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My Detachment: A Memoirby Tracy Kidder
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.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.)
"[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
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.
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