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What It Is Like to Go to War

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What It Is Like to Go to War Cover

ISBN13: 9780802119926
ISBN10: 0802119921
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Fast off the success of his devastating Vietnam War novel, Karl Marlantes gives us his incredibly readable treatise on soldier psychology, Reflections on Combat: Psyche, Soul, and Consciousness in Modern Warfare. Writing in a personal address to youths considering military service, soldiers facing imminent combat, government policy-makes, and anyone with an interest in reforming the nature of war or better understanding a society that fosters it, Marlantes approaches this difficult and divisive subject with a raw practicality and honesty informed by his years of sober thought and personal struggle. He is unwilling to take the moral high ground and adopt an idealistic pacifism, and instead addresses a future that will inevitably harbor further wars and create untold further generations of soldiers; with his personal discoveries and wealth of historical and psychological thought, Marlantes explores ways of reforming soldier training, counseling for soldiers and veterans, and military law that will help avoid the unnecessary spiritual and literal casualties of wars past.

The book is divided into many chapters covering such topics as “Atrocities,” “Numbness and the Rapture of Violent Transcendence,” and “Heroism.” Each chapter begins with the effective thesis for the section—a frank statement of a serious problem like the fusing of civilian life and war or the lack of empathy in soldiers — and a broad-scale way to approach its rectification. What follows is then a hybrid of essay and memoir that leads the reader to both a personal and technical (as much as this can apply to matters of human consciousness) understanding of the chapters thesis. Marlantes recounts engaging, gritty, tense, and unflinchingly truthful personal experiences from his deployment in Vietnam: how his laziness in checking a mortar stand resulted in three friendly casualties, how killing Viet Cong and commanding massive firepower imbued him with a sense of omnipotence, how he put an entire rescue helicopter at risk in order to make his scheduled rest and relaxation, how he executed, going beyond the ordered objective, a merciless rout of enemy soldiers as a form of revenge for a fallen comrade. These incredible stories are then supplemented with personal introspection and rigorous philosophical and sociological examination — with frequent appeal to the likes of Jung, Nietzsche, and Yeats — in order to discover the structure of the underlying problem in military training, military operating procedure, and even cultural norms.

All of this goes towards understanding problems in soldier psychology that are complex and terrifying. Marlantes is obsessed with how hopelessly unprepared soldiers are for the transcendental experiences of war — and he doesnt shy away from this construal of the transcendental. While fully affirming the horror of war and death, Marlantes fearlessly asserts that these experiences nonetheless force soldiers into all-too-real contact with that notoriously indescribable quality of humanhood: the unknowable, the intangible, the dark mystery of existence. One of the overarching themes of his book is that military culture discourages soldiers from confronting these sorts of psycho-spiritual conflicts, when in fact the proper course of action is to do the exact opposite — confront these tough issues and experiences head on, before, during, and after combat.

While the book cruises comfortably in the dual tones of the memoirist and the psychoanalyst, it is perhaps most potent when it dips into the truly confessional. At points Marlantes steps back and addresses the problems he had writing this very book — his battles to confront self-deceit, personal trauma, and deep seeded denial — and we see the author laid bare: a brutally honest, sometimes distraught figure hunched over the keyboard, writing with almost sacrificial sincerity. The result is one mans attempt to help future generations in the inevitable event of war, where human beings are forced to witness and carry out the obliteration of life.

Review:

"Marlantes, author of the highly acclaimed novel Matterhorn, reflects in this wrenchingly honest memoir on his time in Vietnam: what it means to go into the combat zone and kill and, most importantly, what it means to truly come home. After graduating from Yale, Marlantes attended Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. But not wanting to hide behind privilege while others fought in his place, he left Oxford in 1967 to ship out to Vietnam as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He eschews straight chronology for a blend of in-country reporting and the paradoxical sense of both fear and exhilaration a soldier feels during war. Most importantly, Marlantes underscores the need for returning veterans to be counseled properly; an 18-year-old cannot 'kill someone and contain it in a healthy way.' Digging as deeply into his own life as he does into the larger sociological and moral issues, Marlantes presents a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath. Citing a Navajo tale of two warriors who returned home to find their people feared them until they learned to sing about their experience, Marlantes learns the lesson, concluding, 'This book is my song,' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"Karl Marlantes has written a staggeringly beautiful book on combat—what it feels like, what the consequences are and above all, what society must do to understand it. In my eyes he has become the preeminent literary voice on war of our generation. He is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker who not only illuminates war for civilians, but also offers a kind of spiritual guidance to veterans themselves. As this generation of warriors comes home, they will be enormously helped by what Marlantes has written—Im sure he will literally save lives." Sebastian Junger

Review:

"To say that this book is brilliant is an understatement — Marlantes is the absolute master of taking the psyche of the combat veteran and translating it into words that the civilian or non-veteran can understand. I have read many, many books on war and this is the first time that I've ever read exactly what the combat veteran thinks and feels — nothing I have ever read before has hit home in my heart like this book." Gunnery Sergeant Terence DAlesandro, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, U.S. Marine Corps

Review:

"A valiant effort to explain and make peace with wars awesome consequences for human beings." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"What It Is Like to Go to War is a courageous, noble and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today's world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril." Ed Conklin, Chaucers Books, Santa Barbara

Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times Bestseller Matterhorn, this is a powerful nonfiction book about the experience of combat and how inadequately we prepare our young men and women for war.

