Rather seriously deranged

Lots of good stuff n the Paris Review interview of John Hersey.

This one stuck out, because Patton happened to be on TV:

INTERVIEWER

Was it that natural a move, to go from writing nonfiction to writing fiction?

HERSEY

I guess I’d been thinking from the very beginning, and had been experimenting a little bit in the pieces I did for Life, with the notion that journalism could be enlivened by using the devices of fiction. My principal reading all along had been in fiction, even though I was working for Time on fact pieces. As I said, Malraux, Silone, John Dos Passos of those years, Hemingway, Faulkner, were all writers who had excited me; the kind of skepticism and challenging of the norms that Van Santvoord had put to me had attracted me to writers who were trying to break the molds in various ways. In Sicily I wrote some Life pieces about people there who interested me very much. I couldn’t take their stories in nonfiction beyond the articles I had written; but implicit in what they were like was the possibility of a novel. So I just plunged in. The book almost wrote itself. I was working under pressure of time—I had a month in which to work. I now look back on it as a naive book, and an imperfect one. But the example of Silone, who spent his last years rewriting his novels, has cautioned me against trying to repair A Bell for Adano, to make it better. Silone went around a long curve from left to right, and I think he wanted to take the political errors of his youth out of his early books. But instead he took his youthfulness out of them, and I think damaged them badly. As did Fitzgerald when he tried to straighten out Tender Is the Night. A Bell for Adano, as I see it now, had a value when it came out, flawed as it is, because it presented to the American public, at a time when the war was far from won, the spectacle of an American general who seemed to represent the very things we were fighting against—General Marvin, loosely based on Patton, who was I think rather seriously deranged during the Sicilian campaign.

From wiki:

Carlo D’Este wrote that “it seems virtually inevitable … that Patton experienced some type of brain damage from too many head injuries” from a lifetime of numerous auto- and horse-related accidents, especially one suffered while playing polo in 1936.

If the New Yorker archive is still free, take a read of John Hersey’s account of Lieutenant John Kennedy’s survival after the sinking of PT 109.  Kennedy seems to be the only source for the piece?

(photo from the National Archives)



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