Fast off the success of his devastating Vietnam War novel, Karl Marlantes gives us his incredibly readable treatise on soldier psychology, Reflections on Combat: Psyche, Soul, and Consciousness in Modern Warfare. Writing in a personal address to youths considering military service, soldiers facing imminent combat, government policy-makes, and anyone with an interest in reforming the nature of war or better understanding a society that fosters it, Marlantes approaches this difficult and divisive subject with a raw practicality and honesty informed by his years of sober thought and personal struggle. He is unwilling to take the moral high ground and adopt an idealistic pacifism, and instead addresses a future that will inevitably harbor further wars and create untold further generations of soldiers; with his personal discoveries and wealth of historical and psychological thought, Marlantes explores ways of reforming soldier training, counseling for soldiers and veterans, and military law that will help avoid the unnecessary spiritual and literal casualties of wars past. The book is divided into many chapters covering such topics as ""Atrocities,"" ""Numbness and the Rapture of Violent Transcendence,"" and ""Heroism.""
Marlantes, author of the highly acclaimed novel Matterhorn, reflects in this wrenchingly honest memoir on his time in Vietnam: what it means to go into the combat zone and kill and, most importantly, what it means to truly come home. After graduating from Yale, Marlantes attended Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. But not wanting to hide behind privilege while others fought in his place, he left Oxford in 1967 to ship out to Vietnam as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He eschews straight chronology for a blend of in-country reporting and the paradoxical sense of both fear and exhilaration a soldier feels during war. Most importantly, Marlantes underscores the need for returning veterans to be counseled properly; an 18-year-old cannot "kill someone and contain it in a healthy way." Digging as deeply into his own life as he does into the larger sociological and moral issues, Marlantes presents a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath. Citing a Navajo tale of two warriors who returned home to find their people feared them until they learned to sing about their experience, Marlantes learns the lesson, concluding, "This book is my song," (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Atlantic Monthly Press
August 29, 2011
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