"We came down to the front of the Twelfth Army, back of Riga,
where gaunt and bootless men sickened in the mud
of desperate trenches; and when they saw us they started up,
with their pinched faces and flesh showing blue
through their torn clothing, demanding eagerly,
bring anything to read!"
John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World
Benstead, Charles R.,
RETREAT: A Story of 1918.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2008)
New introduction by Hugh Cecil, 318 pages.
~~~ Retreat, a Story of 1918 by Charles R. Benstead was first published in
England in 1930, as the genre of Great War fiction was shifting from positive accounts of
combat heroism toward narratives of disillusionment and loss. Benstead's novel spans both
phases through its tragic portrayal of an army chaplain driven to madness when his orthodox
values hold no sway against the bloody realities of war and through its heartening vision of
how devotion to duty can fortify soldiers' sense of purpose and self-worth in the absence of
Retreat is based on the author's combat experiences as a British Fifth Army artillery
officer during the massive German advance in March 1918, adding historical depth to the
literary value of the novel. The book centers heavily on the British retreat as experienced by
Padre Warne, an egotistical churchman ill suited to the bitter realities of combat at the front.
Warne shepherds a flock whose lack of interest in religion undermines his sense of significance
to the war effort; and in the shadow of the overwhelming German army, he finds his faith
gives way to fear, rendering him useless and removing even his personal significance to the
soldiers. Juxtaposed against Warne is Captain Cheyne, a battle-fatigued soldier who maintains
his courage in the face of insurmountable odds through an empowering sense of national duty.
In this theater of battle, Benstead captures the cruel injustices of the war as he knew it and the
inadequacies of religion to address the harsh circumstances on the front.
~~~ In the new introduction to this edition, war historian Hugh Cecil provides historical
context for the novel's plot, a biography of its author, and a survey of the book's critical and
Charles R. Benstead (1896–1980) served with distinction as an artillery officer in World War I and as a naval training officer in World War II. He wrote eleven other books on topics ranging from naval combat to Cambridge history, though none approached the critical and commercial success of Retreat.
Hugh Cecil is an honorary lecturer at the University of Leeds and cofounder of the Second World War Experience Centre in Leeds, United Kingdom. His numerous publications include The Flower of Battle: How Britain Wrote the Great War, Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced, and At the Eleventh Hour with Peter H. Liddle.
THROUGH THE WHEAT. (A 1923 novel about the Marines in WWI by one
who was there).
THROUGH THE WHEAT
(Reprint edition of the finest American novel about life & death on the Western Front).
[Boyd], Brian Bruce,
THOMAS BOYD: Lost Author of the "Lost Generation".
The first biography ever written about the novelist of Belleau Wood & Soissons, author of
Through the Wheat, Points of Honor
and In Time of Peace.
CHRONICLE OF YOUTH.
NEW copy. Trade paperback. Phoenix Press, 2003. Photographs, 384 pages.
~~~ Vera Brittain's bestselling
Testament of Youth was based on her actual
diaries -- which have far greater intimacy and immediacy than the book
extracted from them. Beginning in the carefree summer of 1913, she follows
the shocking onset of war, and the tragic loss of her brother, her fiancé,
and most of their young set in the horror that was WWI. Vera herself
abandoned Oxford to train as a nurse, and spent the rest of the War tending
the wounded -- including German POWs. Written in London, Malta, and France,
they capture all the war's horrors
and Brittain's emergence as a committed pacifist.
Driscoll, Lt. James R.
THE BRIGHTON BOYS AT CHATEAU THIERRY.
Juvenile fiction from 1919: the Brighton
Boys with the U.S. Marines at Belleau Wood & Bouresches.
SELECTED POEMS. Oxford, 1990. NF.
PAPERBACK. Crisp, as-new copy. Selected & introduced by P.J.
Kavanagh. Chronology. Poems arranged in chronological order, by
individual book, as originally published. 141 pages. This edition
out of print.
Higonnet, Margaret R. (ed),
LINES OF FIRE: Women Writers of World War I.
VG. In new condition except for black remainder marks on top and bottom edge of book. Plume Books, 1999.
Trade Paperback. Photographs, index, 574 pages.
