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They Shall Not Grow Old

World War I has always been "my" war. My dad, born 1906, was a child during it, & my mother's father fought in it—not gloriously: he was badly injured trying to open a box of ammunition by hammering on it. Until this week, I hadn't known that my dad's father had also fought (for Germany), after telling his wife, If they call me up, we know we've lost the war.

So when I read about a documentary that restored & colorized WWI footage & matched it with interviews with veterans, I had to see it. It was only playing for 2 days & I had to go to Brooklyn to get seats. So moving to see those scratched black & white faces come to life, grinning, scared, relaxing, adamant, to hear their thoughts from 50 years later.  Read More 
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World War I

WWI ended 100 years ago today. My mother was born a few years later, as I was born a few years after WWII. Does WWI seem almost present, as WWII does to me? Does Tara, born 6 or 7 years after Vietnam, feel like it's almost in memory, almost connected to her? And so it goes—the wars of our lifetimes, the wars of our parents' lifetimes, the wars so distantly past that it's hard to believe real people suffered and died.

Dinner with two Vietnam-era vets. Forrister says it was his job, no reason to thank him. Willis says he didn't want to be there or do that, less than no reason to mention it. Well, half-off at the restaurant seemed reason enough to me.  Read More 
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Thinking about World War I

"Resting at noon in patch of woodland so peaceful that war seems far away."
100 years ago today, the United States entered World War I. It was also my English grandmother's 32nd birthday. Was it a date she remembered her whole life? I think about WWI a lot but not from an American pov. All of my grandparents—two English, two German—were involved, & my dad (born 1906) was a child in Berlin. Grandpa Jack was gassed & died at 50. Somehow it's the only war that I feel a connection to—long enough ago that any sadness is pleasant self-indulgence.  Read More 
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World War I poetry

So much remarkable poetry came out of World War I, much of it still as modern as Schoenberg. Modern in language, modern in attitude.

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,
"Yet many a better one has died before."
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

—Charles Hamilton Sorley, 1895-1915, killed at Loos  Read More 
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Good-bye to all that

The exact edition I read, borrowed from Eileen
Just finished rereading Robert Graves' Good-bye to All That, his great autobiography (today it'd be called a memoir) about how WWI sent him onwards from his school days to the life of a writer and emigré. The book reminded me of how small England is—the intelligentsia were all related in some way and ran into each other, knew each other's work, feuded and loved. His (first) wife, Nancy Nicholson, was an ardent feminist who refused to be called Mrs. Graves. In a review of Graves biography, Louis Simpson wrote that "no work on poetry has been more influential than The White Goddess, Graves's study of mythology in its connections with poetry; dozens of poets and professors have gained a reputation for originality by stealing from it." Read More 
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World War I centenary

No discussion of WWI is complete without noting that it was a war fought by all strata of society, including the educated and rich. One reason many of us still feel so connected to this war is that we have so much eloquent writing by participants, including one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, Ford Madox Ford's tetralogy Parade's End.

So many artists died or served: French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, English poet Wilfred Owen ("Dulce et Decorum Est"), Hemingway, Vera Brittain (Testament of Youth), Robert Graves (Goodbye to All That), JRR Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, A. A. Milne, Somerset Maugham, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Henry Moore, Wyndham Lewis, E. M. Forster, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, e. e. cummings, South Dakota painter Harvey Dunn, Georges Braque, Fernand Leger, Jean Cocteau, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Walter Gropius. The list is impossibly long.

Apollinaire (who was trepanned;  Read More 
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British e-literature

Joyce, Pound, FMF, random dude (some rich guy, says Johnny)
My favorite novel is Parade's End, by Ford Madox Ford. I re-read it every couple of years and about it occasionally. Even though we own 3 copies, Johnny got the Everyman edition out of the library, with an intro by Malcom Bradbury. He mentions several WWI novels, most of which I'd never heard of, among them Futility by William Gerhardie, Disenchantment by C.E. Montague, R.H. Mottram's Spanish Farm trilogy, Death of a Hero by Richard Aldington, Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning (originally published in 1929 by "Private 19022," so incendiary was it), and Read More 
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