A Young Medic Goes From His Sleepy West Virginia Hometown To The Soul Searing Terrain Of The Vietnam War To Learn About American Innocence In A War That Brings New Horrors Each Day Later The Medic Returns Home To Confront His Shattered Personal History And The Mysterious Human Capacity For Renewal Of All The Many Books Written About The War This One Will Be Among The Handful Destined To Endure, Said Philip Caputo About This Beautifully Written And Powerful First Novel Richard Currey is a phenomenal writer He has a unique ability to create terrifying, beautiful, and unforgettable images with only a few words Fatal Light followed the story of a seemingly unremarkable Midwestern boy who had a most likely unremarkable future until he was drafted for Vietnam Right before leaving for the war, the main character meets a woman, Mary, and falls in love He proposes to her before leaving the country, but she hesitates to accept his offer since she did not want to worry that he has died or wait indefinitely for his return.The main character, who I do not recall is even given a name, heads off for Vietnam as a medic While in Vietnam he faces death both in combat and by contracting malaria His dreams of Mary and their future lives together help keep him alive He returns to the United States as a changed man with difficulty facing the future and reconciling his life as a soldier with that as an ordinary American.Fatal Light is not a book about war but rather a book about the human mind It follows a seemingly ordinary man s existence in a war for which the man can find no purpose A war where the enemy can be a seemingly innocent civilian by day but an enemy soldier at night While the book used the Vietnam War for its backdrop, the stage could have been inter changed for any other seemingly pointless war Dr Currey skillfully portrayed the inner thoughts of the soldiers during Vietnam Through few words, he describes the reflections of the main character as he waits for the opposition forces to strike, as he watches a follow soldier die, as he hallucinates during malarial fevers, and as he copes with deaths of seemingly innocent civilians The book culminates in the last section where we see the difficulty the previously ordinary man has in integrating back into a society that hadn t changed even though he had lived through events that can only be described as extraordinary.Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. Very well put together Shockingly gorgeous images of wartime Currey is able to turn phrases that will stun you. It is that living, while it goes on, can seem like light itself, a perpetual slide of morning out of dawn s rare edge of perfect watery blue, light that leans and spills from a space in the sky between mountains and a roof of storm cloud, light escaping a doomed past to live again above our heads in passing glory Fatal Light is my first experience with Vietnam fiction I specifically signed up for War thru the Ages Challenge again this year because I had no experience with Vietnam outside of some really great films Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Good Morning Vietnam, Born on the Fourth of July.Richard Currey first published this book twenty years ago it s been reprinted for its anniversary The book is not a memoir, however, it is based on Currey s own experience as a medic in 1968.Fatal Light is told in brief chapters which are snippets of the young soldier s life The stream of conscious prose works It s disjointed enough to feel as though you are truly inside the mind of the soldier, yet flows in manner necessary for it to be a seamless read.The soldier is drafted and even though this is not a popular war, it is obvious that his family has a patriotic spirit that invokes a certain amount of obligation for the narrator In fact, the father reminisces about his own military experience often with that wink wink nudge nudge manner about the booze and ladies that his son will experience.When in Vietnam we are introduced to both a beautiful backdrop and a miserably existence There is no character development, and no internal conflict It s a book about existence A sliver of someone s life that we sorta stumble upon But I guarantee you, once you get inside the narrator s head, it s difficult to get out This novella isn t surprising I didn t walk away from it with a greater knowledge of the war or its effects on our soldiers I did however walk away with a piece of humanity Of experience.It ends like a day in your life might end There s no warm emotional fuzzies There s no implication that the narrator cannot survive twenty years later in a world that he doesn t feel apart of It ends as if you went to sleep on your day, and then you woke up Does that make sense It just stops Mid life.In any event, I loved this book for the reality that it evokes And I highly recommend it I don t know how it compares to other Vietnam wars, but it s got to be good if it s re released, right I wouldn t categorize Fatal Light as a typical anti war book a big part of the novel portrays the life of the protagonist before and after he served in Vietnam In his