Thursday, May 24, 2012


Paul Fussell has died.  I can't remember exactly when I first read his books, only that a copy of the subfustian-jacketed Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (it does not at all look as though it would be an exciting book, only to me at the time it was thrilling!) probably came my way when I was fourteen or fifteen via my inspired teacher Deborah Dempsey.  I acquired and read The Great War and Modern Memory not long after that, and it was an eye-opener; I had read a good deal of the WWI poetry Fussell writes about already, and some of the memoirs (Robert Graves, Vera Brittain), but the kind of analysis the book does made me think I want to write a book like this

Two bits that have stayed with me, possibly inaccurately: his observation in passing that before the aftermath of WWI, with British soldiers returning from having spent years in France, the thing you might buy on holiday to remember your trip by was called a keepsake rather than a souvenir; and his reproduction of the text of the amazingly Orwellian form postcard given to soldiers on the front to send home.

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