"FOR YOU, LILI MARLENE: A Memoir of World War II" by Robert Peters

"FOR YOU, LILI MARLENE: A Memoir of World War II"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Vapid reminiscences of rear-echelon service with the US Army during WW II. Drafted in 1943 shortly after he graduated from high school in rural Wisconsin, poet and memoirist Peters (Crunching Gravel, 1988, etc.) wasn't much of a soldier. During basic training, he was the company's barber in garrison and the captain's runner on maneuvers. Subsequently seconded to the regimental newspaper, he was saved from the nasty, brutish, and short life of a rifleman by a personnel sergeant who made him a clerk-typist on the eve of his departure for England. Posted to France five months after the Normandy invasion, Peters and his fellow Remington raiders trailed the ground troops advancing on Nazi Germany at a safe distance. Assigned to occupation duty near Heidelberg as a battalion sergeant-major, he had a comparatively agreeable time of it before his discharge in the spring of 1946. Peters evidently means to suggest that the military holds a host of perils, moral and otherwise, even for those who never come under fire. A virginal youth who planned a career in the Lutheran ministry, the author experienced ambivalent sexual longings in the barracks and on the streets of bombed-out cities. Strongly attracted to several of his comrades in secretarial arms at a time when homophobia was a matter of policy in America's armed forces, Peters nonetheless managed some angst-ridden liaisons with young women in Germany and Paris (where he attended a gloriously evocative concert by Marlene Dietrich). The problem for readers is that his narcissistic recollections have distance but no perspective. Donne notwithstanding, the youthful Peters emerges as a narrow, self-absorbed island in the sea of destruction and human misery that engulfed the Continent before the guns fell silent.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0299148149
Page count: 122pp
Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin