UN CARTONE ANIMATO NOIR TOPOLIN, TOPOLIN, VIVA TOPOLIN Full Metal Jacket di Stanley Kubrick la scena finale , la cosiddetta marcia di Topolino.Questo libro contiene tutti i film sul Vietnam che ho visto e che sono stati mai realizzati.Eppure stato scritto prima di qualsiasi film sul Vietnam.Il fatto che chiunque abbia voluto fare un film sull argomento ha letto Dispacci con attenzione, partito da queste pagine.A cominciare da Coppola, che per Apocalypse Now lo volle cosceneggiatore la voce off di Willard Sheen un parto di Herr , proseguendo con Kubrick, che lo coinvolse nella sceneggiatura di Full Metal Jacket in un film senza protagonisti, il personaggio del protagonista Matthew Modine modellato proprio su Herr.Per la verit , contiene tutto il cinema di guerra mai prodotto Continuo a pensare a tutti i ragazzi che sono stati rovinati da 17 anni di film di guerra prima di venire in Vietnam a farsi rovinare per sempre Tutti avevamo visto troppi film, avevamo abitato troppo a lungo nell Impero della Tiv Le prime volte che mi spararono addosso o che vidi dei morti in combattimento, non mi successe niente in realt , ogni reazione rest sepolta nella mia testa Era la stessa consueta violenza, solo trasferita in un altro mezzo di comunicazione una specie di commedia ambientata nella giungla con elicotteri giganti e fantastici effetti speciali, con gli attori sdraiati per terra dentro sacchi di tela per cadaveri ad aspettare che la scena finisse per potersi rimettere in piedi e andarsene Ma quella era una scena si scopriva che non c era modo di stoppare.In queste pagine c tutta la violenza, la paura, la crudelt , la follia, la droga, l orrore, il terrore, la tenebra, il frullo delle pale d elicottero, il delirio, i colori, la musica, il caldo, gli odori, il sudore, la morte che i film di guerra, soprattutto quelli sul Vietnam, ci hanno fatto conoscere.Ma qui non si parla unicamente della guerra in Vietnam si parla della Guerra, di tutte le guerre, anche quelle venute dopo.Come non ritrovare nelle parole di Herr tante situazioni dell invasione dell Iraq e dell Afghanistan A cominciare dall assoluta consapevolezza che nessuno sa contro chi e per cosa sta combattendo, dalla completa coscienza che sia tutto inutile e folle.All inizio di Apocalypse Now , il capolavoro di Francis Ford Coppola, gli elicotteri appaiono sopra un bosco di palme, e il suono delle pale si mischia con quello delle note della canzone dei Doors, The End un libro che descrive l inferno in un posto piccolissimo Un libro composto in apnea il primo capitolo si chiama Inspirare , l ultimo Espirare con una scrittura che possiede il ritmo della musica rock, una cronaca a caldo e un esperienza vissuta in prima persona, cos vicino, ma cos lontano, perch Michael Herr sebbene si trovi a ridosso dei fatti, riesce a conquistare una magnifica giusta distanza , a creare formidabili atmosfere e a farci vedere quello che c oltre la realt la macchina bellica americana arenata in Oriente, al pari di un gigante costretto a smaltire nel fango la sbornia del suo delirio di potenza.Herr non si nasconde tra le righe, parteggia, si schiera in modo palese ed esplicito sta dalla parte dell uomo, di qualsiasi colore sia, perch la Guerra fatta dagli uomini contro gli uomini.Sono d accordo con Graham Greene, questo il pi bel libro sulla guerra dopo l Iliade.This is the end, beautiful friendThis is the end, my only friend, the endOf our elaborate plans, the endOf everything that stands, the endNo safety or surprise, the endI ll never look into your eyesAgainCan you picture what will beSo limitless and freeDesperately in needOf some stranger s handIn a desperate landLost in a Roman wilderness of painAnd all the children are insaneAll the children are insaneWaiting for the summer rainJim Morrison, the Lizard.PS 29 marzo 2016 Oggi la mia editor mi ha detto che ho sbagliato citazione, non si tratta di Graham Greene ma di John Le Carr Non correggo, perch Greene meglio di Le Carr , ma forse ha ragione lei.PPSS 4 marzo 2018 Con dieci anni di ritardo 2008 ho di recente visto la serie Generation Kill magnifica, grandissima scrittura, superba regia, confezione di pi che alto livello Consigliatissima Potrebbe mai esistere senza questo libro di Herr No, non penso. Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can t say that we have made a mistake Someone has to die so that President Nixon won t be, and these are his words, the first President to lose a war We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistakeVietnam Veterans Against the War Statement by John Kerry to the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations, April 23, 1971 Full Metal Jacket Apocalypse Now Platoon The Deer Hunter First BloodThese are just some of the American movies which depict the war in Vietnam, which has served as inspiration for dozens of other films, novels and video games The conflict in Vietnam has been written about extensively, and Michael Herr s Dispatches is one of the first books to present an intimate, closeup picture of the war to the wider public The first two movies owe a lot to Dispatches Michael Herr co wrote the narration for Apocalypse Now, which is partially inspired by this book, and wrote the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket together with Stanley Kubrick.Herr was a correspondent for the Esquire magazine, who arrived in Vietnam in 1967, when he was just 27 years old just before the Tet Offensive, one of the largest assault campaigns of the North Vietnamese army against targets in the South Herr mingled freely with the soldiers, journeying with them, talking with them, observing them he left Vietnam and returned to his home in New York in 1969, and spent the next 18 months working on Dispatches, his memoir from the war However, the war caught up with him he experienced a breakdown and could not write anything between 1971 and 1975 Herr eventually recovered and finished the book, which was published in 1977 two years after the fall of Saigon, long after the United States army and personel withdrew from the country.The average age of American soldiers fighting in Vietnam was 22 These were young men, millions of miles away from home, stuck in a scorching and unforgiving climate, surrounded by jungles full of people they could not see And for whatI keep thinking about all the kids who got wiped out by 17 years of war movies before coming to Vietnam and getting wiped out for good , he writes in one chapter, while quoting one of the soldier he talks to in anotherAll that s just a load, man We re here to kill gooks PeriodMost of these soldiers these who survive will be forever robbed of their youth the book is full of physical descriptions of young men looking incredibly old and tired, being incredibly old and tired at the age of 23 This is not something that you can leave behind you when you leave the battlefield like old age it seeps into you and refuses to go, reflecting your old skin and the thousand yard stare from the bathroom mirror 58,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam thousand veterans suffering from PTSD took their own lives after returning home.This is a book written in retrospection, though it loses none of its intensity while reading it we see a man who acts as if he has just emerged from the war, like it was yesterdayI went to cover the war and the war covered me , Herr writes near the end and admits that it isan old story , though in his case very true This explains the tone of his book very chaotic and disorganized, full of personal interjections Herr writes as much about himself as he does about the soldiers and the war He rejects the role of an impartial observer, and is an active participant in the events that he writes about, focusing on personal emotions and moods his own and that of the soldiers rather than tactical and military aspects of the war What is most prominent is the absolute lack of safety and certainty for anyone, in a country where the invisible enemy hid in the hostile, unwelcoming climate, and despite being completely outnumbered and outgunned and killed always ready to attack and strike back again and again and againYou could be in the most protected space in Vietnam and still know that your safety was provisional, that early death, blindness, loss of legs, arms or balls, major and lasting disfigurement the whole rotten deal could come in on the freakyfluky as easily as in the so called expected ways, you heard so many of those stories it was a wonder anyone was left alive to die in firefights and mortar rocket attacks Sean Flynn, photographer and connoisseur of the Vietnam War, told me that he once stood on the vantage of a firebase up there with a battalion commander It was at dusk, those ghastly mists were fuming out of the valley floor, ingesting light The colonel squinted at the distance for a long time Then he swept his hand very slowly along the line of jungle, across the hills and ridges running into Cambodia the Sanctuary Flynn, he said Somewhere out there is the entire First NVA Division How do you defeat an enemy whom you can t see and sometimes even recognize, and whom you keep shooting and killing, and who keeps coming back to kill you from underground tunnels, from bushes, from caves You don t Conventional journalism could noreveal this war than conventional firepower could win it, Herr writes near the end of his memoir he was repeatedly asked by the press for interviews about Vietnam, and to write another book about it aside from his work on two films he never returned to it, and published only a few other books throughout the years, none of which had the impact of Dispatches He died last year, after a lengthy illness, in Upstate New York According to his daughter, Claudia, he came to resent his celebrity and no longer wrote converting to Buddhism in his last years I hope