Land of the brave and hoe of the free! This book smashes to smithereens the myth propagated world wide but most intensely in the US that America is aLand of the brave and hoe of the free! This book smashes to smithereens the myth propagated world wide but most intensely in the US that America is a country of the good and the great. It explores the history of the country from the late 19th century up to the present day through the administrations of various presidents. Far from the good and the great, the sense is of petty men, bullies, idealogues and narcissistic meglomaniacs wreaking havoc, principally in the interests of big business. There before us is a passing parade of men, who in the main no compassionate, c,ear thinking human being would want anything to do with. They all pursues agendas, never in the interests of the values and principles espoused so vehemently as part of the nationalistic propaganda, hands on hearts and tears in the eye, but rather the petty interests of small men who unfortunately have had the power to translate the basest of human emotions into slaughter and suffering...oh and profit!...more
Although I didn't find this a great book, despite the fact that it flowed from Hemingway's pen, I did find it interesting. The main characters the TenAlthough I didn't find this a great book, despite the fact that it flowed from Hemingway's pen, I did find it interesting. The main characters the Tenente, the young American Lieutenant who volunteered for duty in the Italian army before the US entered the war and his distressingly hysterical girlfriend may be in part defined by the period. Their language discloses two very flawed people, he as someone who is totally emotionally disconnected from his experience and everything and most people around him, as combat soldiers often are, and she as an emotionally damaged, very dependent and needy young woman. Their conversations are like something out of the diagnostic sections of s self help book for codependents. I liked neither of them as people at all. I have no idea why anyone would call it a love story, the relationship was very unhealthy indeed, for both of them. Mind you, there are so many so called love stories that display the same timbre. Probably indicative of the inability of most people in western society to define love in anything but very similar terms to this pair.
I could relate to the Tenente as a combat soldier though. He is engaged in some fairly intense adventures including a wounding, an escape from execution by diving into a river, a murder of a man who would not obey his commands, participation in the retreat of an army during a rout and a night time escape in a row boat on a stormy night across a lake over 30 miles. The blasé way in which these incidents are revealed are so typical of the deadened emotional headspace of a serving combat soldier. Under these circumstances a person cannot afford to feel otherwise they cease to be functional.Big things blithely regarded and described as merely incidental to the flow of unpredictable life at the front.
There are other aspects of war that come out through the story, one being that sense of being carried along by some directionless and arbitrary current of events that unfolds around a person often with disastrous results for everyone. Things happen in an arbitrary, unpredictable, senseless way. There is in this an intensely felt sense of helplessness, no matter what a person might do in the face of that current "shit still happens" as soldiers often say, and in the end none of it has any meaning whatever.
There were moments when there were flashes of great talent in the text but in all I wasn't that impressed. It may be an outstanding example of early modernist writing, sparse and gritty, but I wasn't gripped by much of it. By the time Hemingway got to Old Man and the Sea he had perfected the style. This and a number of other, of his earlier works seem to be rehearsals for that book which was a great one.
Still, another step in my journey through what people acclaim as the masterpieces of modern English literature and it was worth the read despite what I felt were its limitations....more
Not a novel but a fantasy full of stereotypical wish lists. The characters are entirely implausible and hence the suspension of disbelief an impossibiNot a novel but a fantasy full of stereotypical wish lists. The characters are entirely implausible and hence the suspension of disbelief an impossibility. Lots of titillation and musicology arcane to most of us. The gay equivalent of a Mills and Boon though the quality of the writing is a little better than that....more
After the devastation to the mental health of many veterans of the Vietnam War the response of our society has been largely to pathologies and categorAfter the devastation to the mental health of many veterans of the Vietnam War the response of our society has been largely to pathologies and categorize many veterans as suffering from "incurable" ptsd. By labeling them as victims and describing telling them how they feel and then providing compensation our society seems intent on absolving itself from the guilt and responsibility for both sending their sons and daughters to war (all of which have been based on spurious political rationale) and then for resounding upon their return to their difficulties in the most destructive manner possible no matter how ell intentioned. Junger raises in this book a plethora of issues that have evolved for me as a result of my passage through the very system he describes as a Vietnam veteran with diagnosed ptsd. I have to say that there is nothing in here with which I disagree. Most of his conclusions I have come to on my own based on my own experience. In fact for me, sucked into the mental health system 's offering in a western society I was on my way down into the never ending abyss of constantly repeating breakdowns, mind deadening medications and should destroying contributions by counselors and psychologists/psychiatrist. The one day I woke up and have had to find my own way out. It became centered on reading for information whatever I could lay my hands on and a disciplined dedication to Buddhist practice and meditation, interestingly these ideas are beginning to show up in mainstream treatment of the tsunami of ptsd that has followed Afghanistan and Iraq. Once I freed myself from the clutches of the so called mental health professionals I began to make some progress, if it can be called that. At least life gradually became easier for me. It has taken a long time over 20 years, but I am here to say the perceived wisdom of most people in the field is a load of bullshit. Junger's work here provides a window at least onto the context within which we operate and in that lies real value....more