|It occurred to me Tyson, after posting my opinion of the story, that I had been perhaps unfair in not addressing your review.|
My problem would be the issue of selectivity on the part of the artist, and choice as portrayed (if portrayed) by his characters. I would have to read the book, which after seeing the movie, (in part, long ago) I doubt I will ever do.
As for WWI itself, yes, it was the worst and most needless traggedy in human history, a much more seminal and destructive event than WWII, one whose inconclusive conclusion (caused by our unjustified involvement) virtually ensured that WWII would ensue. G. K. Chesterton saw this all right away, lamenting the celebration of Armistice day as nothing less than the prophecy of war to come - in the early 1920's. I am in the middle of reading G. J. Meyer's A World Undone which is a readable but not particularly spectacular account of the war. He tends not to place the war in a wider context, as I would like to have read, say, its antecedents and forerunners in the Franco-Prussian and U.S. Civil wars and its effects well into this century. I still have a hard time not resenting Serbs, believe it or not, and was actually bitterly pleased at the distress of a certain Milosevic with whom I once had contact. I have also watched the 10 part documentary based on Hew Strachan's general book on the reat War. I gave the book away as a present, and have not yet repurchased it to read. But the documentary (aired on the War Channel) was absolutely brilliant.
Of course war, like disease and death and such, are all "impreferables," to use the Stoic term. But they are to a certain sense outside our control as individuals. It is how we deal with them that matters. Of course no one prefers pain. Writing a novel dealing with suffering as such as the central theme is like picnicking in a cancer ward.
As for Chesterton, be aware that he is a mixed bag. He is a convert to Catholicism, which he saw as an antidote to relativism. He is anti-socialist, -communist, -militarist and -fascist, but he also believed that while free trade was a necessary evil, "capitalism" inevitably led to monopolists and wage serfs. He advocated private ownership of small businesses and farms, but as a journalist, did neither himself. But he is just about as good a writer as Orwell, and has a profound analytical ability with the devastating metaphor, just as did Rand. Today he is remembered for his Father Brown Mysteries. That he is not better known is a shame. I suggest buying volumes I, III, IV and V of his collected works (vol. II is purely religious) if you wish to read him. You can also get Orthodoxy and Heretics by themselves, (or in volume I) which in their criticisms of folly are as sharp as Rand. (These two titles sound religious, but are chiefly attacks upon what we now call postmodernism. The implied religion can be read as simply Natural Law, and the scant theology can be ignored.) Chesterton flourished around the Great War and died in 1936, but long saw that war would come again with the inevitable Prussian invasion of Poland. The End of The Armistice is a posthumous collection of essays, on the subject, but not his best essays as essays.
Can you recommend any good works on WWI and on general British History? I have read A. N. Wilson's readable Victorians, and After the Victorians. But have not read Schaama. I am most interested in the great actors on the stage of history, and am least interested in detailed military or social history.
Post Script: I just did repurchase Hew Strachan's (Pronounced Hugh Strawn) The First World War, which is available for $16 in a handsome and very well illustrated Penguin Paperback quarto.
This post has been corrected for format and been slightly enlarged.
(Edited by Ted Keer
on 3/01, 6:42pm)