Poetry Madness
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Interviews | March 17, 2014

Shawn Donley: IMG Peter Stark: The Powells.com Interview



Peter StarkIt's hard to believe that 200 years ago, the Pacific Northwest was one of the most remote and isolated regions in the world. In 1810, four years... Continue »
  1. $19.59 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$6.95
Used Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Burnside Military- Vietnam War

More copies of this ISBN

My Detachment: A Memoir

by

My Detachment: A Memoir Cover

ISBN13: 9780375506154
ISBN10: 0375506152
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

Only 1 left in stock at $6.95!

 

Staff Pick

A notable addition to the literature of war, Kidder's aptly named memoir is a candid self-portrait of his coming of age during Vietnam. Looking back on the everyday reality of his year-long command of a small intelligence detachment, Kidder reflects on his emotional response to the war, his developing skills at leadership, and his youthful immaturity, exposing his disingenuous portrayals of himself as heroic to family and friends. Unwaveringly honest, Kidder offers readers yet another work for which to greatly admire his skill as a gifted and perceptive writer.
Recommended by Michal D., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

My Detachment is a war story like none you have ever read before, an unromanticized portrait of a young man coming of age in the controversial war that defined a generation. In an astonishingly honest, comic, and moving account of his tour of duty in Vietnam, master storyteller Tracy Kidder writes for the first time about himself. This extraordinary memoir is destined to become a classic.

Kidder was an ROTC intelligence officer, just months out of college and expecting a stateside assignment, when his orders arrived for Vietnam. There, lovesick, anxious, and melancholic, he tried to assume command of his detachment, a ragtag band of eight more-or-less ungovernable men charged with reporting on enemy radio locations.

He eventually learned not only to lead them but to laugh and drink with them as they shared the boredom, pointlessness, and fear of war. Together, they sought a ghostly enemy, homing in on radio transmissions and funneling intelligence gathered by others. Kidder realized that he would spend his time in Vietnam listening in on battle but never actually experiencing it.

With remarkable clarity and with great detachment, Kidder looks back at himself from across three and a half decades, confessing how, as a young lieutenant, he sought to borrow from the tragedy around him and to imagine himself a romantic hero. Unrelentingly honest, rueful, and revealing, My Detachment gives us war without heroism, while preserving those rare moments of redeeming grace in the midst of lunacy and danger. The officers and men of My Detachment are not the sort of people who appear in war movies–they are the ones who appear only in war, and they are unforgettable.

Review:

"The author of The Soul of a New Machine put in a year during the Vietnam War; he was a reluctant warrior. Kidder joined ROTC in his junior year at Harvard as a way of avoiding the draft's uncertainties. Two years later he was taking part in a war that he found 'unnecessary, futile, racist,' serving as a lieutenant commanding an Army Security Agency detachment of eight enlisted men inside a well-fortified infantry base camp. As a shaved-headed ROTC cadet and later as an army officer, Kidder felt 'separated from my social class, from my student generation'; in Vietnam, he detached himself emotionally from the mind-numbing army bureaucracy, from his ticket-punching career officer superiors and from his iconoclastic, work-shirking enlisted men. For Kidder, there are no heroes, and, in fact, few 'war stories'; he presents, instead, realistic day-to-day reports on what happened to him at his posting: the mission was to interpret enemy troop movements using raw intelligence data supplied by eavesdropping technology. His account is an introspective, demythologizing dose of reality seen through the eyes of a perceptive, though immature, army intelligence lieutenant at a rear-area base camp. War isn't hell here; it's 'an abstraction, dots on a map.' Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Sept. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[G]racefully written and full of rueful, black humor....A modest contribution compared to such classics such as Dispatches and A Rumor of War, but worthy of attention all the same." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

A Pulitzer-prize winning author writes for the first time about himself in an astonishingly honest, comic, and moving memoir of the Vietnam War.

About the Author

Tracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Shoshana, March 30, 2007 (view all comments by Shoshana)
+ Well-written and a nice direction for Kidder

- Brief at times, sometimes interpersonally flat

A poignant memoir of the author's service in the Vietnam War. Following Kidder's Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, in which the reader saw much more of Kidder's reactions and vulnerability than in the past, it is personal and poignant. Kidder describes his self-conscious adolescence and rather affected presentation of self as a Harvard undergraduate. Eager to be admired and easily influenced by others, he joins ROTC and completes a 1-year tour in Vietnam. His consciousness of classism and racism emerges over the course of this time but is not well-articulated, which I understand as Kidder's effort to reflect his consciousness at the time. His understanding of sexism is more nascent, though Kidder-as-narrator does note that the novel he wrote after his service was about a man done in by trying to protect a Vietnamese woman from rape.

