Extra! Extra!! David vs Goliath!!!
In 1995, when reading my paperback copy of The Sorrow of War, by the North Vietnamese veteran and novelist Bao Ninh, I would fall into a trance, feel as if I were floating above my bed. What was happening, I did not know. Several months later, traveling in Southeast Asia, I invented excuses to not locate Ninh.
Once home in New York I purchased the book in hardback; at the sight of Ninh’s dust jacket photo I saw again the faces of enemy soldiers my platoon had hunted down, and who’d hunted us. That night I dreamt my platoon was trapped, out of ammo, trying desperately to escape.
In the winter of 1998 I sent Bao Ninh a hard copy letter. Two months later I received his reply: “On the occasion of Christmas and the New Year, I am very glad to send you our warmest regard from Vietnam. I wish you and your family a new year full of happiness. I hope we will soon meet each other in Hanoi.”
Two years later, I decided to attend the annual William Joiner Institute Writer’s Workshop, located at U Mass Boston. On the first day, while seated in a packed auditorium, forty meters to my right, I noticed five Vietnamese men waiting to be introduced to the audience. Their remarks concluded, single file, they headed back to the exit at the rear of the room. Instantly I jumped up, and pushed past a gauntlet of outstretched legs.
“Excuse me…excuse me…” I said, following my target. “Bao Ninh!” I stammered as he neared the…