Sunday, May 02, 2010

An odd conversation

I had an odd conversation with a collector the other day. He was being somewhat dismissive of books on the US Army written by non-Americans. In fact he was very much of the 'if it wasn't done here, it can't be any good' style of thinking.

Now probably most of my published writing has not been done in the USA, so I kind of took exception to this, and had it pointed out that my stuff is OK because I AM an American. But that people without a close tie to America can't really get into the skin of an American soldier. He's not really prejudiced as you might think. He made very good points about non Americans not having good access to archives and libraries. That they would have a harder time talking to veterans and such, and that they may have been put somewhat off the track by having been in a different Army.

Now knowing he also collected German stuff I had to steer the conversation around to what books he likes for German info. And … tada! … all he mentioned books written by Americans and published in America. So I pointed out that by his thinking all he should read are books on the German army written by Germans.

"That's different; You can't print some of this stuff in Germany so it has to be done here."

So I countered then with any eastern front books should be written by Russians. That, he said, would be ridiculous as everyone knows the Russians have been fed so much propaganda nothing they do is not biased.

And I finally decided to shift the conversation to something else knowing I would not ever get anywhere.

But it is interesting that us Americans do seem to think we "own" our own Army's story, and no one else can tell it. I know I do get a bit irritated when British books use British terms or abbreviations for American military ones. I think an American Rifle company should be abbreviated Co. instead of Coy. That's my own pet peeve.

Certainly, I think it is much harder for someone from, say, Belgium, to write on an American topic. But this means he must be really, really keen on doing, and therefore may put a lot of extra work into it. There's also something to having a totally fresh set of eyes so that someone (like a famous Marine) does not assume that since it was done some way in his day, the same must be true for 10 years before him.

In the end it's up to the work itself to stand the test of people who really know the field. They need to look at it and see if it is well done or not. Certainly we know publishers no longer do this.


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