David Halberstam

The journalist David Halberstam died last night from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. He was 73. Halberstam, along with Neil Sheehan & a couple of others, reinvented American journalism under the historical pressure of the American War in Vietnam. What a terrible end to an astonishing career. Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest & Sheehan's A Bright, Shining Lie defined a new approach to writing contemporary history. Between them, they nail down a decade that revolutionized the ways in which Americans conceive of themselves. Vietnam "changed everything" in a way that September 11 certainly did not. In fact, those who claim that 9/11 "changed everything" seem to imagine -- in a breathtaking act of wishful thinking -- that the terrorist attack restored the United States to some sort of pre-Vietnam state of virtue. Update: Speaking of Vietnam, see Todd Gitlin's note on Halberstam's connection of the Vietnam folly to the Iraq folly.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.