that he finally found peace. War is Forever Evil is not an absence of the good as proposed by theologians It is a positive force precisely proportionate to the coercive technological power employed Power kills people people don t kill people technology does War is unlimited power or power limited only by the technology available but certainly not by morality, that is to say, people Herr saw this at close quartersOur machine was devastating And versatile It could do everything but stopNo one who had power understood that the technological machine was impotent to achieve anything other than coercion and its logical extreme, deathThey killed a lot of Communists, but that was all they did, because the number of Communist dead meant nothing, changed nothing The opposite of war is not peace but justice, the access to judgments of equity that mitigate coercion Essentially war is unfairness made the norm,a psychotic vaudevilleWar is unfair because there is no human recourse to the random exercise of power The unfairness of war affects everyone even those, especially those, exercising the power The further out on the tendrils of power, as these tendrils encounter victims, theunfairness, thecoercion, exists At that zero distance, coercion is unremittingly uglyDisgust doesn t begin to describe what they made me feel, they threw people out of helicopters, tied people up and put the dogs on them Brutality was just a word in my mouth before thatIs there any other word than de humanizationWell, you know what we do to animalskill em and hurt em and beat on em so s we can train em Shit, we don t treat the Dinks no different than that,says one young soldier with neither apparent irony nor shame.Those with less power merely die those withpower often die but all those exercising power and those upon whom it is exercised suffer a lifetime of an absence of recourse to power, a bodily reaction to coercion Who can judge who is most defiled, the soldier coerced by his superiors or the soldier s victim coerced by him All suffer through either grief or memory Herr knows thisVarieties of religious experience, good news and bad news a lot of men found their compassion in the war, some found it and couldn t live with it, war washed shutdown of feeling, like who gives a fuck People retreated into positions of hard irony, cynicism, despair, some saw the action and declared for it, only heavy killing could make them feel so alive Every time there was combat you had a licence to go maniac, everyone snapped over the line at least once there and nobody noticed, they hardly noticed if you forgot to snap back again The effects of the unfairness of war are cumulative and gestational They ripen and metastasizeAnd some just went insane, followed the black light arrow around the bend and took possession of the madness that had been waiting there in trust for them for eighteen or twenty five or fifty years it took the war to teach it, that you were as responsible for everything you saw as you were for everything you did The problem was that you didn t always know what you were seeing until later, maybe years later, that a lot of it never made it in at all, it just stayed stored there in your eyes They d say I d ask that they didn t remember their dreams either when they were in the zone, but on R R or in the hospital their dreaming would be constant, open, violent and clear, Despite the unfairness of all wars, each war is qualitatively different This one changed an entire country, the one with the most power Nothing, everyone learned, could be trusted from government, from media, from experts, from one s neighbor The military was the exception because it could be trusted for consistent incompetence and deceitthe Marine Corps came to be called by many the finest instrument ever devised for the killing of young AmericansThis was a new, highly infectious disease that evolved in the jungles and rice fields and was imported in a dormant state on the flights homeA despair set in among members of the battalion that the older ones, the veterans of two other wars, had never seen beforeThis was the war from which that country has never recovered, and perhaps never will It sanctioned death as unimportant by turning it into a measure of progressthey talked as though killing a man was nothingthan depriving him of his vigourAnd for those leaders not at the far ends of power but at its source, power became an idol demanding sacred acts through which they would achieve salvationThey believed that God was going to thank them for it There is good reason to believe that the country s present psychosis is its refusal to recognize the injustice it has imposed on the worldYears of thinking this or that about what happens to you when you pursue a fantasy until it becomes experience, and then afterwards you can t handle the experienceI don t know if Herr is a spiritual person but he provides some splendid spiritual