"There is a quality to the people of Dover that may well be the key to the coming German disaster. They are incorrigibly, incorruptibly unimpressed."
Remember when I said a while ago that I don't really like to watch or read things about war because, you know, I don't really dig war and I just can't get into it or even really bring myself to care about it. Like... I can just about accept that wars happen, but I mainly refuse to accept that they ever have to happen, and so why would I ever want to read about them? Exactly.
So, obviously, I accidentally chose two challenge books that were about war (this, and Birdsong. Which I'm still avoiding) but FORTUNATELY for me, I really really really like Steinbeck. I just dig his writing and his face and generally everything about him, especially when he says stuff like this:
"all war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal."You know? Putting that in the introduction to this book, which is basically a collections of the columns he wrote as a war correspondent during the Second World War (actually a war that I think was sort of necessary, although why people couldn't just go 'Um, this dude's clearly crazy, let's just ignore him, or better yet get him some mental health support, yeah?' is really beyond me) meant that I could go into them thinking 'well, he has the same opinion as me, so even though he might not really be able to express it (cause of the War Effort, and all) I'll know that that's what he's thinking.' Me and Steinbeck, simpatico and all that.
And it turns out? Steinbeck really knows how to write, you guys! Obviously I already knew that, but it really became obvious in this book which, written by practically anyone else, would have gone straight into my book donation bag. I mean, I'm not going to pretend that this was my favourite book or anything, and I may have skimmed over the more technical columns (the B5 flew over the ocean blah blah blah) but still, it was very very readable, and that's ALL thanks to Steinbeck's voice, and what he chose to write about. Because it's not all battles and attacks and schematics (are schematics even a thing?) but it's also just more generally about humans and their foibles, which I don't think anyone does better than Steinbeck. Like this, for example:
"The second phase of getting along is carried on in innumerable attempts to describe each other. The British are so and so. The Americans are so and so. The British are just like other people, only more so. The Americans are boasters who love money. This love of money is, of course, unique with Americans. Every other people detests money. The Americans are fine, sturdy people. The British are fine, sturdy people. This is obviously a lie. There are good ones and stinkers on both sides."Steinbeck's been to the Atticus Finch School of Equality and he's learnt a lot. It's great. (Yeah, I know it's the other way round. Shut up.)
So yeah. Liked this a lot. And I think the main reason for that is that Steinbeck mainly reduces the war to its human parts - the superstitions of the men who really don't want to die, their homesickness on the Fourth of July, and even how they experience the war- how their worst experiences become the ones that are least real, or most difficult to recall for them because that's how their minds have protected them. I found that really interesting as a concept, as I found a lot of this book really interesting because, in the end, it's about people, not war. I mean, I guess wars are made up of people, but there's a way to talk about them that's grand and majestic, and there's a way to talk about them as just a bunch of dudes who don't really know what they're doing being where they are. Steinbeck chooses the latter, and I love him for it.
The answer to the conundrum 'How do you write something about war that will interest Laura' (the lesser known version of 'How do you solve a problem like Maria') is, apparently, Be John Steinbeck. Since no one is Steinbeck, I'm not exactly rushing for ALL THE WAR THINGS, but I'm maybe a little bit more open to not immediately running from them. A slight victory there, then?