In this best-of History of Literature episode, Jacke revisits the topic of war and literature with three guests: Professor Elizabeth Samet (Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point), who teaches literature to military officers in training; Matt Gallagher (Empire City and Youngblood), a veteran who served in Iraq; and Tom Roston (The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five), who places Kurt Vonnegut’s writing in the context of his POW experiences in WWII and his position as an antiwar prophet to the Vietnam generation.
Full episodes are available at:
143 A Soldier’s Heart (with Elizabeth Samet)
Conflict Literature (with Matt Gallagher)
362 Kurt Vonnegut (with Tom Roston)
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In the 1960s and ’70s, the Vietnam War dominated the hearts and minds of a generation of Americans. In 1990, the American writer Tim O’Brien, himself a former soldier, published “The Things They Carried,” a short story that became an instant classic. Through its depiction of the members of a platoon in Vietnam, told largely through the tangible and intangible things in their possession as they humped their way through the jungle, O’Brien’s story captures the soul and psyches of young men engaged in a war they cannot understand and filled with a longing for home that must compete with the brutal circumstances of present-day reality. In this episode of the History of Literature, host Jacke Wilson reads the entire short story “The Things They Carried,” then invites Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, to join him for a discussion of the Vietnam War and the literary masterpiece it gave rise to.
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