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Boss of the Plains

D.A.N. Jones, 19 May 1983

The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... Paul Fussell’s 34 essays were written in different moods and time-zones for different British and American journals, between 1967 and 1982. Some are boyishly truculent, politically partisan, denouncing wrong-headed fellow Americans (so that the British reviewer whistles between his teeth, thinking: ‘They can’t be as bad as all that ...

Dogface

Ian Hamilton, 28 September 1989

Wartime: Understanding and Behaviour in the Second World War 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 330 pp., £15, September 1989, 0 19 503797 9
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War like a Wasp: The Lost Decade of the Forties 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 241 12531 6
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... In a 1982 essay called ‘My War’ Paul Fussell described how – at the age of 20 – he became a full-time ironist: one who, by means of his experience in combat, had learned to perceive ‘some great gulf, half-comic and half-tragic, between what one expects and what one finds’. And in his book The Great War and Modern Memory, the soldier poets and memoirists who featured most prominently were those who had found themselves stranded in that same ‘great gulf’, learning firsthand how wrong they had been in their imaginings of what awaited them in France ...

Plumping

J.I.M. Stewart, 19 March 1981

Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 246 pp., £8.95, March 1981, 0 19 502767 1
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... Paul Fussell’s aim in this book, he tells us in a preface, is ‘to suggest what it felt like to be young and clever and literate in the final age of travel’. Or, more precisely, what it thus felt like in Great Britain. ‘Because the most sophisticated travel books of the age are British, I have focused largely on them ...

Walking among ghosts

Paul Fussell, 18 September 1980

The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925 
edited by D.S. Higgins.
Cassell, 299 pp., £14.95, May 1980, 0 304 30611 8
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... R. is very anxious about the Czar and “much upset”.’ Five days later, Haggard attends in St Paul’s the ‘solemn service to Almighty God on the occasion of the entry of the United States of America into the Great War for Freedom’. George R. was of course present, and now Haggard writes: ‘I do not think that ever before I realised how small the ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... I am assuming,’ Paul Fussell said in Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars (1980), ‘that travel is now impossible and that tourism is all we have left.’ To be a traveller, you have to move about alone, eschew standard procedures, avoid the commonplace of maps, and hold yourself ready for adventure ...

X marks the snob

W.G. Runciman, 17 May 1984

Caste Marks: Style and Status in the USA 
by Paul Fussell.
Heinemann, 202 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 9780434275007
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... so ill-founded as the blatant hypocrisy and frantic status-seeking gleefully recorded by Professor Fussell and his precursors may make it appear. For it rests on an underlying assumption that Americans treat each other as if they were all, whatever the other differences between them, of common social origin. None of them seriously believes that they are, any ...

Condy’s Fluid

P.N. Furbank, 25 October 1990

A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture 
by Samuel Hynes.
Bodley Head, 514 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 370 30451 9
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Killing in Verse and Prose, and Other Essays 
by Paul Fussell.
Bellew, 294 pp., £9.95, October 1990, 0 947792 55 4
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... but for the death of Romantic landscape-painting. That is exactly the thought, or fiction, that Paul Nash’s The Menin Road is meant to suggest. But one needs, obviously, to be careful not to misread this as some T.E. Hulme-like rejection of Romantic landscape-painting as a humanist deviation; it could hardly be so, seeing that Nash went on to be one of ...

Evening at Dorneywood

Alan Rusbridger, 22 June 1989

The Whitelaw Memoirs 
by William Whitelaw.
Aurum, 280 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 1 85410 028 9
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... pudding and the smack of leather against willow. Writers use pastoral when times are hard. As Paul Fussell points out in his Great War and Modern Memory, it is ‘a way of invoking a code to hint by antithesis at the indescribable ... at the same time, it is a comfort in itself, like rum, a deep dug-out, or a woolly vest.’ With Mr Whitelaw, it is ...

