I’m not a lover of military stories, but I think Tracy Kidder is one of the best writers currently living on this planet. I picked up My Detachment in one of the English language bookstores in Paris that Amy and I discovered (Village Voice Bookshop in the 6th was my favorite) and gobbled it down on the plane ride home. It was magnificent – once again Kidder delivered a beautifully written book – this time about his personal experience as a Lieutenant in the Vietnam War. When I went online this morning to look at some of the critical reviews, I found several of them negative – suggesting that Kidder didn’t really “get it” and that the book is “pointless.” I thought those reviewers were missing the “point” – maybe I think Kidder is being too subtle, but he really does get at the fundamental “pointlessness” of war without either slamming you in the face with it or getting under your skin about it.
I’m going to be optimistic given my belief that Kidder chooses each of his words carefully and presume that he intended the title to have the double meaning I assumed when I picked up the book. While this isn’t The Soul Of A New Machine, it’s another great book from a masterful writer.