The conflict in Vietnam was America’s longest war—longer than the Civil War, WW1, and WW2 combined—and it was the one we lost, the one that nags at our national consciousness and still gnaws at some personal consciences. It has been said that if blood enriches the soil, then Vietnam soil must be very fertile indeed. Today, we think of the phrase “post-Vietnam syndrome” as capturing a complex set of continuing reactions to that war. We continue to talk about its costs, both human and fiscal, and about the lessons we might learn from it. Each book in this series makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of what happened in Vietnam and what the lessons of that experience were, lessons that are as relevant today as they were four decades ago. If you want to explore this important era through the discussion of novels, history, and the perspective of journalists, veterans, army chaplains, and those who remained at home, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series.
Oklahoma City University invites participants to make this theme come “alive” in the readings of this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the readings. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to preregister and borrow the reading selections and theme brochure by calling Harbour Winn at 521-5472, emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or dropping by OCU’s Walker Center 171 (southwest corner of the building at NW 26th and Florida).
The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning September 14 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through November 9. The Walker Center is on the north side of the campus; approach it from the north and come to the corner of NW 26th and Florida. “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” is a cooperative project of the Oklahoma Library Association and the Oklahoma Humanities Council. Books, theme materials, and brochures for this series were provided by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
READINGS AND DATES
9/14/2004 Larry Heinemann’s Close Quarters
Called “the best book by anyone who fought in the Vietnam War,” Heinemann’s novel will launch our series exploration. Close Quarters is a novel about personal survival and transformation during the war. The narrative is enriched by Heinemann’s perspective as a combat infantryman in the war and as one who returned with a new perception of what “home” means.
9/28/2004 George C. Herring’s America’s Longest War
Herring’s historically balanced analysis of the war seeks no scapegoat and traces our country’s gradual involvement in Southeast Asia from the Truman era through the Nixon years. This very fine historical work will help to ground our explorations in the other works. We will better understand the awful limitations of time and circumstances as well as what hope we might have for wiser choices by our leaders today.
10/12/2004 Michael Herr’s Dispatches
Michael Herr was 27 years old when he covered the Vietnam war for Esquire. His writing is part of what is now called the “new journalism,” a reporting style that places Herr in the scenes he writes about. His personal, raw, and passionate language will offer a striking contrast to the cool, scholarly analysis provided by Herring’s book.
10/28/2004 William P. Mahedy’s Out of the Night
“Where was God in Vietnam?” is one of many questions asked by veterans of the war. Former army chaplain Mahedy explores the spiritual crisis faced by soldiers engaged in the Vietnam conflict. This loss of faith by some, Mahedy believes, signals the end of the old myth of America as the promised land inhabited by morally innocent agents of good in an evil world. If so, how do we see ourselves today? Are we trying to live out dead myths or give birth to new ones?
11/9/2004 Bobby Ann Mason’s In Country
In Country is a different book, one by a woman in a male-dominated subject area. Set in the mid-1980s, the novel focuses on “Sam,” an eighteen year old woman whose father died in Vietnam before she was born. As she explores her father’s letters from Vietnam and his war diary, Sam quests to know her father and to invent her place in a fatherless, post-Vietnam country. Her trip to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial to find her father’s name will provide a richly complex conclusion to our series.