Something of Importance

Philip Williamson, 2 February 1989

The Coming of the First World War 
edited by R.J.W. Evans and Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann.
Oxford, 189 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 19 822899 6
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The Experience of World War One 
by J.M. Winter.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 333 44613 5
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Russia and the Allies 1917-1920. Vol II: The Road to Intervention, March-November 1918 
by Michael Kettle.
Routledge, 401 pp., £40, June 1988, 0 415 00371 7
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Douglas Haig 1861-1928 
by Gerald De Groot.
Unwin Hyman, 441 pp., £20, November 1988, 0 04 440192 2
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Nothing of Importance: A Record of Eight Months at the Front with a Welsh Battalion 
by Bernard Adams.
The Strong Oak Press/Tom Donovan Publishing, 324 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9781871048018
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1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War 
by Lyn Macdonald.
Joseph, 346 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 0 7181 3188 6
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... It was stamped deeply upon ‘modern memory’ – not just in literary culture as described by Paul Fussell, but in family and communal memories and in the most solemn national commemorations. Consequently the Great War is unusual in being a matter of both intensive academic study and considerable popular interest. More readily than on many other ...

Nuthouse Al

Penelope Fitzgerald: Memory and culture in wartime London, 18 February 1999

Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London 
by Jean Freedman.
Kentucky, 230 pp., £28.50, January 1999, 0 8131 2076 4
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... felt able to trust only information recorded at the time and on the spot), against the intemperate Paul Fussell, and against Angus Calder’s classics The People’s War and The Myth of the Blitz. She protests against the assumption that the myths – calm, confidence, cheeriness, the breaking down of barriers, the ready hand of friendship – ‘were ...

Performance Art

John Bayley, 16 November 1995

... points out the totality of fantasy represented by Jimimie Fane, the biographee. As his friend Paul Fussell admiringly told Wolcott, Amis-lovers in America revered him chiefly for his absolute lack of ‘sincerity’, that great American quality: ‘everything about Amis is figurative.’ Wriggling out of sincerity like a tight shirt has always been ...

Uncle Vester’s Nephew

Graham Coster, 27 February 1992

Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession 
by Greil Marcus.
Viking, 256 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 670 83846 2
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Rythm Oil: A Journey through the Music of the American South 
by Stanley Booth.
Cape, 254 pp., £16.99, October 1991, 0 224 02779 4
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... this book I cannot explain,’ he wisely concedes.) But he has come up with a nice idea. Just as Paul Fussell set himself, in The Great War and Modern Memory, to map the mythicisation of the First World War in the popular conscience – the images and icons we remember it by, and how these are themselves symptomatic of the selective desires, prejudices ...

For ever England

John Lucas, 16 June 1983

Sherston’s Progress 
by Siegfried Sassoon.
Faber, 150 pp., £2.25, March 1983, 9780571130337
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The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon 
by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 160 pp., £5.25, March 1983, 0 571 13010 0
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Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1915-1918 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 288 pp., £10.50, March 1983, 0 571 11997 2
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... which threatened his sense of identity. In his celebrated book The Great War and Modern Memory Paul Fussell claims that the trilogy of Memoirs ‘is in every way fictional ... it would be impossible to specify how it differs from any other novel written in the first person and based on the author’s own experience.’ That is astute but it oversteps ...

Keeping up with the novelists

John Bayley, 20 June 1985

Unholy Pleasure: The Idea of Social Class 
by P.N. Furbank.
Oxford, 154 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 19 215955 0
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... still take a stern view, as once about sex, on the proper way to approach the topic. Dr Paul Fussell, who recently wrote a light-hearted book on the American class system, got some very stuffy reviews. ‘Decent people know about these things but don’t talk about them’ still seems surprisingly the accepted thing, observed in their different ...

Shaky Do

Tony Gould, 5 May 1988

Mary and Richard: The Story of Richard Hillary and Mary Booker 
by Michael Burn.
Deutsch, 249 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 233 98280 9
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... on the very next page when he says that The Last Enemy ‘is a legend of a conversion’. Paul Fussell, in his study The Great War and Modern Memory, talks about the ‘triadic’ structure of ‘the paradigmatic war memoir’ and relates it to Medieval romance literature: ‘training, “combat”, recovery – or ...

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