Robert Stone was born in Brooklyn in 1937. He is the author of seven novels: A Hall of Mirrors, the National Book Award–winning Dog Soldiers, A Flag for Sunrise, Children of Light, Outerbridge Reach, Damascus Gate, and Bay of Souls. He has also written short stories, essays, and screenplays, and published a short story collection, Bear and His Daughter, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in New York City and in Key West, Florida.

The Unconscionable War

In 1989, Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie presented a brilliant weaving together of one American soldier’s personal history and his country’s fateful efforts in Vietnam. With great sensitivity and originality Sheehan demonstrated how the story of Colonel John Paul Vann’s life may be read as a succession of events …

Battle Hymn of the Republic

At 938 pages in its new edition, Once an Eagle, a 1968 novel by Anton Myrer, is excessively long, but that is its greatest weakness. It is a best seller of mid-Sixties vintage, hence a better buy than the tone-deaf, subliterate contemporary product, and a rather superior example of its …

Ellison’s Promised Land

I’m walking down Elm Street, in the gathering dusk of a Sunday spring evening in New Haven. The streets are still. As I approach the corner of College, a two-tone Camaro pulls up at the red light beside me. The car’s a few years older than most others on the …

Waiting for Lefty

In the 1970s, Philip Roth, already established as one of the country’s important writers, began a series of novels that suggested the Central European surrealism for which he felt affinities and perhaps a distant filial regard. Hitherto, in such novels as When She Was Good, he had been the master …

American Apostle

During the 1997 Harbourfront Literary Festival in Toronto, Alfred Kazin delivered a talk in a theater at a sumptuous lakeside shopping center on the role of religion in American letters. The lecture was drawn substantially from his introduction to the volume under review. As Mr. Kazin was concluding his remarks …

The Croatians Are Coming

John Updike’s latest novel, Toward the End of Time, describes the burdened crawl toward death of a Boston stockbroker with the evocative Yankee name of Ben Turnbull. Turnbull is “semi-retired”: he spends most of his time poking around his house and grounds on the North Shore of Massachusetts Bay. He …

The Sins of the Fathers

“I tremble for my country,” Thomas Jefferson, the slave-owning patriarch of American democracy, once declared, “when I reflect that God is just.” Jefferson was a wise man and a very cautious optimist in regard to human nature. He was not a pious man; his reference to God’s justice refers to …

The Loser’s Loser

Lee Harvey Oswald wanted his name to go down in history and he got his wish. Sometimes it seems that before all America knew those five nerdish syllables nothing could go wrong for us, while in the years since Thanksgiving time, 1963, nothing has gone quite right. This may be …

Looking the Worst in the Eye

Wilfrid Sheed’s In Love with Daylight describes several recent years he spent fighting illness, addiction, and depression, winning through to that strangely elusive condition in which the plain light of day, without being unbearable, is bright enough to keep the heart up. Sheed’s account of his illness is underlaid by …

Oliver Stone’s USA

Salvador, the 1986 movie that introduced the directorial work of Oliver Stone to the world, is a film of considerable interest. Most people who saw it were impressed by its gritty, cinema-verité style and its atmosphere of headlong, unpredictable violence. Everything about it seemed authentic, from the squalid anti-glamour of …

Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You!

In 1956 I was eighteen years old and a Seaman First Class in the United States Navy. I had joined during the summer of 1955 at seventeen and been sent to the Navy’s Radio School at Norfolk. Later that year I was assigned to the class of ship known as …