Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Save the Books: Willie and Joe Have Lessons To Teach Us

I grew up with Willie and Joe.  Who?  Willie and Joe, the immortal philosophers who wryly chronicled World War II from the perspective of a dogface infantryman.  Created by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin, they provided Americans a decidedly un-rosy lens through which they could view the war.  From the beaches of Italy through the liberation of Europe, Willie and Joe watched each other's backs, tweaked the officers, and tried to make sense of the senseless.

One of my favorites, from Up Front, portrays Willie and Joe pinned down in a firefight with one of them declaring that he could not get any closer to the ground because "me buttons is in the way!"

Mauldin followed his dogfaces home in Back Home, where they faced a recession, unemployment, a housing crunch, and Jim Crow laws.  He was especially hard on the Veterans Administration.  One memorable cartoon shows a young veteran, in pajamas and wheelchair.  Spanish moss-laden trees surround him and his wheelchair sits in several inches of water.  He himself recognizes the irony when he says, "I remember how much my Daddy laughed when he sold the VA this swamp."  Willie and Joe might have become civilians, but Mauldin's pen waged a campaign to ensure that returning veterans would receive the care they deserved.

Mauldin was not one to suffer fools, or injustices, silently and his books reflect that.

Since I already own both Up Front and Back Home, you know how thrilled I was to find a copy of Bill Mauldin's Army in the library discard bin.  Of course, I snatched it up and brought it home for my personal collection.

While I was savoring my find, I was saddened to know that such a jewel was leaving public access.  Too many books are being discarded and many important voices are being forgotten.  We are not burning books; we are discarding them.  And we are poorer for it.

So, help me save the books; time is running out.

What are you reading?



  1. Just finished a John Irving book - Last Night in Twisted River. Now I'm reading a marketing textbook - argh.

    Popped in from SITS Girls best post of the week.


  2. Im reading a marketing book as well! Popped in from SITS!