Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Toy soldiers

At the TLS, David Horspool reviews Harry Pearson's ACHTUNG SCHWEINEHUND: A boy's own story of imaginary combat:

The memoir of personal obsession is almost as popular a pastime as the one Pearson is describing, and Achtung Schweinehund has most of the better qualities of the genre. Chief among these is specificity in the cultural references. It is no good for the writer to remark that he remembers having lots of toy soldiers. We need to know how many, exactly what make and model, where he bought them, and preferably how much they cost. Pearson is adept at all this, and wallows in the details of total recall, as when reminiscing almost parodically about the experience of refashioning a battalion of Airfix First World War German soldiers into British ones in the Zulu War, a process that called for a lot of banana oil and coincided with a Bob Dylan phase: “To this day, I can’t smell an overripe plantain without thinking of the Battle of Isandhlwana and singing the opening verse of ‘Tangled Up in Blue’”.

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