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My Detachment: A Memoir

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My Detachment: A Memoir Cover

ISBN13: 9780812976168
ISBN10: 0812976169
Condition: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"To see what raw war stories can become with the benefit of time and distance, consider Tracy Kidder's My Detachment, a title he chose deliberately for its double meaning. Kidder waited 35 years to write the book, which recounts a year spent in command of an eight-man detachment during the Vietnam War....Kidder eventually fashioned a shrewdly observed memoir that gets beyond the customary guts-and-glory, war-is-hell accounts." Sarah Courteau, The Iowa Review (read the entire review from The Iowa Review)

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:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy Kidder, author of "The Soul of a New Machine," 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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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

JLB9698, June 10, 2008 (view all comments by JLB9698)
My Detachment by Tracy Kidder is a story about the Viet Nam War, but it's much more than a war story. Kidder allows you to really get to know him by unabashedly sharing his innermost thoughts. At times you see him as an immature unprepared prep school/Harvard grad. Other times, you are able to see his intellect and read his heart. (Kidder has to be the most non-judgmental person on earth!) From a historical aspect you learn a lot, but the success of the story is getting to know him as a person.
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Grady Harp, March 16, 2008 (view all comments by Grady Harp)
'...a young man in a morally desperate situation that everyone back home wants to forget...'

The tone of Tracy Kidder's excellent memoir from his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968 and 1968 is dour, full of resentment and disbelief in the value of war, and one of the stronger pacifist statements in book form. Rather than re-living the horrors of the Vietnam War and struggling to stay alive in a combat zone not marked by peripheries but rather by indistinct underground burrows where the ubiquitous 'enemy' remained hidden and disguised, Kidder's 'Detachment' was an Intelligence unit, for the most part safe from assault attack, but a unit that suffered the psychological destruction that accompanies an isolated band of men living in filthy conditions and always under the threat of 'inspection' by commanding officers seemingly more concerned with polished boots than by healthy mental states.

Kidder, who never believed in the concept of the war in Vietnam, was a Lieutenant in charge of a small band of enlisted men whose job was to gather Intelligence to pass on to the war planners. His memoir unveils his own need to transmit to his family and girlfriend back home a sense of constant danger and participation in killing, and it is this disparity between his own convictions and the 'image' he felt necessary to send home that makes his memoir so frighteningly memorable. He shares his relationship to the men under his command, the multiple problems he confronted with personality types and aberrant situations, and the manner in which he grew as a man during his prolonged exposure to the underbelly of the commanding officers of the war. 'But to represent something is to command power over it. Maps are the tools of many ambitious people, of policy makers, commanders of armies, and youths who like to play at being one of those. And the problem is that the maps are easily confused with the world'.

Where Kidder succeeds in his memoir about his war experience is in his brutal honesty, his fearless approach to report the reality of a war everyone is electing to forget, and the impact that Vietnam had on the mentality of the world and especially now with the youths who face another very similar war. His pacifism may annoy some readers, but his intelligence as a reporter and a writer cannot by ignored. As Kidder completed his tour, he observed a lifer, Major Great, on his way to back into Vietnam and ultimately society: 'I tried to imagine the life in front of him. Paperwork and acronyms and young men who wouldn't get dressed right. Too bad he wasn't a more prepossessing villain. But what a horrible life. Incomprehensible, really. And, of course, he probably walked off still shaking his head, thinking much the same about me.'

Kidder has written a gripping book, one that would serve us all well to read - a different view of the long-term effect of Vietnam, and war in general.

Grady Harp
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780812976168
Author:
Kidder, Tracy
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
Military - United States
Subject:
Military
Subject:
Military - Vietnam War
Subject:
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Kidder, Tracy
Subject:
Biography-Military
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20061031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.00x5.26x.45 in. .34 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Military
History and Social Science » Military » Vietnam War

My Detachment: A Memoir Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.50 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812976168 Reviews:
"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 A Day" by , "To see what raw war stories can become with the benefit of time and distance, consider Tracy Kidder's My Detachment, a title he chose deliberately for its double meaning. Kidder waited 35 years to write the book, which recounts a year spent in command of an eight-man detachment during the Vietnam War....Kidder eventually fashioned a shrewdly observed memoir that gets beyond the customary guts-and-glory, war-is-hell accounts." (read the entire review from The Iowa Review)
"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 , The Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy Kidder, author of "The Soul of a New Machine," writes for the first time about himself in an astonishingly honest, comic, and moving memoir of the Vietnam War.
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