Sunday, September 16, 2007

Descent into the Maelstrom

Being the author of a Vietnam War book of my own, I've always been a big fan of any and all Vietnam War fiction. Some of it is great, some of it ... ah, not so much. But one thing I've found is that there is precious little out there that deals with the aftermath of the war, specifically the phenomenon now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even though the experience has haunted soldiers forever (consider the Iliad, with Achilles sulking in his tent -- that's as perfect a description of PTSD as any), whether it was called "soldier's heart" after the Civil War, "shell shock" ater WWI, or "combat fatigue" after WWII.

Now that dearth of fiction dealing with PTSD has been alleviated by the republication of Mike Venuto's terrifically readable novel, Flashback. What starts out seemingly as a standard post-war narrative by a Vietnam combat veteran slowly verges into paranoia and finally madness. Along the way we get, among other things, an incisive portrayal of a VA medical facility mired in bureaucratic quicksand and a description of a smoke-filled American Legion hall that is so right-on that you can feel the stickiness of the sloshed beer on the bar top.

This is a powerful statement on both the war itself and more importantly on its aftermath. It is especially timely now, given that we are getting many untreated PTSD Iraq War veterans returning home. This book should be required reading for anyone who has a coworker, friend or family member returning from the battles in the Middle East.

2 Comments:

Elmo said...

Flashback will be on my books shelf. Now for a little chickenhawk bashing...

Y'all Chickenhawks to Me - by Elmo (MP3)

(If you have trouble with the link right click and "save target as")

moderate said...

thanks for the heads up...