How is it that a small bookstore in Albuquerque's North Valley, BOOKWORKS
is hosting world-famous author of what many are calling (including me) the best book
on the infamous "Vietnam Conflict" ever
Well sir, it just happens that the author's son is getting married this week in Albuquerque!
Nice Gun; Great Book
Karl Marlantes meets and greets a fellow Vietnam Veteran after forty years
For Washington State writer Karl Marlantes, his "book tour appearance" just might make some of his wedding trip to the Land of Enchantment a tax deduction. At the very least it provided a coup for Bookworks and for all of us who got to see the creator of 2nd Lt. Waino Mellas and the kids of Bravo Company up close and personal.
A rapt audience of Sheriff's Deputies, a fellow Yale grad, a Vietnam War Veteran from Carlsbad who knew the author and had not seen him for forty years and others thoroughly enjoyed the show. That Carlsbad compatriot was, in fact, a model for the character, Sargent Rock. All in all it was one fine show, complete with a reading from the novel and a generous and heartfelt Q&A, discussing matters of race, feminism, current wars, warriors, and the fact that his publication success after some thirty years of rejections can be attributed to the fact that women LOVE this book.
"War trauma is war trauma," Karl Marlantes stated. This book in the words of the author is the retelling of the Percival Tale
in which an archetypal warrior learns compassion. In the audience was a member of the Sheriff Department's K-9 Unit. He must have found the questions about the warrior dog, Pat, to be of interest. I, for one, did not know that when the Vietnam Era came to an end, all canine soldiers
were put down, as it was thought they could not be "good dogs" back in the world
. Turns out, many of the Canine Caretakers re-upped their enlistments just to keep their loyal dog heroes alive.
Along with a brief reading from the novel by the author, this was truly a night of stories and sharing. We learned that Marlantes' own brother went to his local draft board and stated,"You're going to kill an All-State Quarterback," referring to himself. Karl's brother was not
sent to Vietnam. The book very much deals with the fact that the soldiers of that war, like so many wars, were very young ... just kids. And that racism was rampant. According to Marlantes, at least 200 confirmed fraggings, deemed murders, took place during the war and most were race-related. Marlantes says that the first Mexican food he ever ate was in Vietnam, when a soldier's family sent over tamales
. "War was a great equalizer of racial differences, but when we came out of the bush," Marlantes said, "the Blacks, Whites, and Mexicans all broke off into their very separate groupings."
What kept Marlantes going as a novelist after thirty years of rejections? He wanted to truly connect with those war protestors who hated him upon his returning to North America. "I just wanted to tell my story. We were all kids." Are the current questions about gays in the military the new racism? The issues do seem similar to Marlantes. He points out that the great warrior Alexander the Great was gay. He also shared with us the fact that the hill made famous by the title of his book, is NOT the infamous Hamburger Hill. The Matterhorn was just one of many hills
taken by our soldiers at great cost.
Meet the novel's Sgt. Rock in person
Marlantes is currently working on a non-fiction book about the effects of war on warriors and their families. The audience had so many questions that he did not tell us the name of the book, but I will happily await its deliverance. I hope that the weather is amazingly gorgeous for his son's wedding this weekend in the Land of Enchantment. I, for one, am thankful for weddings!
Click to view: Karl Marlantes in Albuquerque on YouTube
[Photography courtesy Aquila Arts LLC]