BUTLER, Robert Olen; CLARK, Tom
Typed Letter Signed and Book Review
1982. A typed letter signed by Butler to poet Tom Clark, regarding Clark's review. In 1981, Butler, who would later win the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, published his first book, The Alleys of Eden. It was reviewed by Clark in the February 11, 1982 Los Angeles Times, with the headline "Vietnamization of a Deserter's Mind." On May 12, Butler wrote to Clark, saying, in part: "I have received twenty major reviews of the book but none of them was more sensitive or insightful than yours. The best literary criticism actually explains an author to himself. That's what your review did. I understand my own book better after reading your review and I want to thank you for that." The letter is signed "Bob Butler." Also included here is Clark's original, 3-page manuscript review, signed by Clark: "...Desertion, Butler seems to say, is an inevitable act, made necessary by the human state. Every small movement is an abandonment of the past, with death looming over everything as the greatest desertion of all..." Clark's review makes it clear that Butler's protagonist -- an Army intelligence officer who ends up deserting out of self-disgust over his involvement in the torture and death of a Viet Cong prisoner -- is an analogue for the larger society, which deserted both Vietnam and those who fought there, leaving both the Vietnamese and the veterans as "displaced persons," in both countries. Clark's review is penned on the back of copies from a book about Celine and folded in half; near fine. A photocopy of the published review is included. Butler's letter is folded for mailing; else fine in a near fine envelope. With a copy of Alleys of Eden [NY: Horizon (1981)], which is fine in a very near fine dust jacket with a short edge tear. An insightful review of one of the best novels to come out of the Vietnam war, and the author's appreciative response. [#024022] $1,500
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