On War and Writing
University of Chicago Press (Footprint), $44.99 hb, 215 pp, 9780226468785
'Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier.’ Samuel Johnson’s aphorism was commended to me many years ago by Peter Ryan, then the long-serving publisher at Melbourne University Press. The author of a superb personal account of his war experience in New Guinea, Fear Drive My Feet (1959), Ryan had just read a manuscript I had submitted to MUP. It was a critical and possibly excessively sarcastic account of the heroic theme in Australian war writing. My cynicism about the Anzac industry had a personal basis, Ryan seemed to be implying. Apparently I was driven by envy and self-loathing. Nevertheless, he published the manuscript, and in the book I shamelessly deployed the ever-quotable Johnson as an epigraph.