Happy Birthday REMF!

David Willson 2009 by Brian McNerney

David A. Willson, born June 30, is the nearly unique novelist of the majority American military experience in Viet Nam.   He would stay up late typing a long letter home after each hard day filing memos at the administrative center at Long Binh.

His REMF Diary, REMF Returns and In the Army Now draw on these notes to summon the bureaucratic reality of war and modern life.  They take off into office daydreams such as a love affair with Madame Ky.

Marc Leepson, arts editor of the Veteran, interviewed David for the Viet Nam Literature Project on the occasion of Veterans Day in 2010. Listen to the recording, read the transcript, or go to the Wikivietlit entry on David to start reading his work.

It is a final irony of an unfunny war that David and all the support personnel at Long Binh bathed and cooked in surplus dioxin dumped into the water supply, eating and drinking Agent Orange every day.  After two bone marrow transplants for multiple myeloma, we congratulate David on another year!

7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday REMF!”

  1. Happy Birthday, you old Bastard. I wish you many more. And remember; you’ll always be older than me.
    Over, your Brother, Dave Connolly

  2. the david willson interview last november opened something up for me. with ample fodder for resentment about the war, AO, and its sequellae – david dealt in humor and equanimity. what a gift the transcript is! i will lay around and listen to the recording the next time i need to straighten myself out. thanks dan and happy birthday david – long may you run. v

  3. Happy Birthday, David. I am so pleased that we got to talk at those Popular Culture Association meetings, and to do a little correspondence back in the days when that meant postage stamps. What I appreciate most about your novels (especially given the increasing militarization of America and the return to WWI era platitudes about Warriors and The Fallen as diversions from actuality) is your steadfast refusal to try to render your own service and our war in general in heroic terms. Too many veterans, I think, including veteran writers, do our nation a major disservice by failing to state home truths in order to protect whatever respect for service might otherwise come their way. I’m just now beginning to look for an agent for my own Viet Nam novel (Chanser Rules) which aspires to work in the tradition you work in, fiction that prefers honesty and humor to self-serving or ideological grandiosity. You have done more service to America with your own typewriter than you did with your army-issue typewriter. Live long and well, David.

  4. The day before David’s birthday I get the British edition by Corvus of “Matterhorn”, Karl Marlantes’s Viet Nam War novel. David can but only love the art of the cover: helicopters, the green of the jungle, the red lettering of the title, the orange sky. All these details our friend pointed out so rightly at a PCA conference a good twenty years ago. Ever since I have never looked at ‘Nam books the same way. He taught me how to spot them from miles away.
    David, my friend, I’ll soon travel from France to Washington state to visit you and show you that cover.
    Many happy returns in the meantime.

  5. Born in 1957 to a dad who was too old to go and a future brother much to young to go, I experienced the taking leave of neighbors and friends’ brothers for Viet Nam. Back then no one worried when the network news told the truth in images to 10 to 15 year old children – and my principal relationship was with a knitting and news addicted grandmother. When my first born child Max emerged a male in 1980 I cried inconsolably about the threat that someday someone would try to take him away from me and send him to a war like that. That birth began my phobia about things Viet Nam and war. Thirty years later, when Max had aged out of any even imagined possibility of a draft, I breathed again. The universe brought me Dan Duffy in 2009. Dan brought me David Willson in his “I am Getting Over a Virus” essay (see Dan Duffy entry on Wikivietlit). Now that Max is safe from at least that mortal threat, the body of history and imagery and literature of Viet Nam is my steady diet. I found Matterhorn a good re-intro, but covers of the 13th Valley and the Barking Deer conjure the music / tastes / smells / styles of the age more completely for me. I am in 2011 doing the homework of a girl who was 13 and semi-sentient in 1970. Dan and I will share the monstrously important oeuvre with my children, my niece and nephew, our 20 something fan club at the co-op in hillsborough NC, future grand-children, and anyone who will listen so that David Willson’s voice and the witness of others like him will persist.

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