Ward S(wift) Just Paul Denison - Essay

Paul Denison

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In "Military Men"] Ward Just takes the empathic approach to the men of the army. Thus he makes possible a fuller understanding of the "military mind" than one can gain from either the army's passionate critics or its champions, or even from dispassionate observers.

Mr. Just's style is both impressionistic and precise—James Joyce read by Walter Winchell. Hypersensitive military men may detect undertones of chic cynicism; to other readers the line between sarcasm and sympathy may seem blurred.

But on the whole the book rings true.

Mr. Just has touched all the obvious bases: cadets and professors in the "beautiful ghetto" of West Point; draftees leading lives of "unspeakable, stupefying boredom"; sergeants who make up the army's "single relentlessly subtle element";… utility infielders known as officers; nonconformist officers who "exist like beached fish within the system."

With an empathic ear, and perhaps a tape recorder, Mr. Just carefully records the words and thoughts of soldiers as they retreat and regroup. The first five chapters sound like stanzas of a swan song, sung by entertainers who don't know when the act went stale.

Paul Denison, "The Army—and How to Survive It," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; (© 1971 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), February 11, 1971, p. 11.