~~~ "Lines of Fire is the most comprehensive collection of women's writing from the First World War. Its authors are a remarkable and diverse group - citizens, soldiers, nurses, journalists, activists, wives and mothers - whose lives were emotionally, economically, and spiritually altered by this devastating war. In works by well-known authors like Rebecca West and Edith Wharton, as well as writers from India, Armenia, Hungary, and the Cameroons, we hear women speaking out on such issues as politics, economic justice, and social reform. From incisive political treatises to gripping medical accounts, diary entries, poetry, and stunning visual art, Lines of Fire vividly captures the spirit and passion of the women who lived through this divisive time in our history, and enriches our understanding of the twentieth century's Great War." Currently in print at $19.95.
Hill, Reginald, NO MAN'S LAND: A NOVEL.
St. Martin's, 1985., F/F, First American Edition. 352 pp.
fictional tale of a pack of rogue soldiers, both Allied & German,
whose private kingdom is the wasteland between the entrenched opposed
armies in France in World War I. There was, in fact, on the Somme, a
legend that such packs of deserters existed and that they preyed on
the dead & wounded of both sides.
THE POETRY OF SHELL SHOCK: Wartime Trauma and Healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK.
(Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2005).
Notes, bibliography, index, 224 pp.
~~~ The British poets Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, and Siegfried Sassoon found themselves psychologically altered by what they experienced in the First World War. Owen was hospitalized in April 1917 for “shell shock” in Scotland, where he met Siegfried Sassoon in June of that year, hospitalized for the same affliction. Ivor Gurney found the war, ironically, to have been a place of relative stability within an otherwise tormented life; When he was wounded during the war’s final year, his doctors observed signs of mental illness, which evolved into incapacitating psychosis by 1922.
For each of these men—all poets before the war—poetry served as a way to inscribe continuity into their lives, enabling them to retaliate against the war’s propensity to render the lives of the participants discontinuous. Poetry allowed them to return to the war through memory and imagination, and poetry helped them to bring themselves back from psychological breakdown to a state of stability, based upon a relationship to the war that their literary war enabled them to create and discover.
This work investigates the ways in which the poetry of war functioned as a means for these three men to express the inexpressible and to extract value out of the experience of war. Bibliography and index are also included.
Lardner, Ring (edited and with an introduction by Jeff Silverman),
LARDNER ON WAR: The Wit, Wisdom, and Whimsy of America's Premier Journalist.
NEW copy, hardcover with dust jacket. (Guilford, CT: The Lyon's Press, 2003). First Edition.
~~~ As the most famous journalist of the early twentieth century, Ring Lardner's wry skills as an
observer and satirical bent as a writer weren't just confined to the sporting arenas of his day. In 1918
he packed his kit bag and his biting wit and headed off to France on assignment for Colliers, to cast a
Lardneresque eye on the Great War. At the same time, he created a new wartime series of letters from the
pen of his most famous fictional character-Jack Keefe-who had traded in his baseball flannels for military
drab. LARDNER ON WAR puts together, for the first time, the two masterpieces from this era-"My Four Weeks
in France" and "Treat 'Em Rough: Letters from Jack the Kaiser Killer"-to introduce the wit, wisdom, and
whimsy of Ring Lardner to a new generation of readers.
FLESH IN ARMOUR: A Novel.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2008)
New introduction by Janette Turner Hospital, 349 pages.
~~~ Leonard Mann privately published his first novel, Flesh in Armour, in Melbourne in 1932, after he was unable to place it with a publisher in Australia or England. The novel was an immediate success, and Mann was subsequently awarded the Australian Literature Society's gold medal for outstanding book of the year. The book's merits then established, it was republished in England and Australia in 1944.
Drawn in part from the author's combat experience in France during World War I, Flesh in Armour is an exploration of the lives of soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force from the Ypres campaign in 1917 until just before the Armistice. The novel follows the actions and evolving attitudes of three soldiers in the same battalion-a naive and handsome raw recruit eager for combat, a schoolteacher whose intellect and anxiety have led to disillusionment, and a courageous warrior-hero who remains undaunted by battle despite being wounded. The novel bears an unmistakable Australian point of view, particularly in its wry sense of humor in spite of the dark subject matter and in its vehement disdain for British commanders.
Nearly 420,000 Australians enlisted during World War I, and more than half were killed, wounded, or captured. The conflict was the most costly in Australia's history. In the fates of his protagonists-one dies valiantly, one dies in an abject and mentally unhinged state, one survives-Mann pays tribute to the sacrifices of his countrymen and reminds readers of the unforgiving test of character found in war then and now. This edition features a new introduction by Australian-born writer Janette Turner Hospital, who inserts the book into the historical context of AIF combatexperiences and chronicles Mann's military service in the war and literary career thereafter.
