A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.

WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR

A manual for soldiers or anyone interested in what can happen to mind, body and spirit in the extreme circumstances of war.

Decorated Vietnam veteran Marlantes is also the author of a bestselling novel (Matterhorn, 2010), a Yale graduate and Rhodes scholar. His latest book reflects both his erudition and his battle-hardness, taking readers from the Temple of Mars and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey into the hell of combat and its grisly aftermath. That Marlantes has undertaken such a project implies his acceptance of war as a permanent fact of human life. We go to war, he says, “reluctantly and sadly” to eliminate an evil, just as one must kill a mad dog, “because it is a loathsome task that a conscious person sometimes has to do.” He believes volunteers rather than conscripts make the best soldiers, and he accepts that the young, who thrill at adventure and thrive on adrenaline, should be war’s heavy lifters. But apologizing for war is certainly not one of the strengths, or even aims, of the book. Rather, Marlantes seeks to prepare warriors for the psychic wounds they may endure in the name of causes they may not fully comprehend. In doing that, he also seeks to explain to nonsoldiers (particularly policymakers who would send soldiers to war) the violence that war enacts on the whole being. Marlantes believes our modern states fail where “primitive” societies succeeded in preparing warriors for battle and healing their psychic wounds when they return. He proposes the development of rituals to practice during wartime, to solemnly pay tribute to the terrible costs of war as they are exacted, rather than expecting our soldiers to deal with them privately when they leave the service. He believes these rituals, in absolving warriors of the guilt they will and probably should feel for being expected to violate all of the sacred rules of civilization, could help slow the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.

A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1992-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

CODE TALKER

A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more