Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw (pub.1948)


Was that a joke, his saying that he initially started out with the idea of following the history of the bullet from the lead mine to its discharge into Christian Diestl to avenge the death of Noah Ackerman? That ‘Christian’ is an fluorescent underlining that bleeds into the next page and indicates that maybe the wise hand of an editor stayed him. The elephantine coincidence of Christian having met Michael Whiteacre’s girl in Austria before the war is unnecessary particularly as she plays scarcely any part in the book. I read on a door once - ‘my karma ran over my dogma’. Politics are fatal to good writing and the ready to wear asides in the novel man a picket line. It’s still a good novel and the writer’s notebook is evident in its pages. Shaw paid attention during the war and if he neverr put himself in harm’s way he surely met the warriors coming home.

Noah Ackerman among the ‘crackers’ is well wrought and his fight for respect is only successful when he flouts the law of their common enemy, the army. Their captain turns out to be a poltroon in Normandy. Ricketts the lisping Texan, careful now, is another bete noir that is well delineated in all his ever present splendor.

Ackerman’s walk around town with his fiancé’s father is superb and shows that Shaw made his mark initially in fiction with the short story form. I’m reading his ‘50 Years’ collection now. The man has a sense of humor too, which I do not associate with the blockbuster writer. Being an early success had not spoiled him in 1948 when he published ‘Lions’. A degree in Advanced Failure with a subsid in Chagrin is not a requirement but is useful. Fail better as your man said. The red under Jack Warner’s bed may have sent him off to Europe where the hysteria, whatever its frail grip on fact, was not a major impediment to best sellerdom and the curse of the mini-series.

War I don’t anything about, but he makes it real. I especially liked the way he stressed the need to be in a platoon of friends that would look after you in case you were inclined to volunteer to draw fire. Get the stranger ice-cream soldiers to do that. And the Luger souvenirs that they died for.

It is too big a book and too simple a book to get down to details about. ‘There were three soldiers went to war’ with a hey ho and a hey nonny no.
It surprised by by its quality and here I must incriminate myself; twas Stephen King mentioned it with approval in one of his books which I didn’t finish. Bring it on a flight to Australia and you will be still reading it on the transit bus and finishing it blear eyed on the day before you left.


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