Sunday, 7 February 2016

Books unreviewed

"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking." - Einstein

I have been doing some background reading on trench warfare during the second half of the First World War, starting with the relevant Osprey and with Paddy Griffith's 'Battle Tactics of the Western Front'. The first thing to note is that both the author of the Osprey and that of 'Through The Mud and the Blood' are, how can we put this, very familiar with Griffith's work. I've always understood there to be some controversy over his somewhat revisionist view of the performance of the B.E.F. and of the infantry in particular, but presumably the others are on his side.

I myself bring no prior knowledge whatsoever to the table. Griffith's book wasn't really what I had envisaged - not being particularly polemical - but was very interesting nonetheless. I've worked in a lot of large organisations and his description of a blend of front-line operational kaizen coupled with layers of highly political management of varying degrees of competence rings very true. I shall keep reading (anything to avoid thinking about basing) and have moved on to Wyndham Lewis' autobiography. I have obviously already read the relevant works by Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, but have retrieved them from the old marital home for a second look. My ex-wife is familiar enough with my pretentiousness not to be taken aback by urgent requests for books by long dead poets.

Speaking of which, lets have a poem by Graves that has nothing to do with the war:

Love is universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason.

Symptoms of true love
Are leanness, jealousy,
Laggard dawns;

Are omens and nightmares -
Listening for a knock,
Waiting for a sign:

For a touch of her fingers
In a darkened room,
For a searching look.

Take courage, lover!
Could you endure such pain
At any hand but hers?

          - Robert Graves


  1. You could have Edmund Blunden too - 'Undertones of War'.

    1. Thanks, you're right of course. Blunden is referenced quite a lot in Griffith's book, but I hadn't made the mental leap to add him to my reading list.

      Having said that, I am making very slow progress with Wyndham Lewis so the whole concept may be somewhat overambitious.

  2. It amuses me strangely to learn that Blunden lived long enough to perhaps see Slade performing 'Merry Xmas Everyone' on Xmas Top of the Pops a few weeks before he passed away. Make what you will of that..