Thursday, May 24, 2007
This is the second Tracy Kidder book I have blogged about, but I felt it was so different from his other work it was really worth mentioning. My Detachment is a memoir that tells a little of his childhood and college years, but mainly focuses on his year in Vietnam as a Lieutenant in a intelligence unit. He talks about the usual "war" stuff, the interaction of the men in his unit, the genuine fear they all felt a few times (being in the rear boredom was much closer to their daily experience) but most significant is his unflinching criticism of himself. He recounts lies told to his family in letters about the (non-existent) Vietnamese children he was befriending, how he manipulated his childhood sweetheart into dating him again by playing the "I'm going to Vietnam" card, and how he congratulated himself heartily for the things he should do automatically, like treat his men well. In the conclusion, Kidder talks about how he is accused of making the real people he writes about sound too perfect, and how he is so conscious of his own short comings he does not feel comfortable drawing attention to those of others. Very interesting but also very dark.