"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Harrowing Life in 'Glory for Me'

Glory for MeGlory for Me by MacKinlay Kantor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. Glory for Me was more than I expected. The content was stronger and rawer. I had anticipated something more restrained and inspirational, something like the movie The Best Years of Our Lives, which is adapted from this book.

The film version was a Best Picture winner in 1946, with a top notch cast including two of my favorite actors of that era: Frederic March and Theresa Wright. It is one of my all-time favorite films. It is also a proverbial old Hollywood offering with tasteful and restrained depictions of sexuality, alcohol consumption, and depression.

Glory for Me, on the other hand, spares the reader nothing. Long before the aftermath of Vietnam popularized the veteran’s plight, soldiers returned home from WWII and found it almost impossible to reacclimatize. Some were amputees. Many suffered PTSD. They found it difficult to function in, or even find, jobs unrelated to killing enemy soldiers. And they were haunted by the ghosts of fallen comrades. This is what Glory For Me depicts in all its pain and personal darkness.

I love the book, though it verges on overstatement in the later chapters as things get more and more hopeless. Still, like the wonderful film adaptation, the ultimate message is one of practical hope. Glory For Me reminds us that for true healing to take place, friends and loved ones play a vital part.

Two final notes:
1) This book is written in blank verse. It is a poem. However, it is written in a contemporary (1940s) voice, very accessible and even a fun chance to enjoy the slang of an earlier generation.
2) You’ll have to hunt used booksellers for this one. But it’s easy enough to find a decent copy online. That’s how I got mine.

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