Kidder depicts himself as an uneasy, sometimes self-loathing, self-absorbed young adult. He quotes from letters in which he lied to familiy and friends, exaggerating the danger he was in, his herosim, and his charity toward imaginary Vietnamese children. His actual war experience appears generally not to have put him at great risk (though certainly the strain of living in a war zone takes its toll).

Though Kidder has a coherent story to tell about his coming of age, he tells a more interesting parallel story about the development of a writer. He quotes excerpts from his novel and letters, showing not only the development of his craft, but also the development of a narrating (and sometimes fantasizing the camera shots) persona, one who is sometimes unreliable. As some reviewers have pointed out, his interest in The Great Gatsby may signal that the reader should take the present narrative with a grain of salt, though I wonder if its possible lack of reliability errs in the opposite direction--Kidder seems awfully hard on his younger self.

The title suggests not only Kidder's unit, but also his lack of attachment at the time, his lack of connection to Vietnam (he seems to have stayed in a fairly small military bubble by choice), and perhaps the act of detaching from the experience from his current vantage. It's a good title. If anything, the narrative is just a little too detached, and I wonder where the immediacy of, for example, fear has gone. Perhaps the narrative replicates what appears to be depression, or reflects the isolation in and out of which he moved. There is more than a whiff of failure about Kidder's command, relationships, and writing, at least in retrospect.

Read with Swofford's Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles and Jenning's Mouthful of Rocks: Modern Adventures in the French Foreign Legion to immerse yourself in the boredom of war. Jenning is said by some to be a boastful and unreliable narrator, so these two accounts nicely bracket Kidder's year as an REMF. For musings on men and how masculinity can be used oppressively by other men, pair it with Vincent's Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man, which I've reviewed and disliked, but which could be a useful foil for Kidder's account.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375506154
Author:
Kidder, Tracy
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Military - United States
Subject:
Military
Subject:
Military - Vietnam War
Subject:
Vietnamese conflict, 1961-1975
Subject:
Personal narratives, american
Subject:
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Publication Date:
September 2005
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
9.40x6.50x.87 in. 1.01 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. A Life in a Year: The American... Used Mass Market $3.50
  2. Ripcord: Screaming Eagles Under... Used Hardcover $16.50
  3. Of Uncommon Birth: Dakota Sons in... New Hardcover $27.25
  4. Rumor of War Used Mass Market $3.95
  5. Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story...
    Used Mass Market $3.50
  6. Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of... Used Trade Paper $4.95

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » Vietnam War

My Detachment: A Memoir Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Random House - English 9780375506154 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A notable addition to the literature of war, Kidder's aptly named memoir is a candid self-portrait of his coming of age during Vietnam. Looking back on the everyday reality of his year-long command of a small intelligence detachment, Kidder reflects on his emotional response to the war, his developing skills at leadership, and his youthful immaturity, exposing his disingenuous portrayals of himself as heroic to family and friends. Unwaveringly honest, Kidder offers readers yet another work for which to greatly admire his skill as a gifted and perceptive writer.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The author of The Soul of a New Machine put in a year during the Vietnam War; he was a reluctant warrior. Kidder joined ROTC in his junior year at Harvard as a way of avoiding the draft's uncertainties. Two years later he was taking part in a war that he found 'unnecessary, futile, racist,' serving as a lieutenant commanding an Army Security Agency detachment of eight enlisted men inside a well-fortified infantry base camp. As a shaved-headed ROTC cadet and later as an army officer, Kidder felt 'separated from my social class, from my student generation'; in Vietnam, he detached himself emotionally from the mind-numbing army bureaucracy, from his ticket-punching career officer superiors and from his iconoclastic, work-shirking enlisted men. For Kidder, there are no heroes, and, in fact, few 'war stories'; he presents, instead, realistic day-to-day reports on what happened to him at his posting: the mission was to interpret enemy troop movements using raw intelligence data supplied by eavesdropping technology. His account is an introspective, demythologizing dose of reality seen through the eyes of a perceptive, though immature, army intelligence lieutenant at a rear-area base camp. War isn't hell here; it's 'an abstraction, dots on a map.' Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Sept. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[G]racefully written and full of rueful, black humor....A modest contribution compared to such classics such as Dispatches and A Rumor of War, but worthy of attention all the same."
"Synopsis" by , A Pulitzer-prize winning author writes for the first time about himself in an astonishingly honest, comic, and moving memoir of the Vietnam War.
spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.