Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter
Announcements, Notices, and Reports
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John Steinbeck IV died on February 7, 1991, of cardiac arrest after routine back surgery. He was the author of the classic Vietnam War memoir, In Touch. He'd been hailed as "a second Steinbeck" which he authentically was. Many years later, having published no other books, John sought to have his memoirs reprinted, augmented by some essays and more recent writing. But he was told by his publisher that his book was inappropriate to reprint, that it was "too much of its time" another way of labeling it as dated and unreadable, which it is not.
Before meeting John Steinbeck IV in person, my impressions of him were formed by his book (and the lean and hungry picture of him on the cover), by a few brief letters, and by a couple of long telephone calls. When I finally met him in 1985 at Firebase Colorado, which he helped me to organize (he was living in Boulder at the time), I was shocked by his appearance. He was fat, breathless, terribly unhealthy in appearance. He seemed not long for this world. He was so far from the slender, intense, active young man of just a few years ago that I was unable to establish, in person, the easy intimacy that had been possible on the telephone. We spoke very briefly and never managed to get back together again.
I kept a first edition of his memoir on my desk for months, intending to send it to him for an inscription, but I never got around to it. Tipping in a signed letter would be silly and would fool me for a second into thinking I'd been a friend to a man who had been a great comfort to talk to when I had been going through a troubled time. John was a gifted and compassionate counselor and friend, and I miss him. I missed him even before he was gone.
It's very hard for me to deal with the effects of aging and disease, even though I know that none of us can remain forever young and healthy. But John was only 44 years old when he died. A young man really. A man with plans for publishing an autobiography in which he intended to examine the genetics of chemical addiction, and to trace what he believed to be his father's alcoholism to his own. But he was really just another son of a great man, a son who never lived up to the fabulous predictions made for him after his first and only book was published, and who never came to terms with being John Steinbeck.
John left a brother, Tom Steinbeck, a wife Nancy, and three children, Megan, Blake, and Michael.
I still keep John's unsigned book on my desk to remind me not to lose track of my friends. In my last letter from John, he said that "signs seem good" for a publishing project with Knopf. He closed, "Let me hear from you John." I never got back to him.
David Willson, author of REMF Diary, is a Contributing Editor to the Vietnam Generation Newsletter.
I would like to share with other scholars studying the Vietnam War a word of praise for the "Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War" collection at La Salle University. I am preparing a course on the literature and film of the Vietnam War and have just returned from a week of research in that special collection. The collection is extraordinarily comprehensive (the largest in the world in its area), well-organized, and diverse, containing novels, short stories, comics, films, filmscripts, videos, TV productions, plays, poetry, music, graphic arts, and packaged games. The collection is also user-friendly: I was given access to a locked, spacious workroom with a large table and an easy chair in front of the VCR. Best of all was the expert assistance of the collection's bibliographer, John Baky. Mr. Baky sent me an annotated list of videos in advance so I could prioritize the ones I wanted to see, and once I started working and new lines of inquiry emerged, he saved me hours of time by drawing relevant items to my attention. He was also able to tell me about research in progress around the country, so that I became more familiar with our community of scholars. Mr. Baky was extraordinarily helpful in making my limited time at La Salle as productive as possible.
On the basis of my experience, I highly recommend the "Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War" collection at La Salle University in Philadelphia to other scholars and teachers in the field.
