I received this 20th Anniversary Edition of Fatal Light from the good folks at the Santa Fe Writer’s Project. I admit that Vietnam War history is not an subject that I have really explored. I’ve read a few things here and there, school assignments, mostly, but I am very glad I decided to tak this one on.
Fatal Light is absolutely lyrical – it is beautifully written, even in the midst of the most terrible situations. It is told in snippets, loosely connected scenes, parts of letters, bits of memories. It’s much as I would expect memories of such a traumatic time to be – disjointed, unconnected, but vivid.
“When I thought of the jungle from Saigon, the colors bled. Green had vanished. Elephant grass blurred and danced under the whip of helicopter blades. Yellow heat rose in a dream of empty air.”
The story covers the narrator’s final days before he’s drafted, his time in-country, through his arrival back in the States. Things aren’t any easier when he gets home:
“…I could never explain what had happened or where I had gone or what had changed me. I was not sure that I knew or wanted to know. ‘It just seems nothing I can say…’ I said, and faltered. ‘It’s like wanting everything to disappear.’
‘Nothing’s going to disappear,’ Earl said. ‘Except maybe you.’
I looked at him.
‘If you’re not careful,’ he said.”
The power of the words has not diminshed in the twenty years since it was first published. My copy was an Advance Reader Edition; purchase your copy at Amazon.com.