Why Are We in Vietnam? New York: Putnam’s, 15 September; London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, March or April 1969. Novel, 208 pp., $4.95.
Republished with preface by Mailer. New York: Berkley, January 1977 (77.1). Preface reprinted as “Are We in Vietnam?” in 82.16. Dedication (Putnam’s only): “To My Friends: Roger Donoghue, Buzz Farber [sic], Mickey Knox, Norman Podhoretz, Cy Rembar and José Torres.” Two states of the Putnam’s “first impression” exist. One contains a tipped-in dedication page with Buzz Farbar’s name misspelled Farber; the other has no dedication page. It seems likely that the dedication page was an afterthought, added just before publication and then excised when the spelling error was found. This interpretation is supported by two facts: first, the great majority of examined copies do not have the dedication page; and second, the British first edition also lacks one. The dedication, with correct spelling of Farbar’s name, appears in three subsequent softcover editions.
Why Are We in Vietnam? is one of the few Mailer books not preceded by pre-publication excerpts in periodicals. Mailer adapted the novel into a one-act sketch, “Why Are We in Vietnam,” before it was published. It was staged at least twice: on 19 August at Act IV in Provincetown, and on 6 December 1971 at an anti-war rally at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. Under the title “A Fragment from Vietnam: A One-Act Play,” the 13-page sketch was included in Existential Errands (72.7) and The Essential Mailer (82.19). Finally, Eurographica (Helsinki) published it, along with 67.16, in a separate volume under the title A Fragment From Vietnam (85.11). Rpt: Four chapters of the novel in 98.7. See 65.14, 72.18.
Mailer: “You see, there are times when I read Why Are We in Vietnam? and it displeases me too, but there are times when I decide it’s one of the 10 funniest books written since Huckleberry Finn” (67.16).