Cloth $22.50 ISBN: 9780226468785 Published February 2018
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226468815 Published February 2018 Also Available From
E-book Retailers: Amazon Kindle Apple iBooks B&N Nook Google Play Kobo Library Vendors: EBSCO

On War and Writing

Samuel Hynes

On War and Writing

Samuel Hynes

224 pages | 4 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2018
Cloth $22.50 ISBN: 9780226468785 Published February 2018
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226468815 Published February 2018
     “In our imaginations, war is the name we give to the extremes of violence in our lives, the dark dividing opposite of the connecting myth, which we call love. War enacts the great antagonisms of history, the agonies of nations; but it also offers metaphors for those other antagonisms, the private battles of our private lives, our conflicts with one another and with the world, and with ourselves.”
 
Samuel Hynes knows war personally: he served as a Marine Corps pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. He has spent his life balancing two careers: pilot and professor of literature. Hynes has written a number of major works of literary criticism, as well as a war-memoir, Flights of Passage, and several books about the World Wars. His writing is sharp, lucid, and has provided some of the most expert, detailed, and empathetic accounts of a disappearing generation of fighters and writers.
            On War and Writing offers for the first time a selection of Hynes’s essays and introductions that explore the traditions of war writing from the twentieth century to the present. Hynes takes as a given that war itself—the battlefield uproar of actual combat—is unimaginable for those who weren’t there, yet we have never been able to turn away from it. We want to know what war is really like: for a soldier on the Somme; a submariner in the Pacific; a bomber pilot over Germany; a tank commander in the Libyan desert. To learn, we turn again and again to the memories of those who were there, and to the imaginations of those who weren’t, but are poets, or filmmakers, or painters, who give us a sense of these experiences that we can’t possibly know.
           The essays in this book range from the personal (Hynes’s experience working with documentary master Ken Burns, his recollections of his own days as a combat pilot) to the critical (explorations of the works of writers and artists such as Thomas Hardy, E. E. Cummings, and Cecil Day-Lewis). What we ultimately see in On War and Writing is not military history, not the plans of generals, but the feelings of war, as young men expressed them in journals and poems, and old men remembered them in later years—men like Samuel Hynes.
Contents
Preface
Introduction: Two Vocations
At War with Ken Burns
In the Whirl and Muddle of War
War Stories: Myths of World War II
A Critic Looks at War
Hardy and the Battle God
Yeats’s Wars
Ignorantly into War: Vera Brittain
Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier
An Introduction to Graeme West
The Odds on Edward Thomas
E. E. Cummings’s The Enormous Room
Cecil Lewis’s Sagittarius Rising
The Death of Landscape
Verdun and Back: A Pilot’s Log
Index of Names and Titles
Review Quotes
Publishers Weekly
“Though the essays are all discrete, certain themes emerge: the disconnect between rhetoric and reality, the difference between immediate and retrospective accounts (or, as he says 'the need to report and the need to remember'). Famous writers get their due—among them, Vera Brittain, Thomas Hardy, Rebecca West, William Butler Yeats—as well as lesser-known names, such as posthumously published WWI memoirist Graeme West. Most of all, Hynes is interested in how language shapes people’s ideas about combat, and he is an instructive interpreter of 'words about war, and the narrative they compose.' He also brings himself to the table: he marvelously recounts his participation as a commentator and adviser for Ken Burns’s The War documentary, and elegiacally chronicles a flight he made in later life over the battlefields of WWI, concluding the book by demonstrating how images can say as much as words. His work is suffused with both academic credibility and personal commitment. . . a thoughtful and thought-provoking collection."
Kirkus Reviews
"The author argues that WWII lacked the "high drama and moral complexities" of WWI and thus did not produce classic literary expressions of the struggle. It was after WWI, he writes, that rhetoric (romantic, glorious war) met reality, and when reality changes, so does the artist's imagination. Hynes is fascinated with how the artist, in turn, shapes the ways we feel about and interpret war. A critic rather than a military historian, Hynes sometimes succumbs to a bit of romanticism, though this is very much the exception. In the superb essay 'In the Whirl and Muddle of War,"' he assays the work of men who had a deep need to record what they witnessed and felt, explaining why the individual accounts of those bearing witness to the experience of war are of particular value yet are too little read. These, as well as the work of poets and artists, are accorded their due. From renowned figures of literature to the less celebrated, the author offers powerful perspectives on the drama of destruction, exploring the character of wars 'good' and 'bad.' But the analysis is his own. He acknowledges, gloomily, that even the greatest art bears little power as a preventative instrument. Hynes studies what our literature and art tell us, or fail to tell us, about war, and there is much wisdom in his critique. He believes we have come to the end of 'the Big Words and brave gestures and the tall stone monuments.' A penetrating collection of pieces on war and how art responds to it."
The Spectator
"Hynes is a brilliant critic, both of the literature of war and its myths. In this, the writer he most resembles is Paul Fussell. . . .Beneath Hynes’s many local insights there is a constant story, of the peculiar and shifting shape of modern wars, for war has become increasingly metaphorical: we speak of the ‘war on terror’ and ‘culture wars’. So when Hynes is discussing poetry, he’s also—and most interestingly—describing the quality of modern war. . . .Perhaps all modern warfare is a style of psychological warfare—war conducted in the head, in the stories and the fears of civilians—and this is also, perhaps, precisely why the guides we need are professors as well as pilots, or those who know both war and its many myths.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style

Chicago Blog: Literature

Events in Literature

Keep Informed

JOURNALs