Six years ago today, I went to Pepperdine for a job interview. It was my first time on campus and I remember it distinctly. I met some of my current colleagues during the first two interviews, both of which were held in a room that I’ve walked by all the time since then yet, oddly enough, have never entered again. I had lunch with two faculty, and we sat outside of the cafeteria and looked at the beautiful ocean in the distance.
Three or four years after college, I realized a desire to live my life as if to create a work of art. The lofty desire came partially from reading some of Auden’s early poetry. I hadn’t read anything by him, except for “The Shield of Achilles” assigned by Rosamond Spring in a Great Books college class. Prompted by a scene in the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” wherein a minor character reads out loud “Funeral Blues,” I sought out some of Auden’s voluminous poetry and prose. I don’t think I understood half of it, but I was definitely taken by the impressive range of his mind and of course his poetic lyricism.
Thinking about this list of “top ten Vietnamese songs of war,” I’ve had the hardest time with the songs in the middle of the list. But I knew exactly which song to begin the series and which one to end it.
For a starter, it is hard to find a better tune than Quê Hương Chiến Tranh – Country At War – if only for the title. Few titles in South Vietnamese music on war are as succinct or straightforward as this one, for it names the most significant experiences among twentieth-century Vietnamese: war and nation.
I returned to South Bend for dissertation defense in March 2013 and wrote the acknowledgements a week later. It’s probably the best part of the dissertation, ha! To my eternal regret, however, I completely neglected to acknowledge the office administrators at ND Department of History. A special if belated appreciation goes to Myrtle Doaks and Jeanette Torok. As they had done for many history grads over the years, they helped me with many things – and always with good cheer – during and after my years in residence. Ladies, thank you so much!