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Once There Was a War (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 28, 2007
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About the Author
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
Top Customer Reviews
This compilation of reports from England, North Africa and Italy in 1943 provides excellent descriptions of what life was really like during the war. There are very few recounts of battles and strategy. But there are stories of the people that were involved in the war - the souls behind the uniforms. Steinbeck does an excellent job showing that the war wasn't just made up of nameless soldiers - it was made up of people, each with personalities, each scared, each struggling to deal with life in such hostile conditions.
Aside from the historical value, these posts are amazingly well written. I have to admit I was reasonably surprised by the quality of writing. Steinbeck is an accomplished author, and on that I think everyone can agree, but to be able to put pieces like this together in London during the Blitz, in the deserts of North Africa or on a troop ship heading into the European theater is amazing to me.
Bottom line: I've got a new respect for John Steinbeck and an added appreciation and understanding of WWII. For both of those, I am grateful for having read this book.
Such is the case with the columns that were composed while Mr. Steinbeck was a war correspondent in the European Theatre of operations during World War Two.
The columns are not blow-by-blow accounts of great battles. They aren't closely focused on the physical and emotional plight of the soldier, as were the columns of Ernie Pyle.
Instead, they capture the auras and subtleties of both big and little events. "What it's like" is the best description of these slices of war life, nobody puts you there better, nobody captures the mood of a place more vividly.
What it's like to be one of thousands of soldiers stretch across the deck or house in the bowels of a troop carrier, destination unknown? What's it like to sit through an air raid during the blitz?
Or, a few columns take a lighter approach. In one, he salutes the incredible durability and dedication of Bob Hope and his USO shows. Another details the American soldier's skill in growing vegetable gardens. Another muses about the popularity of the German song "Lillie Marlene" among both Nazi and Allied troops.
And some columns delve into deeper territory, such as his theory as to why so few men who have been in battle talk about it.
Steinbeck did not spend a great deal of time as a war correspondent. The columns were cabled back to the states between June and December, 1943.
But each one is a little jewel of journalism. What else would you expect from America's finest writer?
Steinbeck was very clear that he did not capture the essence of battle. Indeed, he wrote very clearly about the self-protective amnesia that descends after traumatic experiences (198-200).
What should have been the most important part of the book collecting his 1942-43 reporting, the introduction, seems to have been skipped by some readers. "We were all a part of the War Effort," Steinbeck recalled in 1958. "We went along with it, and not only that, we abetted it. Gradually it became a part of all of us that the truth about anything was automatically secret and that to trifle with it was to interfere with the War Effort. By this I don't mean that the correspondents were liars. They were not. In the pieces in this book everything set down happened. It is in the things not mentioned that the truth lies" Whether he was fully aware that he was producing propaganda when he filed the dispatches (which were censored as well as self-censored), Steinbeck was candid: "We edited ourselves much more than we were edited. We felt responsible to what was called the home front. There was a general feeling that unless the home front was carefully protected from the whole account of what war was like, it might panic. Also we felt we had to protect the armed services from criticism, or they might retire to their tents to sulk like Achilles. . . .Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is, of course, mostly propaganda but it's very well written propaganda and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Patrick Kelly
Steinbeck talks about WW II. This is just a compilation of some columns he did. They are well done and tell some more stories about the war-of-wars.Published 14 months ago by Warren W. Wiley
John Steinbeck is one of America's literary masters. His fictional observations delve deeply into his subjects inner being revealing not only what they do but why. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Dirk Drudgler
What's the idea of offering a test read that includes nothing of the stories, only introductions? Very disappointing. I decided against buying the book.Published 20 months ago by C. I. Lund
Amazing first hand accounts written by one of my most favorite authors.Published 22 months ago by D. R. Patrick