Literature of war

I’m not going to bore anybody with excuses here. I just didn’t feel like writing blog posts while I was writing papers my final two semesters of college, but now I’ve graduated and I’m unemployed, so I have lots of time! I’m going to set a modest goal of one post every two weeks (since I do hope to be employed sooner rather than later), but that means the content will be more worthwhile and less rambling!  Onward!

So, even though I was not making time for blog posts this past year, I was learning some pretty cool stuff. I had an English minor, so this last semester was packed full of English courses and the lone math class I put off as long as possible. The math class was not cool, but one of the English classes was Soldiers, Trauma, and Identity in American Literature, and it was fascinating. I’m really interested in writing about war and masculinity, and even though my take on those subjects tends toward sci-fi or fantasy rather than realism, it was an excellent introduction to the war literature tradition. Of course, the reading was intense; there’s really no comic relief in stories about people (or entire cultures) who have been irrevocably damaged by war, but it was worthwhile, powerful stuff. The literature was complemented by some theory pieces, and I certainly would never be so brazen as to think I’m now perfectly equipped to write soldiers or veterans, it gave me a good idea of what I’d be taking on if I were to pursue that subject seriously.

We read eight books over the course of the semester, but my favorites were Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, and Phantom Noise by Brian Turner. Every book we read for the course was important in its own right, but these were the ones I found really compelling. Billy Lynn is good in a way you can’t miss; it kind of slaps you in the face with its brilliance. Ceremony is just as good but really difficult and complex, and, as a book of poetry, Phantom Noise is no easy read but it is marvelous.

How about you? Have you ever taken a class or read a book (or group of books) that dealt with war? What about other difficult subjects?