In this engaging, elegant, and enlightening study of WW II. Fussell
(Class; Abroad; Samuel Johnson and the Life of Writing, etc.)
continues the revelatory work he did in his National Book
Award-winning The Great War and Modern Memory (1975). By turns
amusing and shocking, Fussell's unforgivingly cleareyed vision
takes in both official and uncensored ephemera - along with
published accounts - to overturn the upbeat view of the war
promulgated by both the government's publicity machine and the
general media. Beginning with a discussion of our total
unpreparedness and general incompetence - "precision" bombing often
fell on our own troops; the RAF were in danger from their own
frightened ground support - Fussell turns to the popular rumors,
slang, stories, and humor of the troops. A chapter on "chickenshit"
reveals loathsome small-mindedness endemic in the system; the
chapter title "Drinking Far Too Much, Copulating Too Little" nicely
sums up the G.I.'s preoccupations. But Fussell is at his best as he
examines the forced high-mindedness of official wartime rhetoric
and the growth of "Accentuate the Positive"-toned publicity as a
distinctly essential facet of modern war. Finishing with a survey
of wartime literature, including Cyril Connolly's Horizon magazine
and the paperback publishing programs that flowered with the war,
he concludes that even now "America has not yet understood what the
Second World War was like. . ." Funny, upsetting, at times
brilliantly illuminating. (Kirkus Reviews)
Winner of both the National Book Award for Arts and Letters and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, Paul Fussell's classic The Great War and Modern Memory
remains one of the most original and gripping volumes ever written about the First World War. In its panoramic scope and poetic intensity, it illuminated a war that changed a generation and revolutionized the way we see the world.
Now, in Wartime, Paul Fussell turns to the Second World War, the conflict in which he himself fought, to weave a more intensely personal and wide-ranging narrative. Whereas his former book focused primarily on literary figures, here Fussell examines the immediate impact of the war on soldiers and civilians. He compellingly depicts the psychological and emotional atmosphere of World War II by analyzing the wishful thinking and the euphemisms people needed to deal with unacceptable reality; by describing the abnormally intense frustration of desire and some of the means by which desire was satisfied; and, most importantly, by emphasizing the damage the war did to intellect, discrimination, honesty, individuality, complexity, ambiguity, and wit.
Of course, no book of Fussell's would be complete without serious attention to the literature of the time. He offers astute commentary on Edmund Wilson's argument with Archibald MacLeish, Cyril Connolly's Horizon magazine, the war poetry of Randall Jarrell and Louis Simpson, and many other aspects of the wartime literary world. In this stunning volume, Fussell conveys the essence of that war as no other writer before him has.
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