A Ramble
My War

Anzio and
Other Joys

Charles F. Marshall
(Louisana State University)
The U. S. Sixth Army's landing at Anzio was a badly planned attack, and it was badly executed. Even though the enemy was weakening --- WWII would be over in eighteen months --- the U. S. Army was forced to spend months fighting its way out from a poorly chosen beach-head, in which the invaders were under fire day and night. This start of this other invasion of Europe was anything but auspicious. Charles F. Marshall was there all through this landing and the subsequent battles in southern France.

Marshall grew up in New Jersey, in a German-speaking family. He was drafted for military intelligence, and was stationed with the Sixth Corps for most of the later part of the war. He kept extensive notes, and in this book, expands on those notes to give us powerful you-are-there feeling.

Since he was fluent in German, his job for Army was to examine captured documents and maps, to interview prisoners-of-war --- so our military could know what the Germans were planning, and could thus create an effective offense as well as defense. Marshall was also put in charge of The Beachhead News, a propaganda newspaper designed for the American soldiers.

At times, Marshall expresses guilt at the fact that he and the other officers were behind the front lines, in warm, often plush, settings. The high command often took over luxurious hotels, estates, and castles and, even at worst, their accommodations were far from Spartan:

    Here we were raising a rumpus with all the comforts and luxuries, including a string trio, in a heated tent, and outside in the chill rain, only 12-15 miles to the north...the GIs, soaked and tired and hungry, were dying and being wounded and having their lives shattered.

At other times, Marshall laments the fact that he is participating in such carnage, even helping to create it:

    Such letters [taken from the bodies of the German soldiers] caused me to sit back and reflect on the idiocy of war and the bitter price exacted from its participants. Yet I had to admit to myself that I had as big a part in this idiocy as the next man. Although vexed by feelings of ambivalence, when I came out of my reverie, I would sigh and turn back to my work, ferreting out information and looking for better ways, more productive and perhaps innovative ways, to kill Germans.

Marshall at best comes off as one caught in an interesting job with the winning army. At worst, he comes off as a bit of a show-off --- telling us how immensely vital his work was in his war, often complaining that none of his superiors acknowledges the importance of what he's doing (especially since they are so slow in giving him advancements in rank). He also comes off as a bit of a prig --- telling of the lurid carryings-on of others on leave in Paris, telling us none of his own.

One of his official tasks gave him a singular coup: he was brought in to interview the widow of Field Marshall Rommel, and, ultimately, wrote a book on "the desert fox." It was discovered, through these interviews, and through other documents, that Rommel was murdered by direct orders from Hitler. (Marshall's book was published several years ago as Discovering the Rommel Murder.)

Our author shows himself to be very much a WWII kind of guy. For instance, the very title of this book, A Ramble Through My War is odd. It was far from a ramble --- "a leisurely excursion for pleasure" --- if we are to believe what he writes here. In fact, it was an awful killing mess. The estimate is that 100,000,000 soldiers, prisoners, men, women, and children lost their lives in the six or so years of the war. There was endless mayhem --- homes, villages, cities, and many of the architectural and timeless artifacts of Europe were destroyed. If it was a "ramble," it was one that many of us would be loathe to join. The subtitle, "Anzio and Other Joys," shows the same sort of off-putting off-handedness, the oh-what-a-wonderful-war syndrome that seemed endemic to the two World Wars. As for his compassion for the poor GI there in the dugout, Marshall could easily have volunteered to join them out there in the rain. His unwillingness to do so shows that there were limits to his compassion.

Finally, his comments on the realities around him are so distant and uninvolved as to give this reader the willies:

    On a visit to our Hundredth Division I was told that the division's medical officers had found four hundred civilians in a hospital who had been driven insane by our bombings of the Mannheim. Recalling the endless rows of buildings smashed into smithereens that I had seen, this was understandable.

Not "tragic," not "awful," not "heart-breaking." But "understandable."

--- Robert R. Richerson


An Inspirational Coloring Book
For Making Dreams
Come True

Carolyn Manzi
It's an interesting idea, a coloring book with affirmations for adults. And it has its charm. The pictures to color are simple: Buddha with a star for his third eye. An old fashioned bathtub, with the note: "It's time to get out of the bathtub. God is waiting." There are some original prayer ideas for parties, or maybe parties for prayers. You know me --- I'm never one to put down an idea for a party.

