Frequently while reading "The Lotus Eaters", I was forced to acknowledge my limited understanding of the way the tortured colonial history of Vietnam shaped our later military misadventure there. How is it I know so little about a country that dominated the news during the most impressionable period of my life? How many of you near my age share that gap? Gen X and millennials: How well are you tuned in to the complex histories of Iraq or Afghanistan and how that shapes or distorts our misadventures there?
"During the heat of the day, the air was so thick it tasted green on the tongue, like swallowing a pond." Throughout Tatjana Soli's gripping 2010 novel, evocative prose like that put me in country. And the compelling story of three people - each fighting a human battle as the war rages on around them - puts Soli's book in great company with classic war novels like "For Whom The Bell Tolls." "Like a snake swallowing its own tail, war created an appetite that could be fed only on more war."
Though I haven't yet begun watching the Ken Burns documentary series on Vietnam, "The Lotus Eaters" has inspired me to do so. I'm also returning to Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam: A History", a book I've started at least once before but now feel compelled to finish for my own education.