Ward S(wift) Just John Sack - Essay

John Sack

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Firepower, air power, American tolerance of the slaughter of innocents—war in Vietnam has escalated even more things than these. In the spirit of the times the Saigon press corps has added to the press' own artillery, now often sending us the screeching statistic, the lachrymal adjective, the sentence that practically tears at readers' eyes and ears until we are cowed into one close corner of certitude. There are even reporters (and mind you, I don't imply they are wrong) who apparently deplane at Saigon with a soapbox as well as an Olivetti packed in their 44-pound allowance.

Not so Ward Just of the Washington Post. Finishing up a brilliant year as its correspondent in Saigon and in some of its scary environs and sitting down to write his Vietnam report [To What End: Report From Vietnam], he went to extreme lengths—he went, in fact, to Ireland—lest he let analysis escalate to advocacy and advocacy undermine his good faith. Mr. Just anticipated that on the shores of the Shannon, Vietnam's daily calamities and Washington's almost imbecile unawareness of them would be miles enough away to inform his prose without purpling it. Just was right. His book is beautifully restrained, innocent of all polemics and still irresistibly persuasive, a panorama of Vietnam's people, politics and meaningless disasters in a picture built of the most delicate of pointillist dots. Even as one began to think that the only alternative to passionate intensity was Washington's...

(The entire section is 617 words.)