Philip Caputo Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Philip Caputo 1941–

American novelist, journalist, and nonfiction writer.

Caputo has achieved success with works that draw upon his experiences in Vietnam. Caputo was among the first American soldiers to arrive in Vietnam in 1965; the sixteen months he spent in combat there provided the material for his critically acclaimed first work, A Rumor of War (1977). Upon his discharge from the Marine Corps in the late 1960s, he became a journalist and, as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, returned to cover the fall of Saigon ten years after he first arrived in Vietnam. The dual perspective of a soldier and a foreign correspondent enabled Caputo to write with an insight uncommon among chroniclers of the Vietnam War.

Hailed for its candid depiction of the excitement as well as the horror of combat experience, A Rumor of War received overwhelmingly positive reviews. One critic claimed Caputo's memoir is "unquestionably the very best work to appear on the Vietnam War," and William Styron noted that "some of Caputo's troubled, searching meditations on the love and hate of war, on fear, and the ambivalent discord that warfare can create in the hearts of decent men, are among the most eloquent I have read in modern literature."

Caputo's second work, a novel entitled Horn of Africa (1981), shares with A Rumor of War the exploration of violence in human nature. His next novel, DelCorso's Gallery (1983), is set in Vietnam and Lebanon and incorporates Caputo's journalistic experiences in these countries. Although his novels have been less enthusiastically received than A Rumor of War, Caputo's work is widely praised for its vivid and insightful descriptions of human violence and its compelling, persuasive narratives.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-76.)