Tunesmith Chronicles: A Musical History Tour
by Lem Genovese, First Aviation Publishing, 2012
Author and Vietnam veteran Lem Genovese writes, “Each of us as warriors must face our own negotiating table and write our own peace treaty for the new missions that lie before us on the main service roads that will take us to destinations as yet unknown.”
Genovese may have done just that in what could be the mother of all books for and about Vietnam veterans. It is as hard to describe Tunesmith Chronicles as it is to describe the many personas of the author—soldier, medic, writer, singer, guitarist, song writer, teacher and philosopher. It took Genovese 37 years to finally write about the war, but he says:“It’s been worth the lifetime it took to put this all into perspective. My approach is that sometime in the not too distant future all Vietnam vets will be gone. This memoir is my response to that inevitability.”
Genovese covers much more than his time in the Army, the Iowa National Guard and tours of duty in Vietnam and the first Gulf War. There is little about the war in Vietnam or the struggle veterans face coming home that has evaded his observation. “The lessons and legacy from our war in Indochina are the stuff of contradiction,” writes Genovese. “It has been paved with bitterness, resentment, distrust, propaganda and scapegoating, which have made it smoother and far easier to tread upon with each passing decade. The far more difficult journey is not found on a marked highway….An honest fact-based journal is not just needed, it should be demanded by our posterity.” It would seem Genovese has written such a journal.
The author has researched some of the enduring Vietnam issues—the My Lai massacre, Agent Orange, post-traumatic stress disorder and Vietnam Veterans Against the War—and writes clearly about them. Side trips, such as “How to spot a phony Vietnam veteran,” are numerous.
As a guitar-strumming troubadour, Genovese has shared the stage with the legendary Country Joe McDonald and has toured the United States singing his own songs on the Vietnam War. His talent and passion pervade his writings. Tunesmith Chronicles, at 746 pages and weighing three pounds, is a book to savor over many sessions.
Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.