"Currey distills the Vietnam experience to an essence in this compact and powerful novel . . . illuminating the narrator's odyssey in vignettes as telling as lightning in the darkness." --Kirkus Reviews
"Fatal Light is, simply put, a dazzling book. Almost making you shield your eyes as you read, the visual descriptions sparkle . . . achieving a stark immediacy that makes you wince." --Sunday Times of London
"In lyrical, evocative prose, Currey's rendering of a young man's experiences during the Vietnam War is touching and haunting . . . Currey writes with imagery that is subtle in its beauty but shocking in its brutality." --Booklist
"The fear, courage, pity, and disgust of war in our times and the sense of displacement in the aftermath have seldom been more sensitively captured than in Fatal Light, by star-kissed writer Richard Currey." --The Guardian (London)
"One of the very best works of fiction to emerge from the Vietnam War." --Tim O'Brien, author, The Things They Carried
"Compact, elegiac and brutal, Fatal Light is always accurate, a honed clarity that plummets to the depths of memory and possibility. In Currey's faceted prose, we glimpse nothing less than the transformation of a soul." --Jayne Anne Phillips, author, Machine Dreams, Black Tickets, and Shelter
"Etched with a precision and a freshness, a lyrical sense of language that lingers . . . and makes you feel as if you are hearing more of the truth than a thousand pages of official history . . . there are sequences in Fatal Light that shook my heart." --Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio
"A vibrant painting, with brilliant shades of violence contrasted with powerful tints of peace, rich with magnificent descriptions of landscape, characters, and the territory of a maturing and aching human heart." --Tulsa World
A devastating portrait of war in all its horror, brutality, and mindlessness, this extraordinary novel is written in beautifully cadenced prose. A combat medic in Vietnam faces the chaos of war, set against the tranquil scenes of family life back home in small-town America. This young man's rite of passage is traced through jungle combat to malaria-induced fever visions to the purgatory of life in military-occupied Saigon. After returning home from war to stay with his grandfather, he confronts his own shattered personal history and the mysterious human capacity for renewal.
Richard Currey served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972 in the U.S. Navy. He was trained in jungle warfare and special operations, and was a medical corpsman attached to the Marine Corps's Fleet Marine Force. He has written Crossing Over: A Vietnam Journal, which went on to vast acclaim and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and Lost Highway. He lives in Washington, DC.
Currey's debut novel is a powerfully written, haunting account of a young man's voyage to adulthood, confusion and alienation, beginning in America, taking us through his experiences in Vietnam and his return home. Apart from its honed lyricism, what makes this Vietnam novel superior to most others is that it is unself-conscious, allowing us to share the combat experience of Vietnam through a brilliantly chosen series of vignettes. The book shares a kinship with Michael Herr's Dispatches and, moreover, is fiercely focused and crafted with great skill. Curry has condensed his four years' experience as a combat medic into a slim but potent literary slide show. On his return to the States, as if to subtly emphasize this point, the narrator shows his Vietnam photos to his grandfather. ``You plan to show these pictures . . . to anyone else? . . .Don't do it. Put these in a shoebox somewhere. . . . They're too damn hard.'' The narrator, alienated from the central experience of his life, is also alienated from himself. In a symbol, not only of Vietnam, but of life after that wasteful conflict, the narrator dreams of an endless walk through the cathedral light of the jungle. Men drop away, but the rest continue walking, ``unable to continue and afraid to stop.'' This is a stunning narrative by a writer to watch. (April).
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Santa Fe Writer's Project
March 31, 2009
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