlfriend, Mary, tells him she won't wait for him.

Once in country, the soldier goes on rescue missions (which often involve picking up more dead than wounded), smokes pot, tries to cope with the dense air, elephant grass, monkeys' screams--and not focus on the killing. He encloses a photo with a letter to Mary and points out that the bulge in his pocket is a paperback of Emily Dickinson: "Such things live together here, poetry and shotguns." Richard Currey writes in that same mixture of violence and lyricism, because for his soldier Vietnam is a place of cruel extremes. Next to a spot where bodies are piled, "the sun was dropping in an elegant fog of muted roses that I might call lovely if I though my feelings were intact," he later tells his girlfriend.

Discharge brings the difficulty of resuming life. Attempting to describe his experience, he brings up one of the more palatable names for Vietnam--"a world of hurt." Fatal Light is an achingly poetic re-creation of an ugly history.

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Currey, Richard
Published by Penguin Books 1989-10-04 (1989)
ISBN 10: 0140119450 ISBN 13: 9780140119459
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