Paul Fussell is Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of nine other books, including The Great War and Modern Memory, Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars and The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations
Fussell won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for The Great War and Modern Memory (LJ 7/75). Here he provides a staggering counterpoint to most popular accounts of World War II (on paper or on screen) that depict purposeful strategies and noble exploits. The war, says Fussell, turned on industrial output; its brutal meaning was thus found in chaotic ordeals of mass-produced death. This truth could not be concealed from front-line soldiers. These men devised a compensatory language whose inventiveness, obscenity, and irony contrasted with the ideological simplifications, literary sterility, and mindless cheerleading on the home front. The analysis of war novels, most of which were poor, is excessive. But Wartime is an important and indispensable book. It belongs in all high school and college libraries. First serial rights to Atlantic .-- Mark C. Carnes, Barnard Coll., Columbia Univ.
Most of the men who fought World War II were young--with those over 27 or 28 likely to be called ``Dad.'' For most of the troops, the war's purpose seemed remote and vague, according to Fussell. He contends that many Americans had little comprehension of Nazism; to ``our boys'' the war was about revenge against the Japanese. In this sequel to The Great War and Modern Memory , Fussell presents American and British soldiers as alcoholically insulated against reality, suffering boredom, absurdity, sexual deprivation and, above all, full of subversive contempt stoked by the official mix of optimism and euphemism that falsified the war experience. Separate chapters cover wartime rumors and blunders, service slang, the despair in the trenches, and the sanitized, sanguine messages emanating from radios, films, songs and high-minded literature back home. This brilliant, engaging cultural history quietly subverts our whitewashed collective memory of the war. Illustrations. First serial to the Atlantic. (Sept.)
"Paul Fussell has written the best book I know of about World War I. Now he has written the best book I know of about the Second World War. No novel I've read surpasses its depiction of the awful human cost to all sides of modern warfare. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it is unforgettable."--Joseph Heller