Leonard Mann (1885–1981) served in the Australian Imperial Force during World War I and with the Department of Aircraft Production in World War II. He wrote seven other novels.
March (Campbell), William,
(An unusual novel of the Marines in WWI by a highly-decorated Marine
who was there). First Edition, Smith & Haas, 1933.
Early reprint edition
[Owen] Dominic Hibberd,
WILFRED OWEN: A New Biography.
NEW copy, hardcover with dust jacket. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002.
Photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, 424 pages.
~~~ When Wilfred Owen died in 1918 at the age of twenty-five, only five of his poems had been published. Yet he became one of the most popular poets of the twentieth century. He is now Britain's national poet of the Great War, frequently quoted in newspapers, documentary films, and novels. Today his work speaks to many young people more powerfully than any other poetry." Dominic Hibberd's book, based on more than thirty years of wide-ranging research, brings new information and reinterpretation to virtually every phase of Owen's life. Mr. Hibberd sheds fresh light on Owen's family background, education, and struggles with religion. His sexual orientation - for he was indeed gay - is fully discussed for the first time. His army training and experiences on the Western Front in World War are described in vivid detail, using original documents from military archives. Throughout the story the poet steadily develops, from his early devotion to Wordsworth and the Romantics in 1910-1911, through his discovery of the French Decadents in 1914-1915 and his friendship with Siegfried Sassoon in 1917, to the final, superb achievement of the mature 1918 poems.
Ralphson, Capt. George H.,
OVER THERE WITH THE MARINES AT CHATEAU THIERRY
[Rosenberg, Isaac], Joseph Cohen,
JOURNEY TO THE TRENCHES: The Life of Isaac Rosenberg, 1890-1918.
NY: Basic Books, 1975. VG/VG. Jacket
price-clipped, otherwise a nice clean copy. Photographs, references,
notes, blbiography, index, 224 pages. ~~~ The best biography of one of the
major English poets & painters of the First World War, killed in
action on the Western Front in early 1918.
SIEGFRIED SASSOON: A Study of the War Poetry.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK.
(Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999).
Frontispiece, notes, bibliography, index
237 pp. ~~~ Through Siegfried Sassoon would argue the point throughout his life, most critics regard his war poetry, written during World War I, as the best of his writings. Like many of his artistic contemporaries, Sassoon embraced the “Great War for Civilization” with great fervor, and it was this passion that he brought to his earliest writings about the war. “Absolution,” his first war poem, published in 1915, summed up his feelings: “fighting for our freedom, we are free.”
Fighting on the frontlines, Sassoon soon came to the conviction that his war for civilization was anything but civilized. And thus his writings took on a new tone, courageously denouncing a conflict that was no longer about “defense and liberation” but was for “aggression and conquest.” Through primary documents and extensive research, the current work provides critical analyses of Sassoon’s war poetry. Detailed examinations of each of the so-called trench poems show how the poet and his poetry were transformed through his wartime experiences and give the rationale for the critical consensus that the Sassoon canon is among the most significant in the literature of modern warfare.
Scanlon, William T.
GOD HAVE MERCY ON US!
(A prize-winning 1929 novel of the Marines in
WWI by one who was there).
~ SOLD ~Seeger, Alan,
Edition, inscribed to a family friend, with photo of Alan as a
by Alan Seeger's mother.
THE RED DANCER: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MATA HARI. FICTION.
