KARL MARLANTES VISITS POWELL’S
I heard the incredible author Karl Marlantes read last night at Powell’s. Even after a year of touring with Matterhorn, his novel set during the Vietnam War, Marlantes still elicited enthusiastic comments and questions from the audience that included a lot of veterans. Responding generously with thoughtful answers, Marlantes covered a wide-range of topics including war, of course, commenting that, “War is the failure of diplomacy,” but also saying that there would probably always be another war. When asked to compare the war in Vietnam to today’s conflicts, he said, “Afghanistan looks similar to me.”
Marlantes talked about how unfortunate it is that Vietnam War history is not taught in schools these days, and that most people who were there don’t talk about it. “We all know it happened but we don’t bring it up – like the alcoholic father.” Speaking to the fact that both hawks and doves have praised this book Marlantes said, “The book has been a touchstone for both sides of those controversial times.” He recently won the James Webb Award for distinguished fiction awarded by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
Another topic covered was PTSD. Marlantes said he suffered from nightmares and other war-related fall-out after returning stateside in 1969. “Writing kept me out of the bars.” On the anger he felt both during and after the war, he said, “I got over my anger because it’s (war) the human condition and you have to move on.”
Matterhorn took him over 30 years to write and he said, “I turned to Tolstoy to figure out how to keep track of all the characters” and also “WWI poets were very important to me when writing it.” Although Matterhorn is a novel, “Everything in the book is real, it happened.” And, “I tried not to let politics into the novel.”
Marlantes gave huge shout-outs to his current publisher Grove Press and to the small press El Leon for making all this possible. “Only one in ten books makes any money. A couple break even and the rest are a loss.” Fortunately he says, “Publishing is not dead.” His new non-fiction book will be released in the fall and he is hard at work on his third book. Thank you Karl for Matterhorn and for serving!
Grove Press, 2011