Ennui has set in. I attribute it to the medication for my vertigo which makes me sleepy. But I’ve read three really, really good books in the past couple of weeks and can’t in good conscience not post a little something about them. The writing in each is extraordinary.

So, first:


This is a book about the Viet Nam War and it is fiction, but so real you can taste and feel it.   O’Brien at the age of 22 was drafted into the infantry and served a year in Viet Nam. He came home, went to Harvard, and launched a writing career. As he says, “a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot solder. Almost everything else is invented.” Then he explains why story-truth is sometimes better than happening-truth.

Here is the happening-truth. I was once a soldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I am left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief.

Here is the story-truth. He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of about twenty. He lay in the center of a red clay trail near the village of My Khe. His jaw was in his throat. His one eye was shut, the other was a star-shaped hole. I killed him.

HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE by Michael Greenberg.

The first line reads:   “On July 5, 1996, my daughter was struck mad. She was fifteen and her crack-up marked a turning point in both our lives.” You cannot help but wonder what happens next when someone near and dear to you is struck mad. The story is told as it is happening, the onset,the symptoms, the diagnosis, the hospitalization, the treatment, the return home. At one point Greenberg takes a full dose of his daughter’s medication and we see clearly how potent a drug must be to treat a psychosis.

FATHER JOE: The Man Who Saved My Soul, by Tony Hendra

Tony Hendra, English comedian, satirist, writer for the National Lampoon, as a teenage boy wanted to become a Benedictine monk. This is the story of a lad aspiring to the simple, holy life, who became an blasphemous agnostic to whom nothing was sacred. He is a word-smith and has a delicious way with words. I remember the writer each morning at Mass when I look at the sanctuary light which according to Hendra, says, “Jesus is……IN!”   I was also impressed by the impact it had on the teenage Tony when he realized that Jesus had actually lived and walked  on earth if not “in the here and now, in the there and then.”

These books are not Catholic or even Christian. The language, especially in the war stories,  is vulgar (of course) but these authors are top-notch storytellers  and each book  is worth the time it will take you to read it.   You want insight?   You get insight!

I would have linked the books to their pages on Amazon but perhaps the affiliation of my website with Amazon has expired for lack of use.  They are there and cheap.  Treat yourself.