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Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from the Great War

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Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from the Great War
By Susan Werbe

WERBE1Letters That You Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from the Great War performance. Photo credit: Pegeen Rubinstein

November 11, 2018.  The centenary of the Armistice found me attending a concert of commemoration at Harvard University.  Held in the university’s Memorial Church, which was “dedicated on Armistice Day 1932 in memory of those [from Harvard] who died in World War I,” the university’s concert choir of Harvard undergraduates – men and women – performed songs written both 100 years ago and in the recent past.  As I watched the sky slowly darken through the church windows, I was moved by the young voices that soared to the high ceiling, honoring the Harvard alumni and faculty, and Radcliffe alumnae whose lives were lost in The Great War.

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Accidental Tourism and War Memorials

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Accidental Tourism and War Memorials
By Eric Chandler

Chandler9Assyrian Sphinx at Kansas City WWI Memorial, "Future." Looking west toward the other Sphinx, "Memory." (Photo Credit: Eric Chandler)

I was running along the Bow River in Calgary. I stopped at a memorial next to the water. (I don’t need much convincing to rest.) It was six vertical stone slabs, engraved with the names of Calgary’s war dead from World War I through Afghanistan. Next to the slabs, there was a piece of steel that held the words “We Will Remember Them.” On the stone closest to the river, I read these words, engraved this way: 

 

WE LIVED 

FELT DAWN 

SAW SUNSET 

GLOW 

 

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t immediately recognize these lines. I’ll blame oxygen debt. I got back to my hotel room and looked up the memorial and the inscription. The Calgary Soldiers’ Memorial was dedicated on April 9th, 2011, the anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. This fight was a notable victory accomplished by Canadian forces. The lines on the stone are from “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, which is arguably one of the best-known poems to come out of the Great War. I must’ve read the poem before, but I didn’t remember the words and I didn’t realize the author was a Canadian. It was special to me to learn all this after running by a river in Canada. But it highlighted to me that World War I is a big gap in my knowledge.  

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A Story of Regeneration - Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River"

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A Story of Regeneration - Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River"

By Brandon Caro

CastleBrandonDamagned Darul Arman Palace in Afghanistan. Image source: Brandon Caro

When I separated from the Navy in April 2009, I didn't have a plan. But I was interested in writing. Funds for the New GI Bill, which had been signed into law the previous year by President George W. Bush, were to be appropriated in time for the start of the school year that Autumn. I'd applied and been accepted to Texas State University in San Marcos, alma mater of President Lyndon Johnson.

I elected to become an English major. Up to that point I had never attempted to write anything serious, though I had thoroughly enjoyed working through writing tasks assigned to me in high school and later at community college in Norwalk, Connecticut. In my first semester at Texas State, I took a survey class in American Literature from about the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century up through the middle of the Twentieth with a professor called Allan Chavkin who remains a friend to this day.

One of the first readings assigned to us was Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River Parts I and II." I remember reading it for the first time on my laptop in my apartment in Austin, TX. The detail was so fine, and the writing was unlike anything I'd encountered up to that point.

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Interview with Pulitzer Winner Robert Olen Butler: The Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller Series and the Importance of WWI

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Interview with Pulitzer Winner Robert Olen Butler: The Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller Series and the Importance of WWI

A Veterans Day/Armistice Day Centennial Day WWrite Exclusive!

 

 

KArmistice111118 25An effigy of the ex-Kaiser Wilhelm in New York, one of the many hundreds on display that 1918 day. Getty Images

For Veterans Day and the Armistice Day Centennial, WWrite has had the honor to speak with Robert Olen Butler. Butler, who has been called the “best American living writer,” won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1993 and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature in 2013. A Vietnam veteran and a former reporter, Butler unites war and journalism in his Christopher Marlowe Cobb espionage thriller series. Four books trace the journey of American spy, Kit Cobb, as he navigates his way through the most important aspects of the WWI-era. The Hot Country (2012), The Star of Istanbul (2013), The Empire of the Night (2014), and Paris in the Dark (2018), take the characters and plot through the Mexican Civil War, the sinking of the Lusitania, the use of Zeppelins, and trench warfare. Butler is best known for his literary fiction, but in this interview, he explains the equally-intricate, equally-literary process of writing spy novels against the historical tectonic shifts of 1914-1918, a time, he says, closely resembles our present era. 

