Philip Caputo D. Keith Mano - Essay

D. Keith Mano

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

What can be said? This is the hardest review I have ever had to write. Okay: there are three options. I can hang it up now, at sentence four. Or I can tell you that A Rumor of War is the most daunting and significant personal account yet generated by our great dishonor, Vietnam—which Rumor is: full stop: no qualifications—and end my assessment, my responsibility, there. Yes, but would that be enough? Would you read it? Oh, I'd like to have authority over your life. For just this moment. To hit you across the mouth, take your first-born child, invalidate your credit cards, whatever, if you don't read A Rumor of War. Now. I am that sick with passion for this book.

Or, option three, I can tell you what happened to Marine Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo in Vietnam. My review might then astonish you—but never as the book would astonish. Because its force depends on a slow acceptance: an acceptance, by you, of Lieutenant Caputo—half fearful soldier, half courageous soldier, half cynical, half enthusiastic—and, after three hundred pages, you will accept. (p. 1001)

Caputo hasn't written a leftist harangue (though I could easily have forgiven him for that). Indeed Rumor is more or less apolitical. It transcends the hawk-dove face-off. It's about young men under unreasonable stress: more persuasive for that. Caputo qualifies: the credentials are impeccable.

Take his brilliant analysis of heroism:...

(The entire section is 607 words.)