Gene Basset’s Vietnam Sketchbook: A Cartoonist’s Wartime Perspective

Author(s): Thom Rooke

Publisher: Syracuse University Press, Year: 2015

ISBN: 0815634218,9780815634218

n 1965, Gene Basset, a well-known political cartoonist, was sent to Vietnam
by his newspaper publishing syndicate. His assignment: to sketch scenes of the
increasingly controversial war in order to help the newspaper-reading public
better understand the events occurring in Southeast Asia.
In much the same way that M.A.S.H. gave viewers an irreverent, wry view of
war and its devastating effects on citizens as well as soldiers, Basset’s sketches
portray the everyday, often mundane, aspects of wartime with an intimate touch
that eases access to the dark subject matter. In this affectionately curated collection,
author, doctor, and longtime friend of the artist, Thom Rooke, deftly
leads us through more than eighty of Basset’s cartoons, organizing his insights
according to the well-known stages of grief, from denial to acceptance, and
demonstrating how Basset’s images convey moments of trauma, coping, and
healing. From scenes of American GIs haggling with Vietnamese street vendors
to a medic dressing the wounds of a wide-eyed soldier, Basset’s endearing
sketches and Rooke’s friendly prose humanize life during wartime. The seriocomic
vignettes and analyses are delivered with wit, compassion, and subtle
charm sure to please academic, artistic, and casual readers alike.

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