Margaret E. Stewart, English Department, Washburn University of Topeka
A central event at this year's Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute at Cornell University was the Symposium on Vietnamese History, July 19-21. Keith Taylor, author of The Birth of Viet Nam, invited the leading historians in his field to each prepare an essay on one document important to Vietnamese history. Participants did not read their papers. Instead, each listened to a summary and critique of his argument by another participant, made a reply, and then answered questions from participants at large and the symposium audience. Xeroxes of the papers were available in the hall. Participants and their papers: Cong Tu Nguyen, Harvard, "Is the Thien uyen tap anh a 'Transmission of the Lamp' Text?;" K.W. Taylor, Cornell, "Voices within and without: tales on stone and paper about Do Anh Vu (1114 -1159);" John K. Whitmore, Michigan, "Ching-hsing and Cheng-t'ung in Dai Viet: the historiography of and on the 16th century;" Alexander B. Woodside, British Columbia, "Central Vietnam's trading world in the eighteenth century as seen in Le Quy Don's Frontier Chronicles';" Tran Quoc Vuong, Hanoi, "The Legend of Ong Gigong from the text to the field;" Nguyen The Anh, National Center for Scientific Research, Paris, "Texts related to the Vietnamization of the Cham deity Po Nagar;" Tra Tong Hiep, National Center for Scientific Research and University of Paris 7, "Chinese historical folklore in ancient Vietnam: commentary on a text in Linh nam chich quai , the 'Viet tinh' notice;" "Historical sites and local festivals in northern Viet Nam: a slide presentation by Virginia Gift;" Ha Van Tan, Institute of Archaeology, Hanoi, "Inscriptions form the 10th to 14th centuries recently discovered in Viet Nam"; Micheline Lessard, Cornell, "Jesuit perceptions of the Vietnamese;" Vinh Sinh, Alberta, "'Elegant Females' Re-encountered: From Tokai Sanshi's Kajin no kigu to Phan Chau Trinh's Giai nhan ky ngo dien ca ;" Shawn McHale, Cornell, "Charting the Rise of Women's Self-awareness in Colonial Vietnam: Women's Equality and Woman's Liberation from Nu gioi chung (1918) to Phu nu tau van (1929-34)"; William J. Duiker, Pennsylvania State, "Ho Chi Minh's Duong cach menh;" David G. Marr, Australian National University, "Ho Chi Minh's Tuyen ngon doc lap;" Christopher Giebel, Cornell, "Telling Life: An Approach to the Official Biography of Ton Duc Thang;" Hue-Tam Ho Tai, Harvard, "Of Myths and Mausoleums: The Cult of Ho Chi Minh in Viet Nam;" Patricia Pelley, Cornell, "History as Essence: Spirit and Transcendence in the New History of the Nation;" Wm. Theodore de Bary, Columbia, Comments; Benedict Anderson, Cornell, Comments; General Discussion.
It was a hot weekend in a hall without air conditioning. Everyone dripped with sweat. The speakers sat around a hollow square of long tables, with their name-cards facing across the square. The audience sat in rows ranking back from three sides of the square. Everything went smoothly: each participant was well-miked, and the format made for lively discussion among experts, rather than a series of talking heads. Sitting in the audience, I felt like I was eavesdopping on Southeast Asian Studies, which suits me fine. You have to know two kinds of Chinese, modern Japanese (for the scholarship), French, English and two ways of reading Vietnamese to get anywhere in this field, and a familiarity with Sanskrit and Lao and Khmer and Thai doesn't hurt, and I'm not going to live that long. Many of the historians showed marked literary sophistication. Alexander Woodside was just one of several who displayed an unusual acquaintance with Roman poetry in illustrating his points. It was a privilege to hear so many leading minds argue. Some attendees actually in the field felt insufficiently included by the seating and procedure. Moreover, the conference papers weren't available in xerox to the audience until Saturday morning, so it was hard to have anything to say when discussion was opened to the floor. It was also remarked that all the graduate students among the speakers were from Cornell. You can't please everyone.
SEASSI Director John Wolff greeted the audience at the beginning of the proceedings. He remarked that Vietnamese Studies have come a long way since they commenced in this country 30 years ago. Even 10 years ago, most of the work centered on the war, but that focus is now a thing of the past. Keith Taylor's undergraduate lecture classes on the full history of Vietnam are regularly oversubscribed. After Wolff spoke, the conference proper started. I've got notes on most of the discussion; give me a call if you're curious. I imagine the papers are available through Cornell or from the individual authors.
