News

There Is Yet More to Casualties of War

Page 4 of 4

Meserve's sentence was cut from ten years to eight. He, too, was eligible for release within half that time.

Meserve already has been out of prison for almost twenty years.
Who knows what caused this terrible gang murder?
The New Yorker's Kael cites Paul Fussell's new book, Wartime.

Fussell wrote of World War II atrocities: "The American military learned that men will inevitably go mad in battle and that no appeal to patriotism, manliness or loyalty to the group will ultimately matter."

How did it leave Eriksson, who will have to live with what he saw for the rest of his life?

"I guess that was the big thing that happened in the war for me," he said.

And what of Daniel Lang, the author of Casualties of War?
Lang was a staff writer for the New Yorker for forty years. During that time he wrote more than 100 signed pieces for it.

Lang died of leukemia in November 1980 at the age of 68. He had spent a career writing stories with unusual twists. He had been a World War II overseas correspondent for the New Yorker in Italy, France, and England.

Lang's style was to lend a sympathetic ear to people in extreme situations. For some reason they talked to him and told him fascinating offbeat stories.

He had gone to West Germany and discovered that the current generation hardly knows anything about Adolf Hitler. He had traveled to Sweden and had listened to the sad tales of men who'd deserted the army during the war. He had attended the antiwar trial of Dr. Benjamin Spock and had given a devastating account of the government's role. After Hiroshima, he had become dedicated to learning all he could about nuclear weapons.

Lang's obituary in the New Yorker read in part:
"He was an inspired reporter, a lucid and enthralling writer of rare literary powers who brought deep feeling, deep thought, deep conviction to everything he touched."

Casualties of War received an extraordinary reception from critics when it was published as a 123-page book.

The London Observer called it "a classic story of the brutalizing effects of war comparable to the Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front."

The Christian Science Monitor compared it to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

Writing in the Washington Post, Ward Just said: " . . . one can only marvel at the fine sense of morality, intelligence and literary skill of the man who put it together."

Lang's highest reward came perhaps in the closing words of his obituary in the New Yorker:

"He tried very hard to understand the people he wrote about and far more often than not he succeeded . . . at once a mysterious, charming, pensive, self-effacing, worried, lovable man, he will be keenly missed by this magazine."

There was only one copy of Casualties of War listed at the main library in Phoenix. I searched the shelves for it in vain.

"Sorry," an employee at the information desk told me. "It was borrowed a long time ago and never returned.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Fitzpatrick