The Circle of Hanh: A Memoir

Bruce Weigl, Author Grove Press $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1661-1
The Vietnam War remains a haunting subtext for acclaimed poet Weigl (Song of Napalm, etc.), whose 1967 induction into the U.S. Army and year in Vietnam led to his passion for that country's poetry and culture. In this eager but uneven memoir, Weigl recounts his life story--from his hard-bitten childhood in Lorain, Ohio, to a redemptive meeting in 1996 with his adopted daughter-to-be at an orphanage outside Hanoi. Weigl's reverence for storytelling, forged the day a Red Cross worker flung Crime and Punishment at him as he lay sick at a base camp in An Khe, serves as a touchstone throughout this book; he seeks salvation by way of ""the great chain of stories."" Most memorable are stories from his Zagreb-born grandfather, who oversaw the birth of his first child (at the hands of a drunken doctor hastily pulled away from a late-night card game at the Slovak Club) by holding a gun to the doctor's head to ensure the child's safe delivery. But Weigl's own stories seem to squirm away just as he grasps their elemental truth, leaving raw, underworked passages in their stead. As he tries to mediate the silences and shames that pockmark his life, he seems to find not salvation but deepening realms of pain: ""I had done so much traveling in the world of hurt that had been my life,"" he writes, ""that the boundaries we need in order to be human had vanished."" (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-8021-3805-7
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