Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review - Wall, Watchtower, and Pencil Stub


Wall, Watchtower, and Pencil Stub: Writing During World War II

By: John R. Carpenter
Publisher: Yucca Publishing
Publishing Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1-63158-004-8
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: February 5, 2015

This is an extremely well-written book by John R. Carpenter, about the various writers who involved themselves during the days, months and years that encompassed the Second World War from 1939 to 1945. The book refers to the various writings during the war itself when participants didn’t even believe it was a war and were still wondering why Germany was trying to kill everyone.
This excerpt from George Orwell, author of 1984 is a fine example. “As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only doing their duty, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted, law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life.”

Mr. Carpenter writes that these authors, that he mentions in the book, told of the events of the war as they happened before anyone really realized that these horrible things were happening. These authors were looking through some very scary glasses as they described real, up-to-the-minute drama as it happened. Before the United States entered the war, it seemed that there were umpteen secrets that were hidden behind a steel curtain that began with a so-called 'Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939' that continued until the end of the war in 1945, and as readers will remember, Russia changed sides and Hitler invaded their country.

This book is really the story of writing and should be on the reading list in every school in the US as World War II seemed to disappear for a while, but now the stories are coming back little by little. It is apparent that civilians suffered most during the war as the first horror of the occupied Baltic states, under this Pact, were written about, followed by the concentration camps being set up across Europe, which left the victims in shock and some who couldn’t believe it was happening. Mr. Carpenter travels through the war by letting the readers in on works by all types of writers who wrote about the beauty of the countryside though the fact that this same countryside saw the most brutal ways of treating human beings.

This is another excerpt that will underline things that were happening under everyone’s noses. An anonymous author wrote this from “The Far Side of the Moon” describing an iron door closing on a train and tiny pieces of paper were thrown to the ground. The line reads: “From the gratings fluttered down showers of white scraps, tiny pieces of paper on which were written names and addresses, last messages begging not to be forgotten, broken sentences and prayers.”

Quill says: This is an amazing book that should be in everyone’s library!