Reader reviews for Dispatches

Harrowing accounts of the experiences of journalists during the Vietnam War.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Dispatches is Michael Herr's first-person account of his experience as a freelance journalist - embedded with various USMC units in Vietnam, 1967-68. It is, admittedly, an extremely difficult novel to get traction on as the opening passages seem wildly discursive. The trick is to let go of trying to parse out sentences or even whole paragraphs, and just roll with it as whole as the picture comes into focus. In many ways, Dispatches is like an Impressionist painting: best appreciated with some distance from the object rather than with intentness upon its component parts. What emerges from the writing is the inanity of The Vietnam War for all the high ideals propounded by Mission commanders. In many ways, the insensibility of the War is reflected in Herr's rambling, at times near stream-of-consciousness, prose. The images coalesce into the run-up, action of, and the end of the three-and-a-half month Battle of Khe Sanh.

As the North Vietnam Army (PAVN) feinted and eventually engaged at Khe Sanh, the Marine base there was besieged. The US committed all resources to operations at Khe Sanh, President Johnson mandating that the base be kept at all costs. Ultimately, the base was destroyed, the Marines pulled back and, the US claimed victory on the premise of casualty figures and the fact that PAVN forces withdrew suddenly afterward. PAVN forces also claimed victory, as after all, they destroyed the base and forced the Marines to evacuate. Dispataches questions the significance of the dual claims of victory and the sudden withdrawal of the North Vietnamese Army, especially in context of the Tet Offensive.

Herr's portrayals of the men who fought and reported in the war are the smaller brushstrokes that make up the bigger picture of that time and place. Herr talks and travels with Marines and other reporters, perhaps none more poignant and intriguing than that of his colleagues, Sean Flynn , Dana Stone and Tim Page. Flynn, Stone and Page were photojournalists who cut careless, romantic figures. They were each extremely intelligent, talented men whose ambitions and impulses exacted dear prices. Their legacies and fates are equally breathtaking.

Ray Porter is the American narrator who reads Dispatches. The book is either the result of giving a typewriter to an inebriated soul and/or; drugs and alcohol to a journalist. Either way, managing the text and propelling it forward had to have been a challenge. Ray Porter met the challenge, framing the material in a natural voice without caving into a hyperbolic interpretation of extreme and intense situations. There may be a mispronunciation or two ("artillery" is pronounced as "artillerary" in one instance); but over all the delivery is on point.

Redacted from the original blog review at dog eared copy, Dispatches; 03/22/2012
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A very vivid account of what life on the ground was like in Vietnam. I have some knowledge of the war, which was at times necessary to understand a number of references in the text. Hence, I'd suggest reading a more conservative history of the conflict before taking on 'Dispatches'.The sections at the beginning and end of the book are rather garbled and I did not enjoy reading what, in my opinion, represent little more than rather pretentious ramblings. However, these do not form a large proportion of the text, and the rest is very good and incredibly atmospheric. The battles at Khe Sahn and Hue are featured and I have never read anything that conveys the spectrum of experiences and views of the men involved, both soldiers and reporters, as well as this book.A considerable achievement in fewer than 300 pages.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Powerfull front line account from the briefing room to the wire at Khe Sahn. Highly recommended.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
After reading this book you'll feel like you came home from Vietnam with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Very Burroughs-esque. A taught, rambling, disjointed, gritty correspondent's account of the Vietnam experiences with special emphasis on Tet and Khe San. Herr co-wrote the screenplays in "Apocolypse Now" and "Full Metal Jacket". Soldiers from this memoir clearly ended up in those movies.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I consider this to be the best personal narrative written about the Vietnam War.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
No rating provided
Powerful read. The good the bad and the ugly. Read it and think twice.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An excellent account of the Vietnam war, though not * about * the war. Herr's writing and tales from the grunts are top-rate and it's easy to see why this became such an iconic and influential book from Vietnam. A couple of very minor criticisms: firstly, "Dispatches" is perhaps structured a little oddly. Herr throws the reader in at the deep end, no doubt on purpose, but perhaps it would make more sense to put the final section, on he and his colleagues at the front. Also, Herr mentions TET a lot yet doesn't really go into much detail. I was hoping for a little more there.Those two little quibbles aside, "Dispatches" is still a great book and one very much worth reading.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The thing about humanity and history is that the former seems doomed to forever repeat the latter. Herr's book is, in light of the Iraq affair, the perfect illustration of this fact."Dispatches" is a series of reports written in Vietnam, in the shit so to speak, by one of those journalists willing to go to extremes to get the real story. And the story is exactly that: real; almost too real at times.
Permalink · Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
scribd