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07/18/2011

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Funny you mention this...I read The Great War and Modern Memory last month after having had it on my list for years. I found it thoroughly engrossing and one of those rare nonfiction works that's difficult to put down.

FYI, there is now an illustrated edition available, which is the one I have.

So I guess I'm going to have to make time for it eventually. As you know, but others may not, Fussell was a literary scholar and author of a standard work on prosody, Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, before he ventured into this broad socio-literary sort of thing. My point being: he writes well.

I will have to put it on my list, which is tending toward an infinite length

I remember you saying something very similar a while back about the necessity of stopping the Nazis being something one feels at a deep instinctive level.

I realized after I made my last comment that it was a mite silly to imply that because Fussell is a scholar he must write well. But still, he is, and does.

Alas, not even literary scholars write especially well! (But perhaps historians are better? - There is, after all, a muse of history, but not of criticism.)

Literary scholars in fact sometimes write dreadfully, and I don't know why I suggested otherwise. I'm thinking of a few literary bios I've read that were deadly dull. And then of course there's post-modernism...

I read Michael Burleigh's 'Moral Combat; a year or so ago - a truly gruesome read. It describes WWII also. It depicts immoral slaying on both sides. But it opens by describing the German onslaught in Poland and further East. This sets the scene. He isn't just saying, 'the Allies were retaliating'. He is setting the context.

I mean, Burleight's bk sounds analogous to Fussell's

Yes, Burleigh's a good writer too. I read his book on the Third Reich last year, and even though he goes into rather exhausting detail, he manages to keep it all quite interesting.

There's line somewhere between consequentialism and a foolish moral equivalency. I don't know if I'll ever read Burleigh, although his work sounds interesting, because in a sense one book like this is enough--in the sense that one really does need to have the sentimental/romantic veneer removed, and one clear picture will do that. I'll never forget either Fussell's or Sledge's book. For that matter, I haven't forgotten a few stories that Bill Mauldin tells in his classic Up Front, which is a collection of the cartoons he did for the armed forces newspaper during the war.

"this great adventure", as Montgomery had it.

Montgomery comes in for some pretty scathing criticism in Fussell's book. He also says that there was a lot more friction between the British and American commands than was admitted at the time (of course that would be kept hidden), and that it prolonged the war. At any rate, it sure didn't look like such a great adventure to the guys on the ground.

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