preface, the author says he wanted to show how war changes a person, that a soldier is a different individual before and after war The most used means of Richard Currey illustrating this transition are scenic descriptions, depicting experiences of the protagonist in a very graphic and prosaic way On the one hand, those descriptions are full of atmosphere and quite stirring On the other hand, the shortness of the chapters leaves the reader in the dark about many traits of the author s alter ego I couldn t really connect with the central character, but maybe that s because he went to war and I didn t Historically, Fatal Light for sure is an important work considering the U.S history Regarding it s value as a novel, it makes a somehow unfinished impression on me. In The Things They Carried, Tim O Brien wrote at length about truth in war stories A true war story is never moral, he wrote If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie often in a true war story there is not even a point By this yardstick, Fatal Light rings true here we have no rectitude, or moral, or even a coherent narrative in any traditional sense What we have is a collection of short, sharply drawn vignettes that collectively sketch the story A naive young man goes off to war, endures it, and returns home.And that s about that There is no great character arc, no epiphany or moral development our young man is changed, to be sure, but the change serves no apparent agenda He does not, for example, Become A Man He simply comes back scarred And consequently, Fatal Light rings true in a way most war stories do not.It s not surprising to see that Tim O Brien blurbed it, for Fatal Light is similar to The Things They Carried O Brien s metafictional riffing is absent, and the vignettes in Fatal Light closely linked, but Currey s approach is similarly indirect He doesn t want to instruct us he simply wants to show us something.Show us he does Currey s background as a poet is on display this man can write, and his vignettes spill forth as a series of sharp, focused images.If you expect a novel to develop a character and advance a moral argument, then Fatal Light is not for you But if, on the other hand, you see a novel as an aesthetic experience, driven by a keen eye and a precise, original voice, then Fatal Light is highly recommended. Richard Currey s Fatal Light is an unusual novel in which an unnamed narrator provides readers with an inside view of what it is like to be a draftee before, during, and after the war Beyond the bullets, the Viet Cong, the mines, and the brutality of war, soldiers had to navigate a culture they didn t understand, malaria, injury, and unexpected relationships The prose is sparse and the chapters are small, but each line, each chapter can knock readers over or back into their seats after putting them on the edge.The unnamed narrator s family is dispersed between West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio, and the tranquility of the Ohio River and its surrounding landscape acts as the backdrop for the later contrasts of Vietnam s jungles and the war.Read the full review I had never heard of this little book or its author before receiving it as a gift a few years back Waited some time and finally threw it in a travel bag to take along on a train ride home for Thanksgiving, 2011 Not than a few pages in I became it was clear that Curry was a serious author I was very surprised by the strong quality of his prose, which at times read like a stream of conscious, yet this book is lean Complex without being silly Curry includes some of the classic Vietnam War topics but there also some very insightful and unique moments as well The book bogs down a little towards when the main character comes home The story veers it s closest to sentimentality A modest little piece of quality writing What ever flaws exist can be easily forgiven. A brilliant fictional account of a soldier before, during and most importantly after the Vietnam war Like Tim O Brien s The Thing s They Carried Currey cuts to the quick of the war scene that he isn t better known is hard to understand It starts off innocently enough but ends with a punch that you will never forget this book should be mandatory reading for all high school English classes, especially for those that see glory in warring A peculiar thin, growing old, my grandfather said It s as if you everything you are, your hopes and dreams, your wishes, desires, the way you feel about the world it s all the same The same as always But the world has changed around you The difference I m talking about is not I don t know, inventions and technology, and all that, it s something Like you ve lost your own time The rest of us continue to walk, although we have become confused about why, or where it is we must go, or do when we arrive, and we fear our destination than any beast we might imagine, and it is the eighth of June, and the ninth, and the tenth, and we are walking, afraid to continue and afraid to stop.
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- 210 pages
- Fatal Light
- Richard Currey
- 21 February 2019 Richard Currey