War is as old as humankind, but in the past, warriors were prepared for battle by ritual, religion and literature — which also helped bring them home. In a compelling narrative, Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination and his readings — from Homer to the Mahabharata to Jung. He talks frankly about how he is haunted by the face of the young North Vietnamese soldier he killed at close quarters and how he finally finds a way to make peace with his past. Marlantes discusses the daily contradictions that warriors face in the grind of war, where each battle requires them to take life or spare life, and where they enter a state he likens to the fervor of religious ecstasy.

Just as Matterhorn is already being acclaimed as a classic of war literature, What It Is Like To Go To War is set to become required reading for anyone — soldier or civilian — interested in this visceral and all too essential part of the human experience.

About the Author

A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He is the author of the best-selling and prize-winning Matterhorn.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Craig Ensz, July 24, 2012 (view all comments by Craig Ensz)
Marlantes has expertly taken on the subject of wars, the people who fight them and the psychological and social ramifications of them, now and in the future. His personal stories and confessions bring a personal side to a scholarly work.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
eglazier, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by eglazier)
This is must reading for all those who think war is heroic. It is especially valuable for those hawks who want us to intrude everywhere without thinking of the consequences. Those who want to send young men into battle and who never have to go themselves ought to see what they are unleashing on the men and on their own world.
The writer is a decorated Marine officer who was in armed combat in Vietnam and what happened after coming home over many years to allow him to finally understand what combat does to those who live it and survive.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Gerald, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Gerald)
A spot-on analysis of the warriors experience. Should be required reading for everyone contemplating the military. And even more important for the politicians and citizens who send them to war.
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View all 3 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780802119926
Author:
Marlantes, Karl
Publisher:
Atlantic Monthly Press
Subject:
Military - Strategy
Subject:
Military-Strategy Tactics and Deception
Subject:
Military - Vietnam War
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20110830
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects


Biography » General
Biography » Military
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
Featured Titles » Literature
History and Social Science » Military » General
History and Social Science » Military » Vietnam War
What It Is Like to Go to War Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$13.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Atlantic Monthly Press - English 9780802119926 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Marlantes, author of the highly acclaimed novel Matterhorn, reflects in this wrenchingly honest memoir on his time in Vietnam: what it means to go into the combat zone and kill and, most importantly, what it means to truly come home. After graduating from Yale, Marlantes attended Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. But not wanting to hide behind privilege while others fought in his place, he left Oxford in 1967 to ship out to Vietnam as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He eschews straight chronology for a blend of in-country reporting and the paradoxical sense of both fear and exhilaration a soldier feels during war. Most importantly, Marlantes underscores the need for returning veterans to be counseled properly; an 18-year-old cannot 'kill someone and contain it in a healthy way.' Digging as deeply into his own life as he does into the larger sociological and moral issues, Marlantes presents a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath. Citing a Navajo tale of two warriors who returned home to find their people feared them until they learned to sing about their experience, Marlantes learns the lesson, concluding, 'This book is my song,' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Karl Marlantes has written a staggeringly beautiful book on combat—what it feels like, what the consequences are and above all, what society must do to understand it. In my eyes he has become the preeminent literary voice on war of our generation. He is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker who not only illuminates war for civilians, but also offers a kind of spiritual guidance to veterans themselves. As this generation of warriors comes home, they will be enormously helped by what Marlantes has written—Im sure he will literally save lives."
"Review" by , "To say that this book is brilliant is an understatement — Marlantes is the absolute master of taking the psyche of the combat veteran and translating it into words that the civilian or non-veteran can understand. I have read many, many books on war and this is the first time that I've ever read exactly what the combat veteran thinks and feels — nothing I have ever read before has hit home in my heart like this book."
"Review" by , "A valiant effort to explain and make peace with wars awesome consequences for human beings."
"Review" by , "What It Is Like to Go to War is a courageous, noble and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today's world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril."
"Synopsis" by , From the author of the New York Times Bestseller Matterhorn, this is a powerful nonfiction book about the experience of combat and how inadequately we prepare our young men and women for war.

War is as old as humankind, but in the past, warriors were prepared for battle by ritual, religion and literature — which also helped bring them home. In a compelling narrative, Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination and his readings — from Homer to the Mahabharata to Jung. He talks frankly about how he is haunted by the face of the young North Vietnamese soldier he killed at close quarters and how he finally finds a way to make peace with his past. Marlantes discusses the daily contradictions that warriors face in the grind of war, where each battle requires them to take life or spare life, and where they enter a state he likens to the fervor of religious ecstasy.

Just as Matterhorn is already being acclaimed as a classic of war literature, What It Is Like To Go To War is set to become required reading for anyone — soldier or civilian — interested in this visceral and all too essential part of the human experience.

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