I see via Andrew Stuttaford that Paul Fussell has died.

Ol’ Robbo has several of Fussell’s books on the shelf in the port swiller library, and I may just say here that I cannot think of an author with whom I agree and disagree more vehemently at the same time.

I suppose that what has always bothered me about Fussell’s writing has been his trick of setting up a stage across which he parades a motley collection of fools, and then making abundantly clear that he (and, by implication, his gentle readers) was not part of the parade.  This comes to mind most clearly regarding his book Class, in which he skewers the follies and foibles of just about every section of the American socio-economic scale, but at the end invents a “Class X” for himself and his boho friends outside of this scale and, presumably, above any such criticism.

I would also suggest that his Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic, which recounts his experiences as a line officer in WWII in Europe and their aftermath, was a far, far too blatant attempt to paint himself as the Second War’s Robert Graves.  Although it’s been a while, I recall that Fussell even quoted large chunks of Goodbye To All That just to make sure his readers got the point.

In short, it’s always been my impression of Fussell’s writing that a very large and cantankerous ego lurked behind it, and it is perhaps at those points where that ego bubbles up to the surface that I dislike his analysis the most.  I’ve an idea I wouldn’t have liked him much in person.

However, having said all that, it has been a while since I last visited him, and perhaps it is time to dip into the collection again.

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