Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Michael Herr, RIP

Sometime in 1975 or 1976, I bought a copy of Tom Wolfe's book 'The New Journalism', which in time has become something of a classic. This book consists of either complete magazine articles or chapters from books which had been or were about to be published. In time, I would buy some of these books.

In March 1978, I bought a copy of Michael Herr's book about Vietnam, 'Dispatches', which had just been published; one chapter of the book had appeared in Wolfe's collection, which was why I was so interested in it. Also, growing up in Britain during the late 60s/early 70s, I had been aware of the Vietnam war but knew very little about it. Herr opened my eyes.

It was also the time of the Litani operation, about which I was hearing on the radio and which echoed with what I was reading. At the time, I was staying at my parents' house in Cardiff, relaxing after final exams, and trying to write reports of seminars which I had attended during the year.

I don't know whether 'enjoy' is a suitable word to use when writing about a book which describes war, but I have to say that the book very much touched me. I heard an echo of it in the second half of Kubrick's "Full metal jacket" and was not totally surprised to discover that Herr was one of the scriptwriters.

I never encountered anything by Herr after that, but 'Dispatches' will always be part of me. Thus I was totally surprised to read his (excellent) obituary by Tim Page, one of Herr's closest friends in Vietnam. This article is as well written as 'Dispatches' was.

I have no idea whether Tim Page and Jimmy Page are related (probably not), but there is a photo in that Guardian obituary in which T. Page looks very similar to J. Page.

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