Friday, October 07, 2005

James Dickey: Firebombings Then and Now

Shawn Pittard of The Great American Pinup has weighed in with the final of three superb essays looking at my father's experience in World War II and how he transformed it into fiction and poetry:

“The sound of the crowd around me was made up of high yells, all you could put up with, but around them all was the low sound, which must have been coming from the whole city. How all those high screams could have added up to that one low tone, like a glacier when it first begins to calve off, was not something I could explain.”
Almost thirty years after writing “The Firebombing,” James Dickey revisited the subject in his novel To the White Sea (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993). This time, he put an American airman on the ground during the firebombing of Tokyo. We see the chaos, panic, and the intense-heat of a white phosphorus-and-gasoline fire through Sergeant Muldrow’s eyes.
“It was so hot that I kept looking at the arms of the coat I had on to see when they’d take fire. And then it got hotter, goddamn it, and hotter than that. I didn’t think my clothes would catch; I didn’t think that anymore then. I thought I would take fire myself, inside the clothes, and that the clothes, shoes and all, would burn up after I did.”

Also see:
Firebombings: From My Father's Wars to Mine, a lecture I gave at Clemson University, 19 Nov 2003 (PDF), and "Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son."
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