Mighty Red Pen

November 24, 2007

Writing in the trenches

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:40 pm

Interesting piece today about how U.S. troops are participating in National Novel Writing Month. They, like thousands of others across the country, have taken up the challenge to write 50,000 words by the end of November.

This year the story isn’t necessarily the numbers – of words or participants – but the places: Writers are popping up on US military bases in foreign countries.

And this interesting comment on war literature as a genre:

War has long given rise to literature, transforming the men and women it affects into haunting, haunted storytellers, the bearers of a complex horror, from the scribes of ancient war texts to Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien. “Why do people write about war?” said Charles S. Maier, a professor of history at Harvard University. “The same reason they write about love: It’s a big experience.”

Certainly, there are any number of books in this genre. The Iliad and the Odyssey, for two, and War and Peace, for another (which I made the mistake of putting down for too long halfway through and so had to slog through the first 400 pages twice). Many high school kids read Hiroshima or All Quiet on the Western Front. Mister MRP regularly teaches The Things They Carried by O’Brien, the title story of which still gives me chills for all the meaning imbued in its relatively simple language.

What’s a book in this genre (fiction or nonfiction, or I’ll even take a poem) that has moved you and why?



  1. I recently read (and would recommend) the novel ‘Winter in Madrid’ by CJ Sansom. Not a conventional war story, as it is set in neutral Spain during the Second World War – but it touches on a lot of ‘war’ issues, and is in my opinion as much about the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath as it is about WW2. I especially liked the way it was concerned both with international diplomacy and with the effects war has on day-to-day life – both ends of the spectrum, so to speak.

    (Sorry, I haven’t written a book review for about 10 years)

    Oh, and I must have a thing for the Spanish Civil War as my other current favourite war novel is Hemingway’s ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’.

    Comment by JD — November 26, 2007 @ 7:42 am | Reply

  2. And I was also thinking – if a member of the US Navy wrote a novel, would it be a “naval novel”? And if it had something new to say, would it be a “novel naval novel”? And if his name were Neville…


    Comment by JD — November 26, 2007 @ 7:44 am | Reply

  3. What if it was about his bellybutton? Would it be Neville’s novel naval naval novel?

    Comment by mightyredpen — November 26, 2007 @ 8:56 am | Reply

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