Sunday, September 13, 2009

I just read Norman Stone’s World War One

I just read Norman Stone’s World War One, A Short History (Penguin), and I couldn’t put it down. At one point Stone refers to Oh! What a Lovely War, Richard Attenborough’s stupendous film, and this scholarly book has the same spirit. What comes through in the film in songs, in the high comedy of staff officers jumping on other staff officers’ backs, the bleak hospital scenes, the shockingly sudden increase of mass graves, is a scholarly work here, with all the significant events, facts, connections noted and explained. And the writer counts on his reader’s intelligence, nothing is belaboured; there are no redundant passages or redundant words in the book.

Richard Attenborough and Norman Stone could be twins, working in different fields but sharing the same critical and creative intelligence, the same eye for telling details that reveal the characters of historic figures as well as villains you never heard of. They share the same gift for economy, the same heart that beats for ordinary people whose lives are turned into tragedies by the big shots. For that very reason it isn’t depressing, because it is infused with a sense of human solidarity. However terrible the world is, we are not alone. If you loved Oh! What a Lovely War and want to know who did what to whom, this is the book for you.

5 comments:

The Promiscuous Reader said...

Hooray, a post. I'll take a look at Stone's book, and try to find a copy of Oh, What a Lovely War.

I recently reread The Rules of Chaos for the first time in a decade or so, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered, and also at how much influence it has had on the way I think. It also turned out to be the source of a number of quotations I'd been trying to track down for years, including the one from The Magic Mountain about interest being greater than love.

Thanks for all your writing, Mr. Vizinczey. I'm looking forward to the new book.

Bruce I. Kodish said...

The Promiscuous Reader beat me to it—but I'll say it again for myself. Thanks at last for posting something. On the basis of reading just The Rules of Chaos, I'm one of your big fans. Give us more please.

Sam said...

At last, a word from the Master.

Will El Hombre del Toque Magico ever appear in your original English?

Bernard A. Collins said...

If Stephen Vizinczey says he couldn't put a book down, you know it's worth reading. I'm inspired by his comments to order Norman Stone's World War One. Unlike most tomes of the First World War, it's a short history. That speaks of clarity and conciseness

Barton said...

Oh man this is amazing. I read some books of Stephen 10 years ago, and I really enjoyed them a lot, I even went trying to conquer some girl at that point of my life. Furthermore I learned to appreciate some of Stephen's favorites authors, yes! Tolstoi, Dostoievsky, Gogol, Stendhal, Balzac!
Thank you so much Stephen!

Saludos de Mexico!