For Further Reading: albeit 3.1: War

For albeit 3.1 we asked our contributors to submit their favorite war films and books, and a brief reason why.

Sheri Chinen Biesen:

There are many extraordinary books and films on war, including Paul Fussell’s Wartime, and, of course, in terms of cinema, Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Platoon, and so many other films which bring the stark, gritty milieu, difficult conditions and violent horrors of wartime to the screen. I especially love 1940s film noir produced during the Second World War. Many wartime noir films did not mention the war (often due to censorship considerations), however, my favorite films noir made during the war are Double indemnity, The Big Sleep, and To Have and Have Not, which was produced as a follow up to Casablanca.

Jeffery Blanchard:

Some of my favorite books on war literature/war are as follows (some personal, some for teaching):

– Homer’s The Iliad: One of the first war texts out there!

– Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: A powerful play about the glory of war and the struggle to transition into the political arena. I really like teaching this one…plus the film version with Ralph Fiennes is fantastic.

The Penguin Book of WWI Poetry: gives a good spread of poetry from WWI – soldier, civilian; male & female

– Wallace Stevens’ Parts of a World & Transport to Summer: a look at WWII from the American home front.

– Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos section of The Cantos: a fascinating look at the traumatic effects of war on a civilian American who has turned to Italy.

– Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried: a microcosmic look at the day-to-day doldrums of soldier life in (and after) the Vietnam War. O’Brien shows the lingering effects of war in a powerful way.

– Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet: A highly objective look at the Iraq War as Turner considers war and its effects of war on both the American soldiers and the “enemy” civilians.

– Phil Klay’s Redeployment: Another powerful set of stories that looks at war (and post-war) from multiple perspectives.

– Restrepo: A great teaching tool as we can show students the chaos, camaraderie, and pain behind war today through the visual medium.

Gregory Dekter:

Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner
Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves
Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Whereas books plotted in wartime are often focused on the event itself, these depict the individual experience set against the backdrop of war. For this reason, although each refers to a different moment in history, all succeed in accessing a universal—and largely overlooked—compassion.

Richard Johnston:

Books: Anonymous, Beowulf; Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey; Yusef Komunyakaa, Dein Cai Dau; Herman Melville, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War; Toni Morrison, Home; Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Films: Apocalypse Now; The Deer Hunter; Dr. Strangelove; Full Metal Jacket; Inglorious Basterds; Life is Beautiful; Platoon.

Stephen Wilson:

Losses: Poems by Randall Jarrell–The majority of poems in this book were written while Jarrell was in the service. Although he saw no combat, he is able to capture the mindset of soldiers and the way in which the military works. The poems also show his changing style of writing.

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam by Bao Ninh–This novel captures the devastation of war in a haunting way. The words, people, and events featured in the novel will stay with you long after you finish the book.

Storming Heaven​ by Denise Giardina–This novel is a fictional account of a war many people do not know about: The Battle of Blair Mountain. This 1921 battle to unionize coal miners took place in Logan County, West Virginia, and was the largest armed rebellion since the Civil War. It also has various subplots for readers of all persuasions.

Favorite war films include: Full Metal Jacket, Cold Mountain, The Patriot, and ​The Hurt Locker.



Tracy Bealer:

One of the first books that taught me what literature could do was Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. His experiments with achronological storytelling felt radical and exciting to me. It was only on later re-reads that I began to understand that he was trying to communicate something unspeakable about war as well.

War movie too? Here you go in case you need it: The first movie that comes to mind isn’t really a war movie, it’s a man movie with war as its backdrop: Patton. However, the movie’s argument is that this man can only exist in spaces of war, so I’m sticking with it!

Natalie Leppard:

I am generally not as interested in what happens during war so much as what happens after war so books like Hiroshima (the birth of “yellow journalism”), The Reader (and its even better film adaption), and An Unnecessary Woman appeal to me.