adviceGoing crazy was built into the tour, the best you could hope for was that it didn t happen around you, the kind of crazy that made men empty clips into strangers or fix grenades on latrine doors That was really crazy anything less was almost standard, as standard as the vague prolonged stares and involuntary smiles, common as ponchos or 16s or any other piece of war issue If you wanted someone to know you d gone insane you really had to sound off like you had a pair, Scream a lot, and all the time No ideal was left unmolested No injustice was left un trivialized No confession of guilt was ever offered without rationalization Perhaps this is a national characteristic to hide profound immorality behind a shield of up beat concernIt was a characteristic of a lot of Americans in Vietnam to have no idea of when they were being obsceneBut injustice will not lie quiet The effects of war are genetic they are passed on as a dismal legacy of power and its unfairness The country tried to forget and dug itself deeper, coerced itself, into violence that it now performs on itself at the armed hands of its children to the consternation of their parents The country does seem to be screaming now But no one is really listening No one cares if they annihilate themselves in their undeclared civil war If only they would tweet about it less. Having been in VietNam and having been in some of the Marine Units that Michael Herr writes about in Dispatches is the best depiction of war in general and VietNam in particular that I have ever read It started me on the path to healing that I had kept hidden since I came back from Nam Thank You Michael. I could say this is one of the best memoirs I ve read I could also say it is one of the most brilliant books on war I ve ever read It would probably be easier, however, for me to just acknowledge I haven t read many books that have the power, the poetry, the intensity, the vividness, the bathos and the pathos that Herr pushes through every single page of this amazing book This is a book that haunts you hard while you read it and resonates both the horror of war and the surreal qualities of war and the men who fight it. This is war reportage as heartbreaking poetry One of the roughest pieces of writing I have ever encountered Beautiful, angular and harsh stylistically There is a wonderfully and terrifyingly immersive quality to this book. Not only is this the most engrossing piece of journalism, the most touching memoir, and the most illuminating book on war I ve ever read it s also written as if Herr was on fire and being chased by literature eating wolves I read it twice in a row and would do it again. Written On The Front Lines In Vietnam, Dispatches Became An Immediate Classic Of War Reportage When It Was Published In From Its Terrifying Opening Pages To Its Final Eloquent Words, Dispatches Makes Us See, In Unforgettable And Unflinching Detail, The Chaos And Fervor Of The War And The Surreal Insanity Of Life In That Singular Combat Zone Michael Herr S Unsparing, Unorthodox Retellings Of The Day To Day Events In Vietnam Take On The Force Of Poetry, Rendering Clarity From One Of The Most Incomprehensible And Nightmarish Events Of Our Time Dispatches Is Among The Most Blistering And Compassionate Accounts Of War In Our Literature I d never heard Dispatches mentioned in speech or in print until I got a copy of it in a package sent to me from my uncle, who d died three or four days earlier Imagine my surprise when I found it was the basis for not only Full Metal Jacket but also, to some degree, Apocalypse Now It sor less what you d expect a war correspondent travels all around Vietnam for what seems to be several years I m not sure how long Herr was actually there , talking to the foot soldiers and the officers and anybody else who s willing So you get to see all sorts of coping mechanisms and rationalizations and characters, including several who d go on, slightly modified, to be characters in Full Metal Jacket But the book brings up, mostly obliquely, two ideas that are very interesting to me.The first is that the grunts consistently call the correspondents crazy This makes sense at first the grunts are forced to be there, and, given the chance, most of them would leave instantly So it s a mystery to them why the correspondents don t feel roughly the same way And it s unclear whether Herr is conscious of the main difference between him and them, w r t leaving He can, which automatically makes it unnecessary Just the idea of being able to peace out when things get really nasty would have to be a pretty significant sleep aid And Herr makes himself look a little foolish every time he mentions how badass he feels, staying there, because he may know what it s like to be in Vietnam, but he has no idea what it might feel like to be stuck in Vietnam The second is the question of what exactly it is that makes Vietnam so muchrelentlessly horrifying