April 26, 2011

On Starship Troopers

The New Yorker asked Harold Bloom about military reading lists:

“It’s a very mixed bag,” Bloom said. “The two surprising entries,
really quite wonderful, are E. M. Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’ and
‘The Red Badge of Courage,’ which is a considerable work of
realization.” He talked about a lecture he once gave at West Point, on
Walt Whitman’s “Drum-Taps,” and found that the soldiers were “immensely
open to what Whitman was doing.”


What did he think about the
inclusion of “Starship Troopers”?


“I can’t take that seriously,
I’m sorry,” he said. “I suppose it’s on the list because that’s the
world we’re headed towards.”

Bloom famously claims to be able to read 400 pages an hour, but I doubt he has in fact read Starship Troopers. I do not like science fiction literature myself, but having once read (and enjoyed) Starship Troopers because it was on a military reading list, I understand why officers and soldiers should read it. Although later adapted into a regrettable action movie, Heinlein's original novel features some wonderful explorations of the concepts of citizenship, leadership, civil-military relations, and service.

There are plenty of geuinely bad books -- <cough!> Once An Eagle
<cough!> -- on military reading lists, but Starship Troopers is not one of them. As for Harold Bloom ... take it away, Carlin Romano!