Ecco Press, 2001. First American Edition. Hardcover with dust jacket. In new condition except for black
remainder mark on bottom edge of book. 263 pages. ~~ "In 1895, Margaretha Zelle, a destitute young woman from The Hague, answers a personal ad placed by a Dutch army captain twice her age seeking a wife. After a speedy marriage she departs with him for a posting in Indonesia. Marred by violence, infidelity, bitter feuding, and their son's disturbing death, the marriage collapses. Returning to Europe, Margaretha travels to Paris, where, inspired by the exotic enchantment of Eastern dance, she reinvents herself as the erotic dancer Mata Hari ("Eye of the Dawn"), the likes of which the Continent has never seen. Just as the major European powers lurch toward explosive conflict, Mata Hari's reputation as a dancer and courtesan starts to attract the attention of powerful admirers from Madrid to Vienna, from Berlin to St. Petersburg. Entrapped, Mata Hari is drawn into a military intrigue that will affect the course of World War I. " ~~ From Publisher's Weekly: "The life of WWI spy Mata Hari is examined from the perspective of the historical figures who knew her in this intriguing first novel by a British journalist. Beginning in 1895, when opportunistic Margaretta (Gerda) Zelle of the Hague married Rudolph MacLeod, a captain in the Dutch army, and went with him to Indonesia, Skinner chronicles the rise of a femme fatale who eventually dined with royalty, had her portrait painted by master artists and passed herself off as an exotic dancer before engaging in a career of espionage. The novel is written in a series of linked chapters, alternately narrated by the protagonist herself, her disenchanted husband (who tells about Gerda's chronic infidelity, the death of their young son and the breakup of their marriage), one of her maids and an omniscient narrator. Ever resourceful, Gerda returns to Europe and reinvents herself as an 'Oriental dancer,' engaging in liaisons with military and public figures and finally being recruited by the German espionage service. She is killed by a French firing squad in Paris in 1917. Skinner's research is assiduous, encompassing many aspects of fin de siecle European and Asian life. He incorporates in-depth explanations of Javanese musical instruments (which Mata Hari integrated into her art) and such topics as the origins of Cubism, the process of 'dowsing' and the 1903 assassination of the king and queen of Serbia. Because Skinner chooses not to put himself inside his protagonist's head and maintains a dispassionate tone throughout, the tale is cool and distancing, but perhaps the legendary courtesan should remain an enigma."
Spillebeen, Geert (translated by Terese Edelstein),
NEW copy, hardcover with dust jacket. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005). First American Edition;
originally published in Belgium in 2002 by Averbode. 153 pages.
~~~ As a young man, Rudyard Kipling was devastated when his military application was rejected because
of poor eyesight. Although Rudyard would go on to win England's highest accolades, he never got over this
lost opportunity to serve his country. ~~~ When World War I broke out, John, like his father before him,
wanted to fight for his country. When his military application was threatened for the same reason as his
father's—poor eyesight—Rudyard took matters into his own hands. Determined not to let history repeat itself,
the elder Kipling applied all his influence to get his son a commission.
~~~ The teenager who had lived his life in comfort and whose greatest concern had been pleasing his
father now faced a much greater challenge—staying alive in his first battle. ~~~ Geert Spillebeen's moving
fictionalized account follows the true story of John Kipling, a young man whose desire to live up to the
family name threatens his very survival. It also draws attention to the senseless suffering and loss of
life in this and every war.
~~ From Publishers Weekly: Publishers Weekly
In this fictionalized account of Lt. John Kipling's untimely death, Spillebeen portrays author Rudyard
Kipling as a tragically flawed father, whose fiery patriotism costs him his son's life. The story, set
during the Great War, begins when John, severely wounded while fighting on the front in France, lay dying.
In his last hours, his mind turns backward, replaying scenes from his childhood and teen years, often
centered around his famous father. The series of flashbacks characterize Rudyard as overindulgent and
prideful-alternately spoiling and pushing his "undeveloped," son with his "extreme near-sightedness."
It is Rudyard who encourages John to "do his part in the war" and who pulls strings to get his 17-year-old
son appointed second lieutenant in an Irish regiment after John is found physically unfit by the British
army. More reflective than suspenseful, the novel subtly conveys the complexities and ironies of the
father/son relationship. Between the lines readers will detect that John desperately needs approval
from his father and Rudyard just as desperately wants his son to become what he could never be: a war
hero. ("[Rudyard] has big plans for John. The navy, at the very least. His own childhood dream.")
Structured as a series of brief memoirs juxtaposed against the harsh realities of war, this first
book of Spillebeen's to be translated into English may appeal more to adult Kipling scholars than
to middle-grade war-novel buffs. Ages 12-up.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2007)
New introduction by George Garrett, 376 pages.
~~~ An autobiographical novel of the Great War's aftermath, Plumes is the story of the personal trials of a soldier, returned from the front disabled and disillusioned, and of the wife and child he left behind.
Like his creator, Laurence Stallings, Richard Plume is a U.S. Marine whose combat injuries ultimately cost him a leg and much faith in his government and society. The novel relegates combat scenes to flashbacks and centers instead on the struggles Richard faces as he tries to carve out a humble but honest existence in postwar Washington, D.C., for his wife, Esme, and son, Dickie.
Through Richard's tragic experiences, Stallings captures the tenor of the times, the faults and corruption inherent in the administration of veterans' aid, the economic crises faced by returned soldiers, and the personal and social hardships foisted on families in these circumstances. Esme emerges as the novel's heroine, the steadfast wife and mother who must shore up a life shattered by war.
