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So wrote The New York Times of Tim O'Brien's now classic novel of Vietnam. Winner of the 1979 National Book Award, Going After Cacciato captures the peculiar mixture of horror and hallucination that marked this strangest of wars. In a blend of reality and fantasy, this novel tells the story of a young soldier who one day lays down his rifle and sets off on a quixotic journey from the jungles of Indochina to the streets of Paris.
In its memorable evocation of men both fleeing from and meeting the demands of battle, Going After Cacciato stands as much more than just a great war novel. Ultimately, it's about the forces of fear and heroism that do battle in the hearts of us all.
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By Darwin8u on 05-16-14
Shadow Sculpture Built out of War's Debris
"These were hard lessons, true, but they were lessons of ignorance: ignorant men, trite truths. What remained was a simple event. The facts, the physical things. A war like any war. No new messages. Stories that began and ended without transition. No developing drama or tension or direction. No order."
At the level of the grunt, the soldier, the dirt and the blood, who wouldn't want to run? Who wouldn't fantasize about just dropping everything and leaving the madness of war, the insanity of the Army, the brutality of killing and instead take an 8500+ mile trip to Gay Paree?
It seems a rational choice: to choose freedom, happiness, liberty. To say cut it, cork it and just run. Leave the swamps of uncertainty, death, and fear behind you. Become a refugee from the carnage of Vietnam. Seek to relocate your tired ass to a place where dumb muthers aren't trying to shoot you. Find some piece of Earth where you aren't sleeping in holes, crawling into tunnels, worrying about whether the bullet that gets you will be audible. Get the hell out of Dodge.
If that was the extent of this novel's vision, it would be a pretty damn good book, but O'Brien tweaks it. He doesn't go for the easy answers. For every tick he gives you a tock. He finds ambiguity everywhere, conflict over each hill. It isn't a simple moral point to stay or go, to fight or to run. War has its own reality. It will exhaust you and then follow up. This confrontation with fear, death, loyalty, morality, friendship, leading, following, is key. The key to this novel is conflict. The conflict is key.
With lyrical beauty, flashbacks, and a magical realism that I've never experienced in a novel about the Vietnam War, O'Brien spins a story that is just that: a yarn, a spin, a giant fantasy race, a road movie, a Moby-Dick, a Danse Macabre, a metaphysical and very modern dance. It is a story of the good, the bad; those who run and those who follow. It is a literary shadow sculpture built out of the debris of war, the stories and cast-offs (the living and the dead).
16 of 20 people found this review helpful
By Carol on 11-21-12
Vietnam as Fiction
Would you listen to Going After Cacciato again? Why?
Absolutely, because, despite its being a war story, the style is lyrical and the plot is intriguing..
What did you like best about this story?
This is a clever twist on a basic situation--desertion. What happens if the pursuers desert too? Plus it distorts reality just enough to drape the story in a gauze of magic.
What didn’t you like about Kevin T. Collins’s performance?
His voice became so emotional that it was drippy.
If you could take any character from Going After Cacciato out to dinner, who would it be and why?
I'd like to talk with Cacciato's Vietnamese girlfriend-wife. Maybe hearing her relaity would help to untangle the story of the actual desertion.
Any additional comments?
Tim O'Brien is a wonderful writer about war and soldiers trying to make sense of a particular morass.He adds magic to what must have been the grimest of realities.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful