Well, and when I started this blog thing I told myself that I mustn’t let it degenerate into a constant litany of complaints against the various annoyances of life. As a rule, I said, for every hatchet job I write, I need to write a puff piece. Over the months, this has meant that I don’t write very many hatchet jobs (or at least not as many as I start to). On the other hand, I don’t write very many puff pieces, either. So having given in to the weakness to complain about a New York Times piece, I’ll plant a big kiss on the web site of Operation Homecoming. Operation Homecoming is a NEA/DoD program that runs writing workshops for returning soldiers as part of the debriefing. The program was recently expanded to increase the number of workshops and locations; I’ve seen a variety of numbers but it looks like the total cost is less than a million dollars and most of that is picked up by corporate sponsors.
Now, I don’t want to get too romantic about returning soldiers, and if you are interested, you should probably read opposing articles such as Aleksandar Hemon’s Operation Homeland Therapy in Slate as well as admiring articles such as Dennis Ryan’s dcmilitary.com note. I happen to have a soft spot for the World War One “war poets”, and I think that it’s breathtaking to suggest that Americans want to invest even a trifle of money in the possibility of a few gems in uniform.
Digression: If you happened to read a new specfic novel set in some world that had as part of the background the fact that the military, for whatever reason, recruited its officers from the universities’ top-ranked historians, poets and mathematicians, and that a really first-class translator of dead languages was pretty much guaranteed a commission, would you dismiss it as implausible or what? And then for the poetry coming out of the war experience to be a separate and highly valued subgenre? End Digression.
I also happen to like the Library of Congress’s Veteran’s History Project. I understand those people who find this all to be a glorification of the military life, but mostly I find it to have a refreshing sense of respect for the individuals who wear the uniforms, as well as for writing itself. I don’t care if anybody ever reads the anthologies, nor do I expect ever to read them myself, or if I do to like anything in them. I just think it’s a great idea.