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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Flanders - Patricia Anthony Rating: 4* of fiveThe Book Report: Travis Lee Stanhope leaves Harvard for France to join in the fighting of The Great War (WWI to thee and me), as so many of his generation of young American men did, on the side of the Allies. He chronicles his experiences as the lone Texan among European officers and men who, unlike the cruel and dismissive Yankee boys he's been spending his education among, chaff him good-naturedly about his accent and his origins.He becomes, by virtue of his origins, a sharpshooter, and develops a track record of success in his task. He also makes some very...well...some discoveries, shall we say, that completely revolutionize his view of the material world, and what it contains, and what it conceals.War isn't hell. War is only the gateway to it.My Review: This wasn't a bestseller in 1998, when it was published. It wasn't widely reviewed. It wasn't a succès d'estime. High Literature, as defined by the unofficial and unconstituted American academy, excludes all forms of genre fiction...that condescending little shudder-word used to mark off the territory of Serious Books by excluding those which a writer without an MFA from Iowa, or a PhD in Literature, might wish to produce and an ordinary person might wish to read.I'd direct those academicians, self-appointed or recognized at large, to books like this one Magical realism isn't simply a Latin American phenomenon. This epistolary work (and right there is the reason it was never a bestseller) rivals the storytelling gifts of Mujica Lainez or Cortazar or Vargas Llosa.Oh. Bobby, I can't remember what he said—I only recall the joy of it, the terror of watching the dark approach. Then we were at the cypress; O'Shaughnessey had to see it coming. He had to. The dark took up all Here, all Now. I wanted to run, but with the helplessness of dreamers, I trailed O'Shaughnessey inside.I don't remember closing my eyes as we passed through that shadow membrane, but I remember opening them. Around me lay the broken countryside of No Man's Land. That was all. Nothing frightening, but a place like a thousand others—a spot where ghosties wander, searching for the land of the found, O'Shaughnessey stopped, offered his hand in a goodbye, no extraordinary power but that of affection in his touch. “Travis?” he said.“Yes?”He leaned close to whisper a secret. His breath was warm and smelled of chocolate. “It's love.” Don't overlook Travis Lee's magical adventures. You'll be the poorer for it.