A newsletter for those interested in doing business in Vietnam. I have in my hands Vol. 1, No. 20, June 15, 1991, pages numbered 125-132. There's a lot of expensive garbage in the business newsletter world, but this looks like eight pages of information. There are two pages of Highlights, two pages of export statistics, a basic article on "Vietnam's Agricultural Industry," a two-page "Overview of the Draft Political Report to the Seventh Party Congress," and a very nice reprint of Pham Thanh's New York Times op-ed from the Gulf War, "Not All the Ghosts were Buried, Nor Should They Be," also reprinted in the April 20-21 edition of the International Herald Tribune. Each page is 8 1/2" by 11," with three columns. The annual subscription is $650/yr, for 23 issues plus two indices. When I was a consultant we would have repackaged the information from one issue and sold it to a client for a few thousand, so that's not out of line. As to whether a business executive would find a subscription a worthwhile expense, I have no idea. I can say that The Vietnam Newsletter is well written, carefully edited, dense with specific information, tastefully produced, and makes an effort to provide its reader with some of the larger pictures that will be necessary for acting in the new business environment in Vietnam. It's hard not to like a commercial letter that quotes the Second Inaugural above its masthead, "With malice toward none, with charity for all . . . let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds."
The masthead: "The Vietnam Newsletter is a semi-monthly newsletter produced by Kingship Limited, Room 2101, Causeway Bay Centre, 15-23 Sugar Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Tel.: (852) 576 8573. Tlx.: 61584 AHEAD HX. Fax.:(852) 576 8846. The Vietnam Newsletter is a joint venture between Kingship Limited and Tilleke & Gibbins R.O.P. and affiliate Tilleke & Gibbins Consultants Limited - Vietnam Consultants, Bangkok, Thailand. Editor and Publisher: Mathilde L. Genovese. Copy Editor: Donald B. Ellis. Researchers: Kingship Limited and Tilleke & Gibbins Consultants Limited. Statistician: Drew B. Vella. The Vietnam Newsletter utilizes research and information provided by industry, government, multilateral financial institutions, the news media, the Indochina Project (Washington, D.C.), the United States-Vietnam Trade Council (Washington D.C.) and the Vietnam-United States Trade Promotion Board (Hanoi, Vietnam). No responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by any party affiliated with preparation or production of The Vietnam Newsletter. All rights reserved. Copyright 1991 by Kingship Limited and Tilleke & Gibbins R.O.P. Reproduction in whole or in part without the written consent of Kingship Limited is prohibited. The Vietnam Newsletter is available by subscription only: US$650/year (23 issues plus two indices)."
Tom Hebert, Vietnam Bookman, 5 Marlene Drive, Burlington, CT 06013 is offering every item on his list at half price. Hebert has all the standards and many unusual items, already reasonably priced. Contact Hebert for the catalogue. It includes one-sentence descriptions. A fine opportunity for collectors, readers, and those who need a working library.
Click here to access a test handed out to the audience at a panel presentation in the Vietnam Studies Area during the Popular Culture Association conference, San Antonio, 1991. It was the product of a collaboration between four participants in the NEH-sponsored seminar on Teaching the Vietnam War held during the summer of 1990 at the Indochina Institute of George Mason University. All the attributed statements contained in the text are direct quotations taken from the various teachers, speakers and lecturers who staffed the seminar. Your tax dollars at work....
The Vietnamese Studies Bulletin, the voice of the Association for Asian Studies, Southeast Asia Council, Vietnam Studies Group, is appearing again. Volume 7, Number 1 came out in April 1991, with a promise to show up twice a year. The next one is due in October. The William Joiner Center has taken on the project. From David Hunt's editorial letter: "I am sending this issue to everyone on the list transferred to the Joiner Center by Edwin Moise, the last editor, and others who have expressed interest or who seem like potential subscribers. Please let me know if you wish to be included or if your address has changed. Most of you have already paid for subscriptions and are still owed issues, and for the time being the Bulletin will go free to newcomers. Once we are back on schedule, there will time to take up the question of subscriptions." Five double-sided typed pages, reports on "Economic Renovation in Vietnam Conference" from William Turley, "History of the Indochina War Conference," from David Hunt, "Conference on Vietnam's Economic and Social Reforms: Policies and Performance," from David Marr, a list of more than thirty "Graduate Students Working on Vietnam-Related Topics," about 20 items of "Other Research in Progress," 11 "Visiting Vietnamese Scholars," two pages of "Teaching, Research, and Study in Vietnam," an announcement of last summer's SEASSI, and miscellaneous "Notes." Write for subscription or send news to David Hunt, editor, Vietnam Studies Bulletin, William Joiner Center, Harbor Campus, UMASS/Boston, Boston MA 02125.
