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Karl Marlantes, 3 Decades Spent On Debut Novel About Vietnam

Pete Springer/OPB

Seaside native Karl Marlantes spent 30 years writing “Matterhorn,” his bestselling novel about the Vietnam war. He served as a Marine in Vietnam.

“When I needed to deal with the war, I would go into the basement and whale away on this novel. It kept me out of the bars and off drugs. The question is why I kept trying to get it published.”

He first tried in 1977. Last year, Atlantic Monthly Press put out the hardcover version. The paperback followed this month. Marlantes calls “Matterhorn” a story with shades of the Percival myth, about a young man who has to learn compassion in a very hard place.

We’ll talk about how Marlantes’s novel parallels his own experience, the meaning of the Vietnam War today, and his new non-fiction work coming out in the fall.

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