Book Short: In Pharaoh’s Army

I’m a huge fan of Tobias Wolff. I loved his novel Old School and his memoir This Boy’s Life is a classic of the genre.

I just finished his memoir of a young manhood fighting in Vietnam called In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War. It’s terrific. Virtually every sentence is rhythmic and supple. Here’s one sentence I underlined:

Not one person out there cared whether I lived or died. Maybe some tender hearts cared in the abstract, but it was my fate to be a particular person, and about me as a particular person there was an undeniable, comprehensive lack of concern.

I know of no other living American writer with as deft a touch. Newsweek says, “He’s a hell of a writer…he writes such spare, whistling prose that you’d follow him anywhere, even into battle.”

I highly recommend Wolff’s memoirs and novels.

1 comment on “Book Short: In Pharaoh’s Army
  • Thanks, Ben, for highlighting this great book. As someone who lived in Vietnam for two years and traveled to many of the battle sites, the other one I recommend for readers interested in this subject from a personal/philosophical perspective (with a lot of military history as well) is the classic Cat From Hue by John Laurence. For those more interested in Vietnamese culture/history, the absolute best is Sacred Willow, by Duong Van Mai Elliott.

    I am a daily reader and always enjoy your posts. Thanks for writing!

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