The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War (Paperback)

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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism

"Meticulous in detail, epic in scope, psychologically sophisticated and spiritually rich, it ranks with The Best and the Brightest and All the President's Men."
--San Francisco Chronicle

More than the two presidents he served or the 58,000 soldiers who died for his policies, Robert McNamara was the official face of Vietnam, the technocrat with steel-rimmed glasses and an ironclad faith in numbers who kept insisting that the war was winnable long after he had ceased to believe it was. This brilliantly insightful, morally devastating book tells us why he believed, how he lost faith, and what his deceptions cost five of the war's witnesses and McNamara himself.

In The Living and the Dead, Paul Hendrickson juxtaposes McNamara's story with those of a wounded Marine, an Army nurse, a Vietnamese refugee, a Quaker who burned himself to death to protest the war, and an enraged artist who tried to kill the man he saw as the war's architect. The result is a book whose exhaustive research and imaginative power turn history into an act of reckoning, damning and profoundly sympathetic, impossible to put down and impossible to forget.

"A masterpiece. . . . Hendrickson] has a gift with language that most writers can only dream about. "
--Philadelphia Inquirer

"Approaches Shakespearian tragedy."
--The New York Times Book Review.

About the Author


Paul Hendrickson's book Sons of Mississippi won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. Since 1998 he has been on the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania. For two decades before that he was a staff writer at the Washington Post. Among his other books are Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott (1992 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award) and The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War (1996 finalist for the National Book Award). He has been the recipient of writing fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation. In 2009 he was a joint visiting professor of documentary practice at Duke University and of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the father of two grown sons and lives with his wife, Cecilia, outside Philadelphia.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780679781172
ISBN-10: 067978117X
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: October 28th, 1997
Pages: 448
Language: English

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