By Mark A. Heberle
A Trauma Artist examines how O'Brien's works variously rewrite his personal traumatization throughout the warfare in Vietnam as a endless fiction that mockingly recovers own event through either recapturing and (re)disguising it. Mark Heberle considers O'Brien's occupation as a author in the course of the prisms of post-traumatic pressure disease, postmodernist metafiction, and post-World warfare II American political uncertainties and public violence.
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Extra info for A Trauma Artist: Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam
Beyond the writerliness of the texts, moreover, O’Brien’s ﬁction is deliberately marked with the very repression, amnesia, and displacement that characterize traumatization and that make a full and clear account so 16 FA B R I C AT I N G TR AU MA difﬁcult to assemble. In trauma therapy, recovery of the primary experiences precedes and makes possible recovery of the damaged self and thus psychological reintegration. O’Brien’s narratives mimic such therapeutic revelations of the truth, but each book refabricates the trauma of its predecessors as well as anything that may have happened to or been observed by the author himself.
Therefore, traumatic events can never 14 FA B R I C AT I N G TR AU MA be completely consigned to what has happened, because they anticipate what will and must happen, providing an illumination that can be difﬁcult to accept. Witnessing the sudden and unexpected death of others anticipates one’s own, and life as usual cannot be easily resumed after the survivor has seen the end of his or her own story. In The Nuclear Age, William Cowling foresees thermonuclear annihilation, and he knows that the world will eventually come to an end.
Bruce Franklin has labeled the “myth” of abandoned POWs, a ﬁnal cruel fantasy of enemy sadism and American suffering, senselessly and petulantly blocked political normalization for twenty years while perpetuating futile shame, guilt, and recriminations within the United States. The American failure to recognize Viet Nam was not simply a political gesture or economic punishment but also a nearly delusional continuation of the war by other means that refused to accept either defeat or peace, had outlived FA B R I C AT I N G TR AU MA 19 any political or economic rationale years before the 1995 normalization, and assumed that incarcerating Americans had some punitive or political value for the Vietnamese government.
A Trauma Artist: Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam by Mark A. Heberle