LITTLE VICTORIES/BIG DEFEATS: War as the Ultimate Pollution by Georgess -- Ed. McHargue

LITTLE VICTORIES/BIG DEFEATS: War as the Ultimate Pollution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The stories collected here are less about war itself than the immorality of war; only a few actually take us to the battleground and only one or two -- notably the child's eyeview of death and Dos Passos' scathing ""Body of an American"" (from Nineteen Nineteen) actually confront the horror of violence and mutilation. Aside from these, the strongest statements are made by Sholokov's mournful, realistic saga of an old soldier (""The Fate of a Man""), Frank O'Connor's ""Guests of the Nation"" which, almost alone here, deals with the conflict between active loyalty to a cause and the ties of friendship, and -- perhaps -- William Dean Howells' ""Editha"" which despite being preachy and old-fashioned is a provocative denunciation of the conventional soldier's sweetheart. Then there is Barthelme's delightful satire on war technology, the newspeak ""Report"" -- which is the most successful of a handful of more abstract commentaries on war's ultimate irrationality; others in this category -- especially Vonnegut's ""Report on the Bamhouse Effect,"" James Atlee Phillips' ""The Delegate From Everywhere,"" and William Saroyan's ""Fight Your Own War"" -- have an undeniable impact which fades into smugness on deeper examination. And, considering the reluctance of American writers to confront the experience of Vietnam, Kay Boyle's rather pathetically wavering call to conscience, ""You Don't Have to Be A Member of the Congregation,"" is the only specific reference to our latest war. On balance, this is a strong collection, but it could have been much better if editor McHargue had had the courage to allow the experience of war to speak for itself and not imposed the rather propagandistic selection criteria -- ""Are they (the stories) likely to leave the reader with a strong reluctance to rush out and die. . . ?"" A useful compilation for those still young enough to debate the merits of those kinds of war -- the past ones and the hypothetical ones.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1974
Page count: 186pp
Publisher: Delacorte