Sprawling, intense and visceral, Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke" will no doubt become one of the great books about the Vietnam War. With its large cast of characters, multiple plots and large scale, it's like a baggy Victorian novel soaked in blood, weed and sweat. It does drag on towards the end, but few other American authors (James Ellroy, maybe DeLillo) have attempted something as ambitious, massive and profound as this. Like "Jesus' Son," it's raw, yet filled with piercing, lyrical moments of beauty. Maybe not a masterpiece, but awfully close.
Brilliant writing, a tour de force of poetic evocation of the chaos of any war. Very funny satire (or truth) of the intercises between reality and military intelligence. Think "Deer Hunter" with a wicked sense of fun and devilish humor.
A narrow look at the Vietnam War era, focusing on CIA intrigue and the ruined lives of the characters. Crammed full of swearing, drunken and cynical guys with little insight into any larger context. Anti-communist perspective combined with misplaced religion. I kept reading this very long book because I thought surely someone would have learned something from the war. But everyone crashed and burned.
2007 - National Book Award - Fiction
Amazon.ca top 25 books of 2007.
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