Nudelman’s essay examines Mary McCarthy’s Vietnam journalism in light of the challenge that modern warfare posed to realist method, and the experiments in narrative journalism that resulted. In the aftermath of Hiroshima, McCarthy feared that realism could not describe social conditions that staggered perception and belief. Despite these doubts, she traveled to Saigon in 1967 and to Hanoi a year later to report on the US war in Vietnam for the New York Review of Books. Both trips resulted in a series of essays that were quickly collected and published in book form. If Vietnam (1967) mounts a fierce critique of objectivity, instrumental to the conduct of the war, Hanoi (1968) forgoes journalistic convention altogether in favor of a subjective account of McCarthy’s difficult experience in North Vietnam. Taken together, these volumes chart a course from detached commentary to disorienting immersion as McCarthy divests herself of reportorial omniscience and pursues a painful form of self-knowledge in its stead. Situating these essays at the intersection of literary experiments in hybrid form and activist critiques of US militarism, Nudelman argues that McCarthy’s writing from Vietnam makes a vital contribution to the evolution of narrative journalism and illuminates the role of war—and war resistance—in shaping the genre.
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Franny Nudelman; “Marked for Demolition”: Mary McCarthy’s Vietnam Journalism. American Literature 1 June 2013; 85 (2): 363–387. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2079188
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