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Stanley Karnow, 1925-2013
January 28, 2013 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Stanley Karnow, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and historian, has died at age 87. He won the prize in 1990 for his book In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (discussed on Booknotes). He is best known, however for his work on Vietnam. His book Vietnam: A History was widely acclaimed and its companion series on PBS, Vietnam: A Television History won six Emmys and a Peabody award and was one of the most widely watched documentaries on PBS. He discussed the war in 2000 in this Salon interview. Needless to say, his reporting was not appreciated by everyone.
posted by TedW (9 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mr. ambrosia and I traveled through Viet Nam in 2006, and read Vietnam: A History before/during the trip. A great book, and I can't tell you how many times one of us would put the book down and look at the other and say "why the hell didn't anyone in the Bush Administration read this book? They are making all the same mistakes again! Aaaargh!"

Sigh.

Seriously, if you haven't read the book, read it.


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posted by ambrosia at 10:01 AM on January 28, 2013


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posted by jquinby at 10:02 AM on January 28, 2013


I can't tell you how many times one of us would put the book down and look at the other and say "why the hell didn't anyone in the Bush Administration read this book? They are making all the same mistakes again! Aaaargh!"

If you really want to blow your mind, read On Strategy by Harry Summers.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:28 AM on January 28, 2013


Vietnam is a great book, and reading it was one of my formative political experiences.

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posted by OmieWise at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2013


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posted by Renoroc at 10:44 AM on January 28, 2013


Yes, Vietnam is a terrific book—not many reporters make such good use of the work of historians, and his reportorial skills enabled him to get and deploy quotes brilliantly. From p. 383 of my (1984 paperback) edition, talking about the American inability to bully the South Vietnamese into doing what they wanted them to do: "As a Saigon government official privately explained it to me at the time [circa 1964], 'Our big advantage over the Americans is that they want to win the war more than we do.'" That quote could be used verbatim by any number of locals the U.S. has supposedly been helping to fight off evildoers since then.

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posted by languagehat at 11:09 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by ahimsakid at 12:33 PM on January 28, 2013


I've read Vietnam a couple of times and agree with the high assessments, but I've made a couple of false starts with In Our Image and got bogged down in the incredibly detailed recounting of obscure stuff. I'm interested in the topic, especially the struggles for independence against the Spanish and Americans. Maybe I'll skip ahead.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2013


My senior year in high school, I had enough credits to graduate and I was headed to music school so I didn't care about my GPA. So I approached a couple of my favorite teachers and asked, "I need to enroll in classes, but I'm not going to study for tests and I don't care if I flunk. I just want to be exposed to some interesting stuff. Is that okay?"

One of those teachers was in the history department and had scheduled a fall class on the civil-rights movement and a spring class on Vietnam. Neither topic especially interested me, but I liked her so I took the plunge. For the former she assigned readings from Milton Viorst's out-of-print Fire in the Streets, and for the latter we read Karnow's Vietnam. Those ended up being my favorite books from high school and I absorbed more from them than from maybe anything else in those four years.
posted by cribcage at 1:54 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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