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Joyce Kilmer

Joyce Kilmer

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As recently as the late 1950s, in a small town on Long lsland near New York City, young people in school learned certain poems: Joyce Kilmer's "Prayer of a Soldier in France," Alan Seeger's " I Have a Rendezvous With Death"�and John MacRae's "In Flanders Field." Does anyone still remember the fallen this way in classrooms? This spring, "Dispatches" by Michael Herr appeared in the Everyman Series from Alfred A.

Knopf, 40 years after the publication of Herr's memorable article on Khe Sanh in Esquire (it is also one of the most memorable parts of "Dispatches").

How many literary books are there about the Vietnam War? Some would say Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is at the top of that list, though for many people the experience of Vietnam probably derives mostly from movies, not books — "Apocalypse Now," of course, or "Platoon," or�"Go Tell the Spartans."As the poems above may suggest, World War I seems to have left a deep impression, not to mention some powerful books about that conflict: "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque (still read in many middle schools across the country) and, now and again,�Ernst Junger's "Storm of Steel" (now in a very good translation by Michael Hoffman).�"Storm" is probably the single best book ever written about the actual experience of an individual soldier in modern combat.

But for many around the world, is it Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" — with its description of a young man's experiences of combat on the Italian front in World War I — that has had the most lasting literary impact?�
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