About the Vietnam War Literature Collection
Created in 1975, the Vietnam War Literature Collection contains imaginative accounts of Americans fighting in Vietnam. Included are fiction, plays, poetry, artists' sketches and miscellaneous works. A number of works in the collection were issued by vanity presses, printed in short-lived journals or not published at all. Historical, political and autobiographical accounts as well as protest literature set outside the time or place of the Vietnam War are excluded.
In the novels, the most common perspective is that of a combat infantryman, and many stories cover a tour of duty. Examples of these that are also notably well-written are Joe Haldeman's War Year, Charles Durden's No Bugles, No Drums and Dan Guenther's China Wind. Other novels feature such characters as nurses, professional officers, spies, reporters and the whole variety of persons who were involved in the war. Three have won National Book Awards. They are Robert Stone's Dog Soldiers (1974), Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato (1978) and Larry Heinemann's Paco's Story (1987). Robert Olen Butler's A Scent of Good Water was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1993. Many short stories in the collection have been included in such anthologies as the O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories.
Not all Vietnam War literature embodies these qualities of readability and literary merit, but taken as a whole, the imaginative writing about the war constitutes an important resource for understanding a recent and unsettling aspect of modern American history.