Plumes was first published in 1924 and reprinted nine times by the following year. This edition is augmented with a new introduction by George Garrett assessing Stallings's literary career and critical reception and with a new afterword by Steven Trout contextualizing the medical and political realities of the novel.
A native of Macon, Georgia, U.S. Marine captain Laurence Stallings (1894–1968) was wounded at Belleau Wood. On returning from duty, he coauthored the acclaimed Broadway play What Price Glory? and later wrote or collaborated on numerous productions for stage and screen and worked as a reporter, writer, and editor.
POETRY AND MYTHS OF THE GREAT WAR: How Poets Altered our Perception of History .
NEW copy, trade paperback.
(Pen & Sword, 2014).
6x9, 272 pages.
The First World War has obsessed twentieth-century society as the conflict which marked a watershed
in European history and which brought home to that continent the full horror of modern, industrialized
war. It is also the only war where literature played a major part in forming society’s perception of it,
so much so that the phrase ‘war poets’ is now taken to mean the poets of the First World War.
Poetry and Myths of the Great War examines the various myths that have grown up around
the war. It explores the historical and sociological myths of the Edwardian Summer, the supposedly
banal nature poetry of the pre-war Georgian poets and the image of the British public schools as
factories for unthinking cannon-fodder. It analyses the top command of the British Army and the
idea that the British were ‘lions led by donkeys’. Using contemporary material, it examines the life,
mood and morale of junior officers and private soldiers. It offers a partial revaluation of the work of
the most famous trench poets and examines in detail poetry from lesser-known authors, together with
the work of authors not usually associated with the war. In part a confirmation and in part a rebuttal
of many conventional views, contemporary diaries and letters, as well as popular literature and verse
of the day, are used to challenge many of our preconceptions. A recent critic, noting the conformity of
opinion about writers of the First World War, commented that society’s vision of the war and its
literature faced ‘death by orthodoxy’. Poetry and Myths of the Great War is an attempt to
show the announcement of that death a little premature, a task for which Martin Stephen is well
[Tolkien] John Garth,
TOLKIEN AND THE GREAT WAR: The Threshold of Middle Earth.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2005).
Notes, bibliography, index,
~~~ Revealing the horror and heroism Tolkien experienced in the First World War,
author John Garth introduces the close friends who spurred Tolkien's mythology
to life. He shows how the deaths of two comrades encouraged Tolkien to pursue
the dream they had shared. He argues that Tolkien transformed the cataclysm of
his generation while many of his contemporaries surrendered to disillusionment.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2008)
New introduction by Ted Morgan, 296 pages.
~~~ First published in 1934, Roger Vercel's novel Captain Conan was awarded the Prix Goncourt for its unflinching assessment of the toll fierce combat had taken on the youth of France. Largely autobiographical and told from the perspective of a young lieutenant, the book follows the exploits of a French commando unit attacking Bulgarian outposts along the Romanian border. The unit is led by the twenty-three-year-old Captain Conan, a haberdasher's son who finds his calling as a fearless killer ready to crawl through barbed wire and slit the throats of his enemies on midnight raids. Based on Vercel's comrade to whom the book is dedicated, Conan is loyal only to his men, as all notions of patriotism are lost in place of the fraternity and brutality needed for survival and success in this close, bloody combat.
News of the Armistice is slow to reach the Bulgarian front, and when it comes, it changes little. Conan and his men are redeployed to Bucharest to maintain the peace, but they do more harm than good. For them the city is just another battlefield to be conquered. Conan's soldiers have become murderers, thieves, and rapists, and Conan himself is charged with injuring his lover's husband, a Romanian major. But the major withdraws the charges, and Conan leaves Bucharest when the French are called to combat Lenin and Trotsky's guerrilla forces along the Ukrainian border. Conan and his men, now facing their former Russian allies, have lost all ideals of honorable battle and are reduced to serving as mindless weapons to be moved about on the field. Conan becomes the hero of his final fight, but Vercel shows us that there is no happy homecoming for a trained killer-only isolation,loneliness, and nostalgia for battles Conan never fully understood.
The French novelist Roger Vercel (1894-1957) wrote numerous books, including the maritime tales In Sight of Eden and Tides of Mont St.-Michel.
[Wharton] Alan Price,
THE END OF THE AGE OF INNOCENCE:
Edith Wharton and the First World War.
NEW copy, hardcover with dust jacket. (St Martin's Press, 1996).
