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Build Your Cabin

Ian Sansom: ‘Caribou Island’, 3 March 2011

Caribou Island 
by David Vann.
Penguin, 293 pp., £8.99, January 2011, 978 0 670 91844 7
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... David Vann’s novel – his debut, after a short story collection, Legend of a Suicide (2008), and a memoir, A Mile Down (2005) – is a book that makes Cormac McCarthy’s The Road read like a walk in the park. Compared to Caribou Island, The Road is grim-lit lite. After 200 pages of unrelenting misery, McCarthy breaks down and accepts the possibility of grace: after a long trudge through a post-apocalyptic landscape, a woman turns up on the last page, out of the blue, and says: ‘The breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time ...

Losing the War

Robert Dallek, 23 November 1989

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam 
by Neil Sheehan.
Cape, 861 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 224 02648 8
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... fix the problem before its cost in blood and treasure agitated public questions. As the journalist David Halberstam emphasised in 1972 in The Best and the Brightest, the experts were less than wise. More important, the making of far-reaching overseas commitments without a Congressional and public consensus was a formula for political failure at home and for ...

Who’s in charge?

Chalmers Johnson: The Addiction to Secrecy, 6 February 2003

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers 
by Daniel Ellsberg.
Viking, 498 pp., $29.95, October 2002, 0 670 03030 9
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... efforts. To do this, Ellsberg associated himself with another legendary figure, John Paul Vann, then working as an adviser to the US Agency for International Development. With Vann at the wheel of a jeep, they drove all over South Vietnam. Vann taught the neophyte Ellsberg many ...

Lectures about Heaven

Thomas Laqueur: Forgiving Germany, 7 June 2007

Five Germanys I Have Known 
by Fritz Stern.
Farrar, Straus, 560 pp., £11.25, July 2007, 978 0 374 53086 0
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... a better account of Soviet historiography than Stern’s (‘brilliant and unanswerable’); C. Vann Woodward, a ‘master historian’, tells him that, after reading only the introduction, he already knew he had much to learn from Stern’s first book. ‘And the personal letters!’ Stern received about his second book: J.K. Galbraith called it ...

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