Listen to the fascinating interview below:

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Date: November 11, 2018

The interview took place on November 7, 2018

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A Distant Field: American's Great War Highlanders

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A Distant Field: American's Great War Highlanders
By RJ MacDonald

 

NewBrunswickDuart Castle on Argyll’s Isle of Mull, seat of the Chief of Clan Maclean. The 236th Kilties of American were based in Fredericton in New Brunswick.Image source: orargyll.info

 

RJ MacDonald’s WWI historical novel, A Distant Field, will be released on November 11th, 2018. The first in a series, it follows Stuart and Ross McReynolds, Scots-Americans who survive the sinking of the Lusitania. Together with four Irishmen, a Canadian, and a young English officer, they join Scotland’s Seaforth Highlanders and head towards the bloody battlefields of WWI. This week, RJ MacDonald gives WWrite both a preview and behind-the-scenes look at this unprecedented literary perspective of the Great War:

America’s Great War Highlanders

The mornings were cold in November 1917, so it’s easy to imagine the scene- Her Majesty’s Troopship Canada arrives at Liverpool docks, England. Soon lines of soldiers, burdened down with kit and rifles, are disembarking down the gangplanks. They form up into ranks, glad to be on dry land again, and with a nod from their commanding officer to the pipe major, the drone of bagpipes tuning up carries through the still air. Then, to the command of, “By the right, Quick March!” the men of the 236th MacLean Kilties of America march smartly away from the docks to the sound of their own pipes and drums. America’s Great War Highlanders had arrived.

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How Do Wars Begin?

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How Do Wars Begin?
By Donald Anderson

Andersonpic11Images from top left: Wilfred Owen, a photo from the Battle of the Somme, Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, and Gavrilo Princip

 

Written exclusively for the WWrite Blog!  WWrite asked Donald Anderson, Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at the United States Air Force Academy, to write a post about WWI for the blog. A few days later, he sent the following original piece, entitled "How Do Wars Begin?" A unique mix of poetry, prose, fiction, and history, "How Do Wars Begin?", brings together British poet Wilfred Owen, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the Archduke's assassin, Princip, bombs, and an expired cyanide pill to put into question not only the origins of WWI but of all contemporary conflicts:

 

How Do Wars Begin?

 

Today’s newspaper: Wilfred Owen died on Armistice Day 1918, the last day of the war.

[  ]

Actually, Owen’s parents were informed of his death on Armistice Day. Owen had died the week before.

[  ]

The newspaper is running the story in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria—the act that starts the war.

[  ]

Turns out that the assassin is one of nine children, six of whom had died in infancy. The newspaper reports a celebration in Sarajevo where the assassin, Princip, is treated as hero.

[  ]

In truth, it was Princip’s accomplice who first tosses the bomb—a kind of grenade—at the motorcade. The bomb is deflected by the Archduke—hitting him in the arm. The Archduke is in an open car, so as to wave at his non-Austrian minions. The deflected bomb explodes late, missing the Archduke’s car all together. Hard not to see it as a kind of cartoon: the Duke in a tallish hat with a lavender plume and the bomb a black ball with a visible fuse lit. Right? So here’s the rest: the bomb thrower swallows a cyanide pill, then leaps into the nearby river. The cyanide pill, though, is expired, and the river that time of year is four inches deep.

[  ]

The Duke—ever paternal—drives to the hospital to visit the injured victims of the car that actually caught the bomb. Big mistake, because Princip happens to be on the sidewalk when the Duke’s driver takes a wrong turn. The Serb had been in a sandwich shop. While the driver is backing up, Princip shoots the Duke and then the wife when she tries to shield her royal hubby.

[  ]

What if the Serb hadn’t been hungry?

[  ]

This is what starts the war: a mis-thrown bomb, a wrong turn in a car, bad cyanide, child non-mortality, lunchtime? Austria takes a hard line against Serbia and other powers in Europe choose sides. Within 30 days, a half-assed squabble between Austria and Serbia transforms into the first great modern war.

[  ]

At the 100-year assassination site celebration, someone calculated that to hold a second of silence for every person killed in WWI in Europe that the attendees would have to stand mute for about two years.

[  ]

And this: Princip’s cyanide pill was expired too.

 

Anderson13Anderson's books: Below Freezing, When War Becomes Personal, Fire Road, and Aftermath

Author's bio

Donald Anderson, who served 22 years in the US Air Force, was born in Butte, Montana in 1946. His fiction and essays have appeared in The North American Review, Fiction International, Epoch, PRISM international, Western Humanities Review, Columbia, Michigan Quarterly Review, Connecticut Review, and elsewhere. Since 1989, he’s been Editor of War, Literature & the Arts: an international journal of the humanities. He’s editor, too, of Aftermath: An Anthology of Post-Vietnam Fiction (Henry Holt, 1995), Andre Dubus: Tributes (Xavier University Press, 2001), and When War Becomes Personal: Soldiers' Accounts from the Civil War to Iraq (University of Iowa Press, 2008). His story "Fire Road" was awarded First Place in the Society for the Study of the Short Story 2000 Contest, and the collection Fire Road won Iowa's 2001 John Simmons Short Fiction award. His essay “Gathering Noise” was named a “Notable Essay of 2012” in the 2013 edition of The Best American Essays. His essay "Rock Salt" was listed in 2008 and his essay "Luck" was listed in 1999. In 1996, he received a Creative Writers’ Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He holds an MFA from Cornell University. A former Air Force officer, he now lives in Colorado, where he directs creative writing at the United States Air Force Academy. His most recent book, Gathering Noise from My Life: A Camouflaged Memoir, was named by the Christian Science Monitor as one of “12 Electrifying Memoirs” appearing in 2012.

Andersonpic12

 

 

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