Below in its entirety is the letter to the editor I wrote to the New York Times in response to reviewer Eder’s comment. I waited to post it here because they state they don’t allow its prior publication elsewhere. Their stated 7 day contact period has expired so surely they’ve decided not to use it. If one sees a certain vitality missing in contemporary literature, it’s not unlikely that it’s in part related to the fact that such a sweeping and crucial statement as, antiwar novels are belligerent, can not only be categorically asserted with no sense of a need for support, but also cannot be challenged by a letter to the editor as a matter of course, especially in the time of a highly controversial war.
Antiwar novels are “belligerent”?
Richard Eder writes, “‘The Welsh Girl’ is a distinguished, beautifully written example of a small but enduring genre. Call it the counterwar novel. Not antiwar, exactly; it lacks the belligerence.” Antiwar like, say, “Homefront”? I wonder what a pro-war novel, or a status quo war novel, could then be called? “Compassionate,” I suppose.
There is scarcely an explicit antiwar novel about the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Why is that? Might it be that the US has a culture a lot like that of Germany of the 1930s and 1940s? Too many “good Germans” and “good Americans”? Too many critics and others who think antiwar novels are “belligerent”?
As Tony Kushner notes (in “Theater”): “I do not believe that a steadfast refusal to be partisan is, finally, a particularly brave or a moral or even interesting choice. Les Murray, an Australian poet, wrote a short poem called ‘Politics and Art.’ In its entirety: ‘Brutal policy / like inferior art, knows / whose fault it all is.’ This is as invaluable an admonishment as it is ultimately untrue.”