A Well-Written War

A Well-Written War, Told in the First Person - Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times.

... Soldier-writers have long produced American literature, from Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs about the Civil War to Norman Mailer's World War II novel, "The Naked and the Dead," to Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," about Vietnam.

The current group is different. As part of a modern all-volunteer force, they explore the timeless theme of the futility of war - but wars that they for the most part support. The books, many written as rites of passage by members of a highly educated young officer corps, are filled with gore, inept commanders and anguish over men lost in combat, but not questions about the conflicts themselves. "They look at war as an aspect of glory, of finding honor," said Mr. O'Brien, who was drafted for Vietnam in 1968 out of Macalester College in St. Paul. "It's almost an old-fashioned, Victorian way of looking at war."

The writers say one goal is to explain the complexities of the wars - Afghan and Iraqi politics, technology, the counterinsurgency doctrine of protecting local populations rather than just killing bad guys - to a wider audience. Their efforts, embraced by top commanders, have even bled into military reports that stand out for their accessible prose...

More at The New York Times.

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