17 September 1991The Vietnam News Agency (VNA), based in Hanoi, has recently successfully expanded its English -language publications.
Previously, it had only been producing the 16-page weekly bulletin, Vietnam Weekly. Vietnam Weekly has now been coming out for just over seven years. In mid-June this year, the VNA commenced its (as yet) 6-day-a-week daily, Vietnam News. At 1200 dong (just over one US dollar) in Hanoi, and 1500 dong (for better quality paper) in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the four-page tabloid is not aimed at indigenous English speakers since the monthly income for many public servants is only about 60,000 dong.
Vietnam News front pages contain mainly domestic stories, but also any international news that includes mention of Vietnam. For instance, Vietnam/Australia cooperation on gold mining, a group of US citizens (including war veterans) doing a 'peace walk' from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to pressure Bush to lift the economic blockade, and diplomatic exchanges, such as the separate farewell given by the Vietnamese President and Premier to the Australian Ambassador, Graham Alliband.
There are usually two pages of international news, broken up according to continent or region, and with all such areas getting some prominence, and not just those with "crisis" news values. A lengthy interview with a prominent politician or an authoritative 'inform-atorial' (the New York Times calls them "news analyses") is common, as is a display ad for some commodity available in Ho Chi Minh City. There is also an occasional column where English -speaking foreigners give their thoughts on Vietnam. The back page is usually sports (often international sports coverage, where Vietnam is not mentioned at all), TV, and other entertainment, and weather (which matters a lot in a Third World country).
Contact addresses: Vietnam News Agency, Mr. Nguyen Kuyen, 79 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hanoi. Phone (42)54693 or (42)53508; FAX: (42)59617; Telex: (41)2311 VNP-VT. Vietnam Weekly is available in Australia at the ANU Australian National University Library, Asia-Pacific Division; contact George Miller, Canberra, 2600 Australia. Vietnam Courier, edited by Mr. Phan Doan Nam, 46 Tran Hung Dao, Hanoi; phone (42)53998; available care of the Vietnamese Embassy, 6 Timbarra Crescent, O'Malley, 2606, Australia; phone (06)2866059.
From Peter McGregor, Lecturer, University of Western Sydney, Nepean, Australia
The Translator, by Ward Just, 313 pp., A Richard Todd Book/Houghton Mifflin. 1991. $21.95. From the Wednesday, 9/11/91 New York Times review by Herbert Mitgang: "Paris serves as a place of liberation for two expatriates, one from Vietnam-torn America, one from guilt-ridden Germany. Read purely as a story of a couple who find each other and then are tripped by circumstances or as an allegory for the state of the divided world, Mr. Just's 11th novel proves his growing mastery of fiction with something urgent to say. It's rather daring of Mr. Justwhose previous novels and short stories are rooted in his background as a journalist in Washington and Vietnamto make his protagonist a German this time out. Sydney, the translator of the title, learned American English while working for the occupation forces. His father had been a staff officer, though not a Nazi, who was executed in the final months of the war; his widowed mother lives in East Germany. Sydney finds freedom from the past in Paris, where he works as a translator for a foundation that is secretly financed by the Central Intelligence Agency during the height of the cold war. In Paris he marries Angela, an attractive American with a wealthy but distant father. She is trying to recover after her brother has been killed in Vietnam. James Jones makes a cameo appearance, and so does someone who talks like Heinrich Böll.
I havent seen this book yet, but I bet its good. Former correspondent Ward Justs novels are all de facto Vietnam War books, which fact provides delightful ballast to his fascination with the techniques of Henry James. He manages to write interior monologues for public people, without drooling over the powerful as fellow establishment journalists David Halberstam and Neal Sheehan do in their alleged non-fiction, e.g. the star-struck dramaturgy of the funeral scene at the start of The Bright Shining Lie, and the Cabinet scenes in The Best and the Brightest.
Updated Thursday, January 28, 1999