Monday, March 1, 2021

Two writers who don't write about war

I have not mooched a cigarette from novelist Philip Caputo (A Rumor of War, Horn of Africa). I have not traded email with writer Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War). 

I have, however, spent a little time with Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato): I’ve cadged two or three of the Carltons he smokes incessantly and traded stories about spending time in casinos. 

I’ve also corresponded with writer Steven Pressfield over the past several years, and could call him a friend I’ve never met in person.

Both Tim and Steve have inhabited the world of war as the stage on which they write, but neither of them would consent to be labeled “a war writer.” 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A Review of "A Man at Arms," by Steven Pressfield


Steven Pressfield’s newest novel, A Man at Arms, opens on a roadside in Judea in the year 55 AD, some two decades after the crucifixion of a Hebrew prophet whose followers continue to prove troublesome for the Roman Empire. 

A caravan of merchants and other travelers pause at the foot of a grade, knowing from experience that the summit is a favorite spot for brigands, bandits, and thieves to lay in ambush. We’re introduced to the novel’s main characters. First, a local boy, David: “son of Eli, age fourteen, unlettered but of sturdy limb and abundant ambition.”

Among the pilgrims and peddlers milling about and fretting on how they might continue on the road to Damascus without being waylaid and robbed blind at the top of the hill, David takes note of a father with his young mute daughter in tow. David is “struck by the child’s apparition. Feral, dirty, with bare soles and hair so matted it seemed neither comb nor brush could be pulled through it, the girl seemed more a wild animal than a human being.”