what i'm reading: chris crutcher, pat barker, graham greene, all quiet on the western front

I finally finished The Power Broker. (See this entry.) I highly recommend you take a few month's worth of reading time to tackle this truly great book.

Needing a break, I read two young-adult novels by the terrific YA writer Chris Crutcher: Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes and Ironman. Like a lot of good YA novelists, Crutcher's work becomes a little repetitious if you read too many at once, but presumably young readers are not doing that.

Since then, I've been casting about, novel-less. I started Reading Lolita In Tehran, a gift from a friend, but couldn't get into it. It looks very good, and I love the idea of exploring the relationship between fiction and our lives, but it's not the right time.

On a break from work today, I went to the library and took out three novels: Fools Of Fortune by the wonderful and under-rated Irish author William Trevor, Double Vision by Pat Barker, who wrote the Regeneration Trilogy, and The Road Home, by Jim Harrison.

Last year, during the run-up to the US's invasion of Iraq, I was thinking (as I'm sure many people of conscience were) a lot about war. Not in political or theoretical terms, but trying to imagine the reality of war itself. I kept thinking of the line from the civil rights and peace song "Down By The Riverside": ain't gonna study war no more. That stuck in my head: study war. I thought I would.

I read Pat Barker's trilogy about World War I, known as the Regeneration Trilogy: Regeneration, The Eye In The Door, and The Ghost Road. Barker explores the psychological after-effects of war on both soldiers and civilians, the erosion of civil liberties at home during a war abroad, class issues, and how a civilian population is manipulated to approve of war. In England, WWI also saw rampant anti-gay hysteria that associated homosexuality with the German enemy; there's a gay theme throughout. These are three excellent books.

I also read All Quiet On The Western Front, the quintessential anti-war novel. It's almost too brutal, too heartbreaking, to bear, even more so since it's told from the "enemy"'s point of view. I didn't think I was truly a pacifist (against all wars for any reason) but this book made me examine my beliefs further.

The final book in my war series was Graham Greene's The Quiet American, which deals with the roots of US involvement in Vietnam in the late 1950s. It is a positively chilling view of what a CIA-backed coup might look like on the ground level. When I think of all the lives lost from the US's various wars of conquest and containment... well, that's how this blog came to be.

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