El León Literary Arts, a small Berkeley publishing house incorporated as a private foundation, had set May 1 as the official pub date for "Matterhorn," ex-Marine Karl Marlantes' 700-page novel about the Vietnam War. The book was printed and review copies mailed out, but in late April, writer Tom Farber, who presides over El León, received calls from several New York publishers.
They had heard about the book from staffers at Barnes & Noble who'd read it when it was submitted in a first-novel contest, and they were interested in pre-empting El León's edition and joining forces to create a more widely distributed edition.
A deal was struck between Farber and Morgan Entrekin of Grove Atlantic, and copies already printed but not yet distributed will become galleys for the El León/Grove joint publication, on Jan. 1. This huge book couldn't at first find an agent or a publisher. Farber recognized its power. Take heart, writers.
Matterhorn is a terrific, towering novel. Marine Lieutenant Marlantes does for the Vietnam War what Lieutenant Sassoon did for the war in Flanders; what Sergeant Mailer did for the war in the Pacific; what Tenente Hemingway did for the war in Italy. He takes you there, shakes you, and never lets you go. Matterhorn will surely take its place on every armchair-warrior's bookshelf, shoulder to shoulder with Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, The Naked and the Dead, and A Farewell to Arms.
—Prof Jon Stallworthy, Editor, The Oxford Book of War Poetry.
Here we see heroism and sacrifice among the front-line troops, greed and deceit among the high officers and politicians. This Vietnam novel is as much a condemnation of politics as it is of war, even as it is a glorification of the emotional ties that bind the most unlikely of comrades forever, through and beyond life into death. As a combat veteran and writer, I find the story, the prose, and the characters of Congressional Medal quality.
—Chester Aaron, author of About Us
A gripping narrative, powerful and unflinching. There are scenes in this wonderful novel that I defy you to forget.
—Michael Fredrickson, author of A Defense for the Dead
I had the honor of serving in the same battalion as Karl Marlantes in Vietnam. There he proved himself to be one hell of a Marine. With Matterhorn, he proves himself to be one hell of a novelist.
Matterhorn made me relive events long shrouded in the mists of memory, mists as thick as the clouds that so often enveloped the grey-green mountains where Karl and I operated in that desolate, remote corner of South Vietnam. No other novel about Vietnam-including Jim Webb's Fields of Fire-does a better job of capturing the essence of what it meant to be a "grunt" in Vietnam than Matterhorn.
No doubt Karl and I differ over the wisdom of waging the Vietnam War in the first place. But reading Matterhorn, one understands what it was like to be at the "end of the line," where the lowly infantryman implemented national policy whether it made sense or not, where decisions made with Olympian detachment by those up the chain of command often seemed surreal to those of us who had to carry them out.
But in the end Matterhorn puts me in mind of Saint Crispin's Day speech of Shakespeare's Henry V.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Matterhorn is a powerful work of literature and a tribute to those who fought and died at the "end of the line."
—Mackubin Owens, Associate Dean, US Naval War College
Only rarely does a book like Matterhorn come along. It combines great American literature with sweaty palm adventure. You neither have to love war nor hate it to find yourself spell struck by Marlantes's rare gift of dialogue and revelation of gut wrenching combat.
—Mike Harreschou, author of Chain of Evidence
A born storyteller, Marlantes has for decades thought and felt deeply about how to bring home the Vietnam war. The result, as we shadow a new Marine lieutenant almost from day one on the ground, is a beautifully crafted novel of unrivaled authenticity and power, filled with jungle heroism, crackerjack inventiveness, mud, blood, brotherhood, hatred, healing, terror, bureaucracy, politics, unfathomable waste, and unfathomable love. Lt. Waino Mellas - green, ambitious, an Ivy League boy - ascends the steepest learning curve of his life in dialogue so vivid it will grab and hold you until there are no more pages to turn. Matterhorn is a tour de force of military fiction. I have never read a war novel, outside of War and Peace, that created such a living, breathing hologram of all sides of any war, from the smallest details - the songs, the hair, the drugs - to the most profound - the campaigns, the questions, the whole conflict as it breaks down and builds up class and race, inspiring and destroying patriotism in unforgettable characters who make you cry when they die and when they survive.
—Christina Robb, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of This Changes Everything: The Relational Revolution in Psychology
Marlantes has a knack for dropping period details into his prose without confining or delaying his story. Each of these details contributes to our knowledge of what it must have been like to serve in a war that the rest of us only argued about. We always knew it was hell, but now we know how. Marlantes has re-created an environment that is disappearing from collective memory and in so doing performed the public service of keeping it vibrant and alive in all its horror. It's true. If you weren't there, you are now.
—Paul Gambaccini, author of Love Letters
Matterhorn ranks up there with the best novels about combat in the green hell of Vietnam. This is a nose-in-the-mud,leeches-in-places-you-don't-want-to-think-about book. A Princeton-educated Marine lieutenant learns the hard way about class, callous brass, and deadly racial hatred. Marlantes writes some of the best leatherneck dialogue you'll ever read.
—John McChesney Senior Correspondent National Public Radio, San Francisco Bureau
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
By Karl Marlantes
A graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. He and his wife Anne live on a small lake in Western Washington. Matterhorn is his first novel.
OregonLive.com Article about Matterhorn