Synopses & Reviews
"Karlin is one of the most gifted, passionate and powerful writers of his generation."-George Garrett
Wayne Karlin's memoir War Movies recounts his return to Vietnam as scriptwriter and actor in the award-winning Vietnamese film Song of the Stork. On his journey, Karlin lives in two worlds-the world of postwar Vietnam and the world of film. Past and present, illusion and reality, humor and sorrow blend as he works on the film and converses with his former enemies. Particularly powerful are the contrasts between the young and old generations of Vietnamese and the meditative quality of the narrative as Karlin explores the ironies involved in bridging the gap between past and present. For example, we hear the story of the coward who became the national poster boy for patriotism because he is photogenic, and we chuckle when the only extras the director can find to play the American GIs are Russian students. What is reality? What is fiction? What are the consequences of former sacrifice? These are some of the underlying themes explored in the course of this intriguing narrative.
"Novelist and Vietnam veteran Karlin, author of The Wished for Country, worked in Vietnam as a scriptwriter and authenticity consultant on the Vietnamese war movie Song of the Stork and later on a documentary about American college students journeying through Vietnam to learn about the war. This moving memoir intertwines these stabs at public historical commemoration with his private and literary efforts to grapple with his war experiences. Karlin observes the sometimes farcical efforts of the filmmakers to mesh historical realism with entertainment values and official ideology; Russian students are bused in to portray American GIs, and at one point, an Australian director jokingly suggests a massacre of curious peasants who are intruding on a scene. Meanwhile, Karlin travels through Vietnam from Hanoi to My Lai, letting the countryside and the people stir his memories, sitting down to friendly meals with old adversaries and translating their stories into fictional renditions that he inserts throughout the narrative. His fiction is a lush and evocative depiction of psyches scarred and turned inward by the horrors of war. But it raises questions about the feasibility of this project in cross-cultural understanding. In line with the usual exoticized, romantic American take on Vietnam, Karlin repeatedly sounds the theme of the war as 'sex gone bad,' a motif that figures prominently both in the fictional interludes and in several non-fiction vignettes about Southeast Asian prostitutes, but one that leaves his Vietnamese friends, for whom the war is the great national patriotic epic, somewhat bemused-as Americans might be by the notion that the Revolution and the Civil War were about sex gone bad. Still, his memoir is an acute rendering of the processes of remembrance and reconciliation." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Wayne Karlin has previously published six novels and a memoir, Rumors and Stones. As American consulting editor for Curbstone's Voices from Vietnam series, he has edited and adapted translations of writers from Vietnam. A professor of language and literature at the College of Southern Maryland, he also directs the fiction program at St. Mary's College.