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Guard of Honor 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156376099
ISBN-10: 0156376091
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Editorial Reviews


To anyone whose memory of James Gould Cozzens' earlier work is still green, it it welcome news that, after too long an interval, there is another book from him. Just as each of those books was sharply individual, so this one stands alone, on its own merits. He has done what, to most of us, would have seemed an impossible achievement. He has written an absorbing novel about a Florida Air Base; he has brought into sharp relief against the background of boredom and frustration and disappointment which most of the officers assigned there felt,-the little dramas of human lives, loves, hates, jealousies; the competitive spirit leveled at minor goals; the interrelation of men, whose ranks are more or less the accident of the chance of war. The C.O., General Beal, younger than most of his staff, is a vital figure, torn by his friendship for a difficult junior officer, eternally in hot water, disturbed profoundly by the necessity of playing off local prejudices re the color line against the directives from Washington, attempting to be human and at the same time the martinet military procedure demanded. The major issues motivate the story:- the problem of the Negro officers and the officers club; the disaster attendant on the trials of parachute jumping - and the question of blame. Nathaniel Hicks, in private life an important man in the magazine world, is the person through whom much of the story is seen - and his own private adventure with the WAC, Lieutenant Turck, bears evidence to the tensions, the conflicts, incidental to the artificialty of the life of civilians at war. Character after character comes clear- small bits as well as large. There's implicit in the whole the kind of drama Command Decision provided - against a setting that is infinitely less provocative of dramatic treatment. A long book- not always easy reading- with many subplots- with minor incident piled on minor incident- but the whole building up to an unforgettable pattern. Cozzens writes with a taut violence at times; and at other times with an expansive warmth - an unusual combination which makes for roundness of impression. (Kirkus Reviews)

From the Inside Flap

Guard of Honor is a neglected masterpiece that stands comparison with the greatest novels of the Second World War--essayist Noel Perrin deemed it "probably the best war novel of the twentieth century."
----James Gould Cozzens's Guard of Honor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1949. The novel balances a vast cast of intricately enmeshed characters as they react over the course of three tense days in September 1943 to a racial incident on a U.S. Army airbase in Florida. The reader is acutely aware of the war raging abroad and the effect it has had, or will have, on the multitude of servicemen who populate Cozzens's immense canvas. As Noel Perrin commented in The Washington Post Book World: "There is material for two or three hundred movies in Guard of Honor."
----"No other American novelist of our time writes with such profound understanding of the wellsprings of human character and of the social pressures that help to form it," said Orville Prescott in The New York Times. As Brendan Gill observed in The New Yorker: "Every page of Guard of Honor gives the impression of a writer at the very top of his powers setting out to accomplish nothing less than his masterwork."

The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foun-
dation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torchbearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (October 7, 1964)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156376091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156376099
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book exemplifies the "quiet craftsmanship" for which Cozzens has been praised (in Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, I believe). His style is clean and understated; his plotting is as always complex yet tight; his observations of people are dead-on. But what, in my opinion, really puts this novel above Cozzens's other works is its portrayal of the "life" of a modern complex organization (in this case, the U.S. Army during WWII). American society's transformation from an individualistic focus to an organizational one, which reached completion during FDR's presidency, is one of the most significant developments during the past century and a quarter. Yet almost no novelist has attempted to deal with this transformation artistically, and certainly none has done it as well as Cozzens does here. This book's straightforward style conceals its immense importance.
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Format: Hardcover
Although the once enormously popular James Gould Cozzens is all but forgotten today, his 1948 novel GUARD OF HONOR is a big, splendid, riveting piece of work which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The action, presented essentially in real time, centers on three days at a big Florida airbase in l943 and its hapless new commander. What makes this book particularly noteworthy is how the many threads of its tremendously complex plot effortlessly come together - rather like a very skilled wind band leaderlessly playing one of the Mozart serenades. It convincingly shows how small, seemingly random events can collide and build to something far greater than their sum. I've been pushing this neglected minor masterpiece for decades. I was delighted, therefore, to learn that GUARD OF HONOR been reissued by the Modern Library. The event was marked by a generous tribute to the book by, rather surprisingly, the jazz critic Whitney Balliett in a recent issue of The New York Review of Books.
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Format: Hardcover
Cozzens' masterful social novels, of which "Guard of Honor" is the towering apex, have been erased from the history of American literature by its guardian - the academic establishment - because of his thorny conservatism and unadorned steel-and-rivets prose style. It's our loss. If you compare the ambition and artistic discipline of this wise and sober novel to, say, the latest annual installment of navel-gazing from Philip Roth (to name a writer who enjoys a comparable level of esteem today), you can only shake your head at the profound dumbing-down of our culture.
Inasmuch as only a fraction of any armed force directly participates in combat, this stunningly broad study of a Florida air force base in the latter stage of World War II is actually more relevant to the history of our participation in that struggle than a book like "The Naked and the Dead". And its look at an early chapter in the unfinished story of race integration in America is arguably more germane than ever, although its conclusions do not sit comfortably. (No televised talking head could hope to express them and still keep his job.) If you're interested in a truly adult novel, in the best sense of the word, you can't do much better than this one.
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Format: Leather Bound Verified Purchase
James Gould Cozzens is the antithesis of Joseph Heller. Guard of Honor occurs in wartime America. It occurs over a three day period and is centered around an event that has racial and class undertones. It is populated with flesh and blood people and not charicatures. It has a point of view but that is revealed gradually and over the course of the entire book. Built, bit by bit, as the players in this drama come into view, interact with each other and depart to be seen again later, sometimes in a different light; seen from someone else's perspective, filtered through the lens of events recalled or experienced. People are revealed by how they react to other people in diverse situations undergoing set backs or good fortune. Heller wished to show that war is ludicrous, Cozzens wished to show that war is, and that people are complex and that what they do and what they think about what they do, matters. That actions taken today and the next day make us who we will be tomorrow and that there are no inconsequential choices. He shows that venality is the default setting and conscious effort must be made to overcome it. Reading this book is like looking in a mirror and hoping that you can do something about what you see before it's too late. My only quibble with Cozzens is his tendency to drop acronyms, literary allusions and unattributed quotes throughout his work leaving you feeling slightly inadequate to the task of reading him.

I come to Cozzens late. I intend to read this book often.
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By A Customer on March 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Guard of Honor is a book about fighting a war in which not a single bullet is fired in anger. Readers looking for blood and glory will find it here only in the refracted light of the home front. But, this book IS about blood and glory; as well as boredom, loneliness, stupidity, comradeship, insanity, bureaucracy, death and many other things associated with the armed forces.
Cozzens decision to place his novel in Florida during World War II actually allows him to analyze the military culture in the minutest detail without the adrenaline distraction that actual combat would produce. It's a risky choice, but it works brilliantly.
The story contains a bewildering number of characters but is centered around two generous and kind men: Colonel Ross and Captain Hicks. Ross represents the command structure trying to hold an unwieldy organization together through the insanity of war. Hicks is the common man thrown into the same situation. How their lives play out is the heart of the book.
If you want explosions and gore, this book is not for you. If you want to know how the military lives, thinks and breathes read this book and cherish its portrait of a world very different from civilian life.
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