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Meditations in Green

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  415 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Sardonic, searing, seductive and surreal, the award-winning Meditations in Green is regarded by many as the best novel of the Vietnam War. It is a kaleidoscopic collage that whirls about an indelible array of images and characters: perverted Winky, who opted for the army to stay off of welfare; eccentric Payne, who�s obsessed with the film he�s making of the war; bucol ...more
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published January 1st 1983 by Charles Scribner's Sons (first published October 1st 1978)
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(showing 1-30)
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Stephen Wright’s debut novel, first published in 1983, is a difficult one to categorize. The Amazon blurb describes it as being “sardonic, searing, seductive, and surreal…” It is certainly all of that.

It is also overwritten, with sentences that cover an entire page and paragraphs that cover more than a page. After reading about ten or fifteen pages, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to finish the book and after about thirty pages, I was almost positive that I wasn’t. In fact, I almost pu
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anti-war activists; aficianadoes of 60s political/social history; voters
This is a book that has remained among my Top 10 since I first read it in about 1987 or so (it was originally published in 1983). I really can't say enough about it, and while I recognize that war novels are not to everyone's taste, I have long encouraged everyone I know to read it, even if it takes them out of their comfort zone. It's one of those novels that transcends its genre. It is, quite simply, a classic--or at least, it deserves to be. And yet, so few people have ever heard of it, or of ...more
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book cover states that this book is regarded by many as the best book ever about the Vietnam War, and having read most of the works considered part of the canon of that era, I in no small measure agree with the statement. It is nothing short of brilliant. The story (like other works of that era) is about a man’s struggle to adapt back to society as a vet, with enough flashbacks that you understand his mental and emotional wrestling. The prose is tight, the structure of the book is creative, ...more
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
Sitting here propped up in a chair for much of the past week, rendered immobile by a torn abdominal muscle, I’ve really gotten a chance to immerse myself in this twisted, profound novel. Reading it and entering the hallucination-addled mind of Vietnam serviceman James Griffin has been a transformative experience and one that’s offered me a strange kind of solace during this unsettling week. With 50 pages left to go, I couldn’t even wait to finish it before showing some love. The fact that it’s t ...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beat-other
War, pot, insomnia, Jimi Hendrix, death, boredom and horror...and green. Jungles, camouflage, paint, leaves, sunrises, and death in green and shades thereof.
Stephen McQuiggan
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The haphazard style, the cast of idiosyncratic grotesques, inevitably leads to comparison with Catch 22, but despite this the book stands up on its own. It's interwoven by a neat plant, growth metaphor that ties it all together, as if the book were wrapped up tightly in a jungle vine. The casual violence, the nihilism and surrealism are all present and correct but used in a deadening way - like a heroin memory, like a discarded needle in a dilapidated squat. Filled with apathy and numb pain, it ...more
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: Eccentric Muse
Shelves: novels, 2013
taken me a while to get to this.
..was smashed about the head by this, review later..
I came to this book via Wright's Going Native which was as I called it - lush, hyper-real/surreal and trippy - and this is the same, prose that glows.

Maybe I learnt nothing new in relation to war: maybe I'm Vietnammed (or war in general) out. What happens here covers familiar ground – it combines the hallucinatory horror of Apocalypse Now (released 3 years before) with the absurdity of Catch 22 (eg all the dogs i
Jan 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who think the Vietnam War is best served up as an acid flashback.
I'm not the aficionado of the massive heaps of art, literature, film and music left in the wake of the Vietnam War that some of my friends are . But this book and Robert Stone's "Dog Soldiers" transcend their peers on every possible level.

Note: this book is not for the faint-hearted. Additionally, Wright will make you feel like you're on drugs, whilst writing about other people being on drugs. This is not entirely a good thing.
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The man writes zero boring sentences. And I felt like I didn't breathe during the last 30 pages of this book.
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: samsfiction
Amazing writer.
He's the kind of writer that makes me want to quit writing.
James Montgomery-Willcox
Probably the best Vietnam war era novel you have never heard about. Amazingly vivid detail and imagery showing the horror and dysfunction of combat, albeit, through the eyes of a non combat soldier slowly going mad while the world around him does the same. At times almost incomprehensible and incoherent, it's chaos seems to shadow the world in which the characters themselves live. Definitely worth reading although, beware, at some stage you too may find that you have no idea of what is going on ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Double U O Globe
August Canaille
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insanely good. A most overlooked drug novel containing some of the best sentences in the English language. It makes you shudder with awe, close the book, and think.
Steve Woods
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ptsd has become fashionable, the symptoms and descriptors described in the popular press have moved it from being a source of shame for those of us who finally succumbed to a desirable trait a topic of converstaion. It has become synonomous with the Vietnam War and a point of fascination for the wanna be's and the war junkie's. When I first collapsed under the weight after 30 years of struggle, I only found others who had seen and suffered, who knew what it was to experience the confusion and fe ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A series of descriptions of drug highs,insanity, murder and battle gore that goes nowhere. There is no context, no motive, no origins, no fault. The obvious impression it made on me was that war is insane and repulsive but a sociopath will read it as an exciting adventure story.

The main character and narrator, Griffin, lacks emotion, with his observations on the chaos and violence, rendered in a poetic style that feels inappropriate for the subject. I felt the book was simply: 'and then the sar
Jonathan Briggs
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Addict and war veteran James Griffin is fixated on foliage. In between flashbacks to Vietnam and addled encounters with his girlfriend Huey and his vengeance-crazed war buddy Trips, Griffin tries to get into the botanical mindset, contemplating all that is green and leafy. Stephen Wright is an insanely creative author. He drops at least one sentence per page or two that makes the reader stop, rewind, replay and admire all over again. Unfortunately, his cleverness sometimes comes at the expense o ...more
Richard Jespers
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel about Vietnam.

