Neil Shea

writer | photographer | story consultant

Remembering Michael Herr

On Dispatches, mentors, and writing about war

Herr’s account of his years covering the war in Vietnam was one of several I’d assigned for the workshop that summer. I had been so thrilled to reread it and discuss it with my students that I’d written to Herr, who died last month at the age of 76, to see if he might speak with me. I knew it was a long shot. In the years following the 1977 publication of Dispatches, Herr rarely granted interviews, making clear again and again that Vietnam no longer interested him. He did not distance himself from the work so much as he refused to revisit its territory, declining to be pulled into the life, separate and surreal, that the book had achieved on its own. And yet the best piece of writing advice I ever received, and that I often recycle, is to Just do it, whatever it is, and so with Herr I had. Herr’s publisher agreed to forward the short note I’d written, while warning me that “Michael says no to everything.”

read the full story here.

Other Posts
Story Consulting

April 20, 2016

Watershed Stories

March 16, 2016

The Bear

February 12, 2016

VQR’s “True Story”

November 30, 2015

Documentary Poetry

October 21, 2015

Wedding Crashers

August 29, 2013

Snapshots of a Fading War

December 19, 2012

Absolute Power

March 01, 2009