#documentary #fiction / nonfiction #ken burns #john d'agata #literature
“You just don’t know,” she said. “You hide in this little fortress, behind wire and sandbags, and you don’t know what it’s all about. Sometimes I want to eat this place. Vietnam. I want to swallow the whole country - the dirt, the death - I just want to eat it and have it there inside me. That’s how I feel. It’s like… this appetite. I get scared sometimes - lots of times - but it’s not bad. You know? I feel close to myself. When I’m out there at night, I feel close to my own body. I can feel my blood moving, my skin and my fingernails, everything, it’s like I’m full of electricity and I’m glowing in the dark - I’m on fire almost - I’m burning away into nothing - but it doesn’t matter because I know exactly who I am. You can’t feel like that anywhere else.”
For Mary Anne Belle, it seemed, Vietnam had the effect of a powerful drug: that mix of unnamed terror and unnamed pleasure that comes as the needle slips in and you know you’re risking something. The endorphins start to flow, and the adrenaline, and you hold your breath and creep quietly through the moonlit nightscapes; you become intimate with danger; you’re in touch with the far side of yourself, as though it’s another hemisphere, and you want to string it out and go wherever the trip takes you and be host to all the possibilities inside yourself. Not bad, she’d said. Vietnam made her glow in the dark. She wanted more, she wanted to penetrate deeper into the mystery of herself, and after a time the wanting became needing, which turned then to craving.
I love The Things They Carried. It is such a fascinating view of the human mind through the lens of war and I could wax poetic about so many of the subtleties and great gems to be found in the stories but I’ll just leave this here as an example.