In search of novelist as pro-war as Homer.
Apropos the Odysseus question, a reader reports that his son’s 8th grade English teacher approved Catch 22 as the topic of a required book report on a “classic.” That leads him to ask a question:
Are there any modern (say post 1700) novels of high literary merit that can reasonably be characterized as pro-war? Or, at least as pro-war as the Iliad?
That depends, of course, on what constitutes “high literary merit.” If it means something that an MLA member wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen reading, the answer might well be “No.” But if it just means something that serious people think about seriously, then Starship Troopers certainly qualifies.
But on the question as posed, assuming that “high literary merit” gets defined by professors of literature, I don’t know the answer. I can’t think of such a novel, but that doesn’t prove much.
So I’m hereby using a lifeline: What’s the best “high art” pro-war novel?
Author: Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out.
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken)
When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993)
Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989)
View all posts by Mark Kleiman
3 thoughts on “In search of a pro-war novel”
Sing of Arms and Men
Off the top of my head, I can't think of any pro-war novels of "high literary merit", but Walt Whitman's later versions of Leaves of Grass certainly had some serious drumbeat-to-battle verses about the Civil War. "Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Vo…
He had a good war: a literary how-to guide
As the boy says:
William Gibson Pops Up Twice And Gets Me Thinking
Kleiman started it with the question. . .All the really good war novels seem to be negative, as you'd expect, and the "pro" ones, in the "Good War" mode, tend to be for children or rather old. (Rilla of Ingleside, The Three Musketeers.) The item that…
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