What I’m Reading Now

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Blog is back at least for now and despite more tech hell — disappearing email address book that reappeared on my phone after a looong chat with the web host; disappearing email on Larry’s iPhone, since resolved; iPod refusing to download podcasts, which remains unsolved.

In the meantime, I read an actual dead trees and ink book. This post is another in an occasional series and another example of how when I start feeling sorry for myself, the Universe throws examples of much worse my way.

One of the veterans in the writing group loaned me In-Country and Back: Essays and Reflections by Vietnam Veterans and CCSU Students. Published in 2012, it is a “magazine” produced by an advanced writing class at Central Connecticut State University. The students each interviewed a veteran and then wrote essays, one about their subject and another about their personal connection to the Vietnam War or later conflicts.

Many of the accounts are of course wrenching and painful to read: friends and  medics who come to the rescue dying on the battlefield , dragging wounded comrades out of firefights, never ending survivor’s guilt.

Some accounts, though, offer humor. Douglas Monty describes “Explosions from Within.” At the end of a flight, everyone heard a tremendous “BOOM.” Examination showed they hadn’t taken a hit. Monty had forgotten to remove the tab from his can of Campbell’s. The soup of course deluged an officer and created a tremendous mess.

The humor can arrive with a twist. In one case interviewer Ron Farina had also served “in country.” Because he and his subject shared a bond, he wrote the best essays. “A Keyhole” is sheer brilliance. His interview featured Jerry Winn, a Marine with a number of battle scars, including a maimed hand. Winn said the injury saved him in a way. Farina’s commentary: “Here I am struck by Jerry’s relief. He looked at being wounded as a Godsend that kept him from reporting to Fort Mead, a spit and polish stateside military base.”

Two minor criticisms: The students didn’t always include the branch of service and the tour of duty. Farina managed to weave this information deftly into the narrative. Editor Mary Collins should have challenged her other students to do the same, even where the veteran chose to remain anonymous.

The text also served up some glaring errors of grammar – “lay” for “lie,” “I” for “me,” and changes of verb tense within one paragraph, sometimes within one sentence. These are tiny matters, however. You can read In-Country here.

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