"What is the most delicious dream you would like to be responsible for creating?" asks the author. "Draw your vision of happiness here." [There is a blank space for us to draw our vision of happiness.] With all this joy, what's the rub? I dunno. Maybe it's me.

For outside of its adolescent chauvinistic certainty that the "New Age’" is more of a new age than any other moment in time/space, this work and the ethic it represents are plagued by a dis-ease we might call me-ism. Me-ism, a kind of fundament of our entire society, manifests in the New Age as everything from making a buck to the Prosperity Consciousness. The Bo-bos --- a term made up by David Brooks, short for Bourgeois Bohemians --- have somehow tried to keep some of the ideals of the Summer of Love and shored them up with a blasting money-consciousness that is not, I believe, necessarily helping our society.

We yearn, we hunger... we press ourselves against the breasts of The Great Goddess More. More money, better grades, more t.v. sets or computers. More spiritual know-how. Save me, we cry, Help, Save me.

That's the clinching, clenching goal: more enlightenment. Most people think enlightenment is happiness, somehow getting off the duality system and never suffering again. Maybe it is. I wouldn't know, because I confess that after thirty years of practice, I haven't. Gotten off, that is. Except for very occasional out-of-time bursts, mostly with the help of illegal substances, that let me know there is actually more than this slowed-down 3-D reality of ours.

Manzi comes over with some telling tiptoes from the Multiverse:

    Write God a thank-you note each morning and each night. God's address is written in the eyes of all whom you meet.

Oy! I've tried being nice here because I think Carolyn Manzi is probably a very nice person. But, as we used to say in the Haight Ashbury, Man, this is awful Cute-sy. She says Coloring Your Prayers is for adults, meaning those, we suppose, who have reached full growth and development. But these adults: they must have forgotten how to grow down. To laugh at the entire predicament. To dance. To eat. To make love.

This book may be all right for people just starting to grow. But I think my Buddhist friends would find it too much treacle here, even though they would probably be much kinder than I. So, I'll give my copy to my teen age granddaughter who hasn't gotten as spiritually blasé as I am. She might love it.

--- Elizabeth Gips


Eva Svankmajerová
Translated by Gwendolyn Albert

(Twisted Spoon Press, Prague)
Let's see --- there are the Twins, the Operating Room Nurse, The Professor Lak, The Specter, Jóstaf, Frau Ludmilla, and Baradla, who was

    slippery, sweet and shy. But Baradla was Baradla and woe was him....Special complications had arisen from her unexpectedly forceful reaction to his first advance, which he had bestowed upon her out of a sense of politeness and a timeless feeling of obligation. It was certainly not a blessedly successful, outstanding sexual act. It was a sticky situation.

OK. And The Twins?

    The Twins, however, were malicious slow inactive cantankerous covetous and insatiable. No one should ever call children innocent. They possess so much human misery that it can't all fit inside them, and it stinks all around them, obstructing the way and poisoning the air. These tiny horrible monsters are, on top of everything else, the clutches of a fate which torments the parents to such an extent it's shameful...not just with the trifles that erupt the moment the babe sticks its bloody little head out of the hole...

Where are we, anyhow?

    Another collecting area of Styx lies near the Kis Baradla (Small Baradla) depression. The combined water of the streams have been artificially dammed in the Dancing Hall of Baradla so as to create a 460m-long lake, which is also a tourist attraction. This all culminates in an artificial waterfall of tourists, who are then dispersed through the clay and gravel.

Ms Albert, the translator, tells us that Baradla Cave "is not so much a novel as it is a babbling brook arising from the depths of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and springing forth from what Václav Havel has called 'consumer totalitarianism.'" She then tells us "many of its nuances are best appreciated by Czech readers only." We have to admit, the whole thing left us absolutely baffled, so we'll have to take her word for it. The book concludes, "In this faraway hole no one even desired some sort of order. It wouldn't have done much good anyway."

--- Mary P. Leslie

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