Photographs, notes, bibliography, index,
~~~ Thoughts of Edith Wharton conjure images of
upper-class life in turn-of-the-century New York City:
hansom cabs wait curbside in front of Washington Square
townhouses; chandeliers glow above the heads of waltzing
couples. What does not come to mind immediately is the
tough-mindedness of Wharton herself and the efforts she
put forth on behalf of others. Alan Price illuminates
this side of Wharton in The End of the Age of
Wharton and the First World War. During World War I,
Wharton saved the lives of thousands of Belgian and
French refugees. When the war began, the expatriated
Wharton and Henry James saw any possible German victory
as "the crash of civilization," thus prompting their
early involvement in the allied cause. In the opening
weeks of the conflict, Wharton wrote war reportage at
the front and organized relief efforts in Paris. Before
the first year was over, she had created organizations
and raised funds for three major war charities that bore
her name. As the war sank into a stalemate of trench
warfare, Wharton continued to write magazine and
newspaper articles, organize fundraising schemes, and
rally famous painters, composers, and writers to help
sway American popular opinion and raise money for
refugees. The End of the Age of Innocence tells
the dramatic story of Wharton's heroic crusade to save
the lives of displaced Belgians and the suffering
citizens of her adopted France.
~~~ Currently in print at $59.95.
Wilder, Amos N.,
ARMAGEDDON REVISITED: A World War I Journal.
NEW copy, hardcover with dust jacket. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994). First Edition. Maps on endapges, photographs, chronology, notes, index,
~~~ As a young man, Amos Wilder, the distinguished New Testament scholar and poet, served as an ambulance driver and corporal in the Army`s 17th Field Artillery of the 2nd Division during World War I. His journals and letters home (including correspondence with his brother, Thornton Wilder) form the basis of this book of reminiscences about his experiences, one of the few wartime memoirs that eloquently articulates and interprets the common soldier`s point of view.
~~~ Currently in print at $48.00.
THE SABLE DOUGHBOYS.
NEW copy. Hardcover with dust jackets. Book Two of the Black Sabre
Chronicles (Book One was BUFFALO SOLDIERS). 319 pages. ~~~ Fiction about the 93rd
Wyeth, John Allan,
THIS MAN'S ARMY: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets.
NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2008)
Introduction by Dana Gioia; annotations by BJ Omanson. Two illustrations, 120 pages.
First published in 1928, This Man's Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets
is a gripping collection of narrative verse that represents the beginning and
end of the promising literary career of John Allan Wyeth, a Princeton-educated
French interpreter in the American Expeditionary Force's Thirty-third Division.
Though it received strong reviews and enough sales to warrant a trade edition in
1929, the volume faced the insurmountable adversary of the Great Depression, and
its author soon vanished from the literary scene. This new edition of This
Man's Army restores to print a lost vantage point on the American
experience in the Great War as valuable for its high literary merits as for its
historical accuracy. The new introduction by Dana Gioia, chairman of the
National Endowment for the Arts, chronicles the life of the elusive author and
maps the book's critical reception and place in World War I poetry, while new
annotations by military historian B. J. Omanson establish the historical context
of individual poems.
Wyeth (1894–1981), the son of a prominent New York medical family, had just
completed a master's degree in French at Princeton when the United States
entered World War I in 1917 and he was motivated into service. His fluency in
French garnered him a position in the Interpreters Corps as a second lieutenant
in the Thirty-third Division deployed to France and Belgium, and he served in
this capacity until his discharge in October 1919. This Man's Army is
an autobiographical account of Wyeth's service years, detailing his duties as
interpreter, messenger, and occasionally sentry while traveling town by town
toward the German Hindenburg line. With an unwavering eye for singular details,
Wyeth recounts the devastating effects of modern warfare, the cultural
interactions of American and French forces, and the lighthearted camaraderie of
soldiers on leave. Although he is keenly aware of the brutality of combat,
Wyeth's narrator never doubts the eventual American victory.
The term fifty-odd in the subtitle describes the sonnets both
quantitatively—in that there are fifty-five in total—and qualitatively—as Wyeth
stretched the traditional form through incorporation of American and British
military jargon and Jazz Age slang as well as a new rhyme scheme unprecedented
in the seven-century history of the form.
The republication of This Man's Army restores to American historical
literature an authentically detailed and imaginatively idiosyncratic vision of
the Great War from a remarkable soldier-poet who shares universal truths about
warfare as relevant and provocative today as when they were written.