to our soldiers than any other war we d fought up to that point and possibly any war since There are all the obvious answers they lacked widespread homefront support the Vietcong were indistinguishable from their allies success couldn t be measured because there was no clear front to show advances and retreats the climate and weather were hellish et cetera But Herr has made me think of it in terms of broader trends in American culture I m sure these answers are obvious to some, but I really don t know much of anything about the Vietnam War, or American history, for that matter mainly alienation of battle, and iconoclasm.Alienation of battle makes sense Before guns existed, you pretty much had to either kill your enemy face to face, or maybe shoot him with an arrow, but at any rate you had to be able to see him to kill him Even in World War II, you were pretty likely to be able to see the people you were trying to kill And the key thing there is that your enemy had to be able to see you in order to kill you So if you weren t at the front, you could be reasonably sure of not being suddenly murdered Vietnam was different You d fire into the jungle almost at random, wasting thousands of rounds of suppressive fire, and you d never even see who you were shooting at, until they were dead So if that s the M.O., you d have to admit to yourself that you could easily be killed without ever seeing your own killer Add that to the possibility read probability of ambushes, and the realities of guerrilla fighting, and you can see how American soldiers tended to be a wreck Not that soldiers from other wars came home perfectly well adjusted, but I think we can agree that the Vietnam War was a bit different.Then there s iconoclasm Anybody can defend his or her homeland defense is a cause in and of itself That s where the home team advantage comes from But if you re going to fight an offensive war, you ve got to have a cause Religion is a common one, as is acquisition of wealth Ours in Vietnam was a little shakier democracy, or anti communism That worked well for the Cold War, but not as well for its proxy wars If you have to come with something like the domino effect to explain your war, you re not going to get the kind of fanatical support that you need to win From the troops or the home front, I mean If you don t have a really compelling cause, you ve got to have some faith And, not that I know a lot about the 1960 s and 1970 s, but it seems to me that America s religious fervor was somewhat lacking compared to what it was during World War II and earlier Actually, I don t know why I ve been carrying on Herr puts it way better than I could you couldn t blame anybody for believing anythingGuys stuck the ace of spades in their helmet bands, they picked relics off of an enemy they d killed, a little transfer of power they carried around five pound Bibles from home, crosses, St Christophers, mezuzahs, locks of hair, girlfriends underwear, snaps of their families, their wives, their dogs, their cows, their cars, pictures of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, Huey Newton, the Pope, Che Guevara, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, wiggier than cargo cultists One man was carrying an oatmeal cookie through his tour, wrapped up in foil and plastic and three pairs of socks He took a lot of shit about it When you go to sleep we re gonna eat your fucking cookie , but his wife had baked it and mailed it to him, he wasn t kidding Something has to replace religion, and in this case it s superstition Come on, an oatmeal cookie People went crazy because they had nothing to fall back on, nothing to believe would save them Herr makes this abundantly clear, I think Recommended for anyone interested in the Vietnam War. Where had he been to get his language is a question Herr asks himself in passing about a soldier he meets, but I think it s the implication in the question that explains why this is one of my favorite books There areinformative books about Vietnam, speaking in traditional historical terms, but it s the language in this book that has stayed with me I can open it up, turn to just about any page, and the store of English, with its almost limitless possibility and nuance, feels very temporarily replenished in me Perception becomes less stifling and habitual, and opens upever so briefly Language might seem like a strange thing to praise in a book about the Vietnam War after all, it would seem that the most important aspect of the book would be essence, the war itself, while language is mere style But this book reminds me that the two are not mutually exclusive It may be that for a writer language and experience sit on opposite ends of a pendulum, and the farther you go in one direction, the farther you can swing back in the other The war was unlike anything Herr had experienced before, and it forced him to develop a new vocabulary to describe