“A truly praiseworthy work—Heberle manages to combine biographical, psychological, and historical criticism and analysis in convincing analytical and synthetic ways…An enlightening journey through the life and works of a key voice in contemporary American literature.”—Thomas Myers, author of Walking Point: American Narratives of Vietnam
“No one after Heberle will probably ever read O'Brien's texts as thoroughly or meticulously as he has from start to finish, and no one will probably need to…It will become, I suspect, the standard exegetical text as well.”—Philip Beidler, author of American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam and Re-Writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation
“Heberle's analysis, because of its thoroughness and its ability to demonstrate the larger human concerns of O'Brien's works, will undoubtedly have a positive influence on O'Brien's reputation as one of our prominent contemporary American authors.”—Bryant Armstrong, Modern Fiction
A Trauma Artist examines how O'Brien's works variously rewrite his own traumatization during the war in Vietnam as a never-ending fiction that paradoxically "recovers" personal experience by both recapturing and (re)disguising it. Mark Heberle considers O'Brien's career as a writer through the prisms of post-traumatic stress disorder, postmodernist metafiction, and post-World War II American political uncertainties and public violence.
Based on recent conversations with O'Brien, previously published interviews, and new readings of all his works through 1999, this book is the first study to concentrate on the role and representation of trauma as the central focus of all O'Brien's works, whether situated in Vietnam, in post-Vietnam America, or in the imagination of protagonists suspended between the two. By doing so, Heberle redefines O'Brien as a major U.S. writer of the late twentieth century whose representations of self-damaging experiences and narratives of recovery characterize not only the war in Vietnam but also relationships between fathers and sons and men and women in the post-traumatic culture of the contemporary United States.