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Personal, lyrical, and extraordinary, Patches of Fire is a memorable exploration of the black soldier's experience in Vietnam, the plight of the Vietnam veteran, and the redemptive power of writing.
With the same passion for truth and stunning honesty that marks his highly acclaimed fiction, Albert French's remarkable memoir tells the story of a young man's encounter with a war and with deaths beyond his understanding; of his return to a country torn by racial unrest in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and of his painstaking efforts to defeat his inner demons and make a place for himself as a black man in white America.
With a starkness tempered by humor, French brings to life the horrors of Vietnam, and recounts in compelling detail his uneasy tenure as a newspaper photographer, his heady days as publisher of his own magazine, his confrontations with the ghostly images of Vietnam that haunted his dreams--and the sense of renewal and purpose he achieved as a novelist.
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Albert French's two previous novels Billy and Holly have both received widespread critical acclaim, and French has been hailed as "one of America's most important new novelists." But French's first literary opus was not originally received with such praise, it was rejected by publishers and never before in print. This first book was a memoir of his experience as a soldier in Vietnam, and while it did not result in literary success, it led up to it. Writing his story proved to be a transformative experience for French, unleashing his creative abilities and resulting in a successful pair of novels that he wrote in short order and to great acclaim. In Patches of Fire, French has rewritten his original personal narrative, including the interesting story of how he began to write and the redemptive role writing played in overcoming the despair that threatened to overwhelm his life after Vietnam. The book falls into two parts: the first, the unsentimental story of an infantryman in the jungles of Vietnam; the second, a moving description of how this Vietnam veteran pulled his life together and found his voice and creative impulse. The writing is expert and the book, excellent.From Kirkus Reviews:
A tautly introspective, impressionistic literary memoir that fills a gaping void in the literature of the American war in Vietnam by brilliantly illuminating the war and postwar experiences of an African-American veteran. French joined the US Marine Corps in 1963 when he was 19 years old. Two years later he went to Vietnam and experienced the war at its absolute worst. Many of French's closest friends were killed; he was severely wounded. When he recovered, French returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh, tried college, and then landed a job as a photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. After 13 years, he left to publish his own magazine, Pittsburgh Preview. When that magazine failed in the late '80s, French fell apart emotionally. In despair, he began writing a memoir, which eventually became this primal scream of a book. During the years it took for the memoir to be accepted for publication, French (whose first cousin is the writer John Edgar Wideman) wrote and published two well-received novels: Billy (1993) and Holly (1995); neither one has anything to do with the Vietnam War. Patches of Fire has as its core French's war-zone and postwar experiences. The author tells his story in a blistering, almost stream-of-consciousness fashion, shifting the narrative adroitly between past and present. French is less concerned with providing factual detail than with painting word pictures that bring alive his deepest emotional reactions to the memorable events in his life. The book's title, for example, refers both to the actual fires French saw after he was shot through the neck in Vietnam and to his memories about that day, when his best friend was killed and he came close to dying in a rice paddy. The most accomplished Vietnam War memoir since Lewis B. Puller Jr.'s Pulitzer Prizewinning Fortunate Son (1991). -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Book Description Secker and Warburg, 1997. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0436202689