cover image The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, read by Ken Burns. Random House Audio, , abridged, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-0-307-97081-7

Emmy Award–winning filmmaker Burns continues his tradition of narrating the audio abridgment of his documentary work, as he has done before with The Civil War, The National Parks, and other projects. The results are mixed, but that’s not because Burns lacks talent as a narrator; he has a measured, clear voice, and a strong delivery. Rather, the abridgment itself and the limitations of the audio format cause this product to falter—missing are the intense battle images, the unforgettable music of the 1960s and ’70s, and the personal interviews with Vietnamese speakers. Here, the only eyewitness recordings spliced in with the narration are ones by Americans. As a result, Burns, with his natural American accent, becomes the mouthpiece for Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, which creates a distance for the listener. The recordings of U.S. presidents with various generals and advisers becomes tedious in the audiobook, with Burns merely reading “Johnson” and “McNamara” followed by a rendering of their remarks. A Knopf hardcover. (Sept.)