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Laughter on the Battlefield

It’s true, war is hell. But in the right hands—holding the pen askew at just the right angle—war can also be funny as hell. As long as there has been a military machine—and self-important leaders turning the crank which turns the cogs (soldiers)—there have been novels poking fun at armies clashing on the battlefield (and in certain Strangelovian “war rooms”).

You may say, “There’s nothing hilarious about people dying for their country.” And you’d be right. It’s not funny, and I don’t intend to mock those great men and women—some of whom I knew personally—who have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Vietnam, World War II and all the other conflicts past, present and future. But I also believe that people need to be startled into hearing and seeing the truth—I keep going back to Flannery O’Connor’s explanation of why she used grotesque humor in her fiction: “To the hard of hearing you shout and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.” Telling a war story with comic characters large as billboards is just one way to make the truth stick.

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