23 Feb

A sufficient time ago, I received a review of my book, The Second Tour by email, and am posting this rebuttal with slight changes to protect the guilty.

RV, I suspect you meant well, so all my instinct says let this go, but the Marine in me can’t do that, so this email will not be “kind to my reader” either. I do believe your review was honest, and I appreciate that, and I also believe you when you say you’re not a very good book reviewer because you’ve proven it here. And even though you might be a voracious reader, it’s clear you don’t know much about reading except perhaps on the superficial level of grammar and spelling. You remind me of my grade school English teachers, the ones in the thick black shoes and hair tied up in a bun. If I had written the book you’d enjoy, it would have begun with "See Rootie run" and ended with "And we all lived happily ever after." If I wanted to be kind to my readers I would be scratching out romance novels rather than attempting to give readers an experiential insight into combat and its aftermath. It wasn't pretty, RV, and you know that. It wasn't linear sequential either, at least not afterwards, and it certainly wasn't over when it was over, and still isn’t. But most of all it sure as hell wasn't something that would give lazy readers warm fuzzy feelings as they drink hot chocolate in front of boob tubes. My impression is that the book didn't suit your expectations in the first fifty pages so you never finished it. If you had, you would know that a LAW was described later in the book, and you would know why there’s no quotation marks around dialog, and you would know whether Rotan wounded or killed the LT and why, and if you had had a tour like mine you would have sometimes lost buddies before you knew their real names. In fact nearly every fault you cite in this novel is explained elsewhere in the book – in ways careful readers of literature would uncover. I did not write this book so it could sit in some archive among the thousands of traditional novels already out there describing our war. I wrote it to stand the test of time. I broke your comfortable writing rules on purpose because that war broke our ways of waging war (it wasn’t a tank war, for example). I strove to stretch and strain the craft of fiction to more closely reflect the confusion of firefights and the intrusive thoughts of PTSD, not to satisfy the reading comfort-zone of Joe The Plumber and his lazy ilk. And if you can’t distinguish the difference between mechanical errors made through ignorance and those purposefully aimed at literary experimentation, then that reflects on you as reader, not me as writer. Command of language and form is everything in literature. Do I want to sell books, sure. Do I want to make money, sure. Did I write this book to make money, no, although I’d certainly like to get my investment back – who wouldn’t? Do you honestly believe I’d let some yahoo editor at Goodreads, for example, destroy bookoo years of work just so I can make a friggin dime – not on your life. As for “no exposition of the country, the times, the war, the Marines, military procedure, jargon, geography, NOTHING,” if you had traipsed around the jungle as a PFC as I did you would know we had not the luxury of knowing or learning these things, although how you managed to simultaneously overlook the jargon in the book and find fault with it is beyond me. We had not the luxury of long leisure times in the rear contemplating these things, or reading newspapers, or listening to the radio, or basking in hot showers or eating hot food, etc. Need I go on? Need I remind you? You do make a couple of good points, however. I didn’t write about the good things that happened in Vietnam because I don’t remember the good stuff, and the major focus of this book has been the re-living of the experience (the healing process that takes place from the re-living of it) – and PTSD does not manifest from good memories. As for your point that I wrote “a long epistle” to myself, “an epistle of self-pity,” there’s some truth to the former but not the latter. The book started as a memoir to myself to try to make sense of what happened during my tour. But I did not then, nor do I now, feel sorry for myself. In fact I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world. My protagonist wants to come home because he spent the majority of his time humping the boonies in a flak jacket trying to survive; your protagonist wants to stay in Vietnam because he spent the majority of his time riding around the rear in a tank and having fun. 

Anyway, I thank you for serving, RV, and for the thought and effort you put into your review. I’d be very happy to refund your money if you’ll donate the book to a local library. At the very least, please post your review on Amazon so we can let readers decide between our two views of literature. I know, I know, you think you’re sparing my feelings or whatever, but the simple truth is if you really believe what you say then you should feel proud to go public with your opinions. Most of my reviews on Amazon and my website are not by friends and family; they’re by people like you, people I don’t know, so yours will fit right in. Good luck with your book. I’ve taken it off my wish list because I’m no longer interested in what you have to say. Besides, it sounds more like I’d be reading what Goodreads has to say. All my best, Terry

* The email will not be published on the website.