Green is indeed the motif here. Green is everywhere, and not just the lush jungle vegetation. If it had been my copy I would have underlined the word “green” hundreds of times throughout the book. Great alternation of first person point of view with third person during the war.

Wright goes Small. Large. The scene in which soldiers run to a shot-down helicopter to put U.S. soldiers in body bags and recover official business (which has already disappeared) is both graphic an
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had to begin this book again after a few years. The drug aspect of it left me cold at first. On my second reading I somehow got past that and am glad that I did. The book follows the pattern of being "changed" by the war, something that I myself fought against for quite a long time. The war, any war, will have long term effects upon the warriors, physically and emotionally. There are extremely strong elements of the novel that I was able to reflect on. The totally insanity that occurs during c ...more
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what it's like to be in a war zone, but I can imagine. Stephen Wright has contributed greatly to my imagination with this book. Wright DOES know what it is like to be in a war zone; he served in Vietnam 1969-1970. He has an extraordinary gift for using figurative language. As you can surmise from the title, this is an internal experience of war more than a tale of battles fought. I can't do it justice by writing a review, but I encourage every person who wants a sense of what fighti ...more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Stephen Wright is an incredibly talented albeit flawed writer. I've now read all his books, my favorite being The Amalgamation Polka. I was wondering why this is and I came to the conclusion that that book, in addition to being lyrical, has the most narrative thrust to it. This novel, on the other hand, has the least "story" aspirations of his novels, and is more content to be simply a series of meandering wartime vignettes. The prose is beautiful -- if a bit overcooked (mushy pasta) at ...more
Theophilus (Theo)
Jul 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The daily grind of the war in Vietnam takes its toll on certain members of an Army unit. These individuals were referred to as 'the heads' in the film "Platoon". They go about their jobs day-after-day regardless of weather, enemy actions, and the prejudices of their ultra-conservative sergeant. One of these servicemen, James, brings the memories back home with him (it's called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder now) and plots revenge on a man who he thinks is his old sergeant now in civilian life. V ...more
Hugh Martin
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't fully buy all of the "meditation in green" sections (they just bored me compared to the rest of the scenes, though I liked their concept). Overall, amazing stories and character sketches from the war. Most of these characters are what they call today, "Fobbits," those that do not leave base; their jobs usually involve them staying on base. However, being a Fobbit in the War in Vietnam and especially at this base in the book is a completely different story as they face a lot of fight fro ...more
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
Yet another series of vignettes posing as a 'novel.'
If it were only the third-person narrative of the Vietnam War, with its mini-apocalyptic ending, I would have been completely satisfied with this 'novel.' But the author interjects stilted, pace-slaughtering, and at times pretentious 'meditations' on life as a plant, along with a bland rambling first-person narrative of a soldier back home from the War trying to find mental/emotional stability. And by doing this he fails to have a coherent wor
Aug 01, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had read a bunch of reviews saying that this novel was the novel on Vietnam. It was supposed to be better than any of Tim O'Brien's pieces. This isn't a bad novel, but O'brien's works -- particularly Going After Cacciato -- have much more depth. This has the absurdity of Catch-22 and the horror of Apocalypse Now. But from a literary standpoint, it isn't as powerful in language and imagery. Not a bad book, but didn't live up to the hype I had heard.
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam, wtf-was-that
"I don't know, maybe it's me, but I couldn't make any sense of it at all. I mean, there's no beginning, no middle, no end. There's no coherence. It just kind of settles over you. Like a musty tent."

Our hero, Spec. 4 James Griffin, is speaking above, but it's also a perfect description of the book, which reads like a memoir, wrapped inside a nightmare -- as brilliant, brutal and poetic as it is almost incomprehensibly bizarre.
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
More of the same from one of our finest prose stylists. Meditations in Green is a bit richer in symbolism than Wright's later work but also a bit more uneven in pacing; the novel drags just a bit in the midsection. But even in this first novel we see the author's prose style emerging. Wright's prose is hallucinatory, it is euphoric and it is spiritual.
Leopold Bienkowski-gibbs
Awesome read. Not the best book ever, but up there as far as war novels I'v read. And the writing.. I read a lot of sections out loud. Stephen Wright has a wonderful way with words that really rubbed me the right way. I will definitely keep an eye out for any other novels he has written, if he has (I hope so!!).
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books i've ever read and certainly the only book to have read more than twice - just keep going back for more, depending on how my perspective has changed over the years. Surreal, narratively brilliant, drug-soaked, funny and utterly sad. Not just a war book, but a book about how a person deals with reality and the merits of escaping it.
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant writing! Mordant humor. The Hell and futility of Vietnam is limned devastatingly. It missed 5 stars because it went on an on, long after it had made it points about the Hell and futility of Vietnam.
Mike Polizzi
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A careening, off-kilter performance of war, vividly described and grittily detailed in explosive Technicolor, more a vivisection than a novel. It takes a sure hand to move a reader through this much chaos.
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Stephen Wright (born 1946) is a novelist based in New York City known for his use of surrealistic imagery and dark comedy. His work has varied from hallucinatory accounts of war (Meditations in Green), a family drama among UFO cultists (M31: A Family Romance), carnivalesque novel on a serial killer(Going Native), to a picaresque taking place during the Civil War ("The Amalgamation Polka"). He has ...more
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