it Music also has the power to alter perception Throughout the book, Herr describes hearing Roy Orbison, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones in Vietnam, for the first time, The Doors and their distant, icy sound It seemed like such wintry music and The Beatles And in my head, sounding over and over, were the incredibly sinister words of the song we d all heard for the first time only days before The Magical Mystery Tour is waiting to take you away , it promised, Coming to take you away, dy ing to take you away That was a song about Khe Sanh we knew it then, and it still seems soBut the emphasis on music isn t just idle description Herr discovers that the desire for transcendence that music may have seemed like an answer to, that desire that he felt as a writer and human being, was also capable of being answered by Vietnam, and that pushed far enough it was the same answer On the street , he writes of being back in America, I couldn t tell the Vietnam veterans from the rock n roll veteransrock stars started falling like second lieutenantswhat I d thought of as two obsessions were really only one, I don t know how to tell you how complicated that made my life It all happened so fast, as they say, as everyone who has ever been through it has always said we were sitting around listening to what we thought were Tet fireworks coming from the town, and then coming closer until we weren t stoned any, until the whole night had passed and I was looking at the empty clips around my feettelling myself that there would never be any way to know for sure I couldn t remember ever feeling so tired, so changed, so happy.for the next six years I saw them all, the ones I d really seen and the ones I d imagined, theirs and ours, friends I d loved and strangers, motionless figures in a dance, the old dance Years of thinking this or that about what happens to you when you pursue a fantasy until it becomes experience, and then afterward you can t handle the experience Until I felt that I was just a dancer too The first rule , Schopenhauer wrote, indeed by itself virtually a sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say Herr, as a young writer, naturally wanted to have something to say, and was smart enough to understand that he didn t he was probably drawn to experience that would alter him, that would allow him to transcend himself and his writingto break on through to the other side, even And yet when we seek out experience we also give up control, and sometimes the experiences that might allow us to transcend ourselves are not clearly distinguishable from the experiences that can destroy us Sometimes they might be the same thing For someone like Hunter S Thompson, that was the thrill of it But for Herr, discovering that transcendence and violence were inextricable meant that life was never the same again, not only for himself but for the world.Maybe it was my twenties I was missing and not the Sixties, but I began missing them both before either had really been played out The year had been so hot that I think it shorted out the decade, what followed was mutation, some kind of awful 1969 X It wasn t just that I was growing older, I was leaking timeAnd yet one of the most striking and honest things about this book is the tone of nostalgia that runs through it He realized that war satisfied something in him, that he was not so different from his friends who stayed in California and went to Doors concerts As Herr puts it early in the book, somewhere all the mythic tracks intersected, from the lowest John Wayne wetdream to the most aggravated soldier poet fantasy, and where they did I believe everyone knew everything about everyone else, every one of us there a true volunteer Or, towards the end, A few extreme cases felt that the experience there had been a glorious one, while most of us felt that it had been merely wonderful I think Vietnam was what we had instead of happy childhoods Maybe the lesson is that experience can t always be sought out, utilized, and then walked away from But what choice did Herr have, and what choice do any of us have Because maybe we are just dancers, too.I ve often wondered what the rest of Herr s life was like, and why he published almost nothing else One night a few months ago, half asleep, I heard his name, of all places, on the Bill Simmons podcast Simmons was interviewing Graydon Carter, the former editor of Vanity Fair magazine, and asked him to name the best writer he d ever pursued but couldn t get to write for him Carter responded,A writer I used to speak to, sometimes for almost three hours a day, for years and years, was Michael Herr He d written Dispatches, he was one of the great journalists of all time, and hebecame a Buddhist after VietnamMichael was a wonderful, peaceful person but in ten years of constant talking, I only got two pieces out of him I would have liked , but he said, I m done writing.