What It Is Like to Go to War

What It Is Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes ($16.50)

I watched the author of this book and Matterhorn interviewed on Bill Moyers.  I WILL READ this book.  — rls

Amazon:  In 1968, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty Marines who would live or die by his decisions. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his war experience. In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our soldiers for war. Marlantes weaves riveting accounts of his combat experiences with thoughtful analysis, self-examination, and his readings—from Homer to The Mahabharata to Jung. He makes it clear just how poorly prepared our nineteen-year-old warriors are for the psychological and spiritual aspects of the journey.

Just as Matterhorn is already being acclaimed as acclaimed as a classic of war literature, What It Is Like to Go to War is set to become required reading for anyone—soldier or civilian—interested in this visceral and all too essential part of the human experience.

An excerpt from the book is here.

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: With unflinching honesty, bestselling author Karl Marlantes captures What It Is Like to Go to War in his compassionate, powerful narrative on Vietnam. Marlantes does not shy away from recounting experiences that, outside the arena of war, are horrifying or embarrassing and addresses a soldier’s self-imposed “code of silence” as an attempt to fit back in to a society that “simply wants us to shut up about all of this.” While American pop culture celebrates the warrior spirit and winning the battle, “reconciling the moral conduct we are taught…with the brutal acts we do in war has been a problem for warriors of good conscience for centuries.” Marlantes tempers the brutal truths of fear, power games, and courage with a thoughtful prescription for our soldiers’ well-being; caring for our soldiers and their families differently will benefit society as a whole. In What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes sets a new standard for understanding the experience of war. —Seira Wilson

Review

“Karl Marlantes has written a staggeringly beautiful book on combat—what it feels like, what the consequences are and above all, what society must do to understand it. In my eyes he has become the preeminent literary voice on war of our generation. He is a natural storyteller and a deeply profound thinker who not only illuminates war for civilians, but also offers a kind of spiritual guidance to veterans themselves. As this generation of warriors comes home, they will be enormously helped by what Marlantes has written—I’m sure he will literally save lives.”—Sebastian Junger“Marlantes brings candor and wrenching self-analysis to bear on his combat experiences in Vietnam, in a memoir-based meditation whose intentions are three-fold: to help soldiers-to-be understand what they’re in for; to help veterans come to terms with what they’ve seen and done; and to help policymakers know what they’re asking of the men they send into combat.”—The New Yorker

What It Is Like to Go to War is a well-crafted and forcefully argued work that contains fresh and important insights into what it’s like to be in a war and what it does to the human psyche.”—The Washington Post

“Marlantes is the best American writer right now on war . . . With What It Is Like to Go to War a second Marlantes book resides on the top shelf of American literature.”—Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

What It Is Like to Go to War ought to be mandatory reading by potential infantry recruits and by residents of any nation that sends its kids—Marlantes’s word—into combat.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“In this thoughtful, literate work of self-exorcism, Marlantes tells tales of incredible bravery as well as brutality.”—People Magazine

“A precisely crafted and bracingly honest book.”—The Atlantic

“Marlantes knows what he writes. . . Raw, unsettling honesty pervades the work.”—Time.com

“Marlantes has written a sparklingly provocative nonfiction book. . . He is an exceptional writer and his depictions here are vivid.”—BookPage

“A gripping, first-person plea to consider the impact on the human spirit of being a soldier.”—Huffington Post

“To say that this book is brilliant is an understatement—Marlantes is the absolute master of taking the psyche of the combat veteran and translating it into words that the civilian or non-veteran can understand. I have read many, many books on war and this is the first time that I’ve ever read exactly what the combat veteran thinks and feels—nothing I have ever read before has hit home in my heart like this book.”—Gunnery Sergeant Terence D’Alesandro, 3rd Batallion, 5th Marines, U.S. Marine Corps

“Wrenchingly honest. . . . 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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.”—Kirkus Reviews

What It Is Like to Go to War offers profound insight on how we must prepare our youth who become our warriors for their hard and uncompromising journey through war’s hell and back home again.”—Vietnam Magazine

“With war such a part of contemporary American life, this book is deeply important, as timely and urgent as contemporary on-the-ground reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq.”—The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A sound debunking of anything smacking of the glory of warfare—but written with compassion, honest and wit for men and now women who fight and for all of those who care about them.”—St. Louis Dispatch

“A slim spiritual guide. . . Marlantes’s book is a sincere plea for better soldiers and veterans.”—Seattle Weekly

What It Is Like to Go to War is a courageous, noble and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today’s world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril.”—Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara

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