ARTICLES OF WAR
Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Foundation Award
Winner of the American Library Association's Boyd Award
Winner of the Colorado Book Award
2007 One Book, One Denver Selection
A gem of a book... Beautifully written and timely.
The Bloomsbury Review:
Shatters the monolithic facade of war... Articles of War stands out as a surprising achievement for our times...and far transcends any boundaries of war literature.
A textbook example of how clear and precise writing can carry a narrative... Arvin paints a vivid portrait of the fog of war. He captures the chaos and confusion of combat that's often left out of the accounts, whether fact or fiction, written after the fog has lifted.
Here are some of the ways in which Articles of War runs the risk of seeming hopelessly out-of-date: It is relentlessly literary. It is as prim about sex as is its young hero, Heck, so called because he obeys his parents and doesn't swear, even in Normandy and Belgium in some of the heaviest fighting of World War II. And its subject is the great lost subject of American fiction, manhood. Heck, you see, is not just an obedient son and a dutiful soldier; he's a coward. He fears his cowardice just as much as he fears war, and when his cowardice leads him not to the disgrace of desertion but to the death of his own soul, we know exactly what has been lost -- not just in the life of poor Heck, but also in the reach of our modern, and then postmodern, and then post-post-modern literature.
It would be a good idea to read Articles of War, Nick Arvin's bleak and harrowing World War II novel, in one sitting. To do otherwise runs the risk of dampening its tremendous power. One might also wish to have a loved one nearby when one finishes it, if only to hold for a few moments.
The Denver Post:
Articles of War is a slim volume that is hard to forget... The resulting novel plays out in lyrically sparse language, a story that is bleak but very affecting. Arvin leaves the key judgments in the hands of his readers, and he does it in a way that ends up feeling very personal.
The Arizona Republic:
We meet Heck as he waits, endlessly, to be sent to the front, like a foreigner who has been dropped off in a place so alien that it might as well be another planet. It's a place of passage, a time suspended between his former life and the new one he will have after he has witnessed war. Arvin describes what happens to the earnest Heck in firm, unemotional prose that gathers steam as the story progresses. There is a twist at the end, a bit of melodrama that is surprising and disconcerting, but the book would have succeeded without it because Arvin has made us feel Heck's desperate fear.
The New York Times:
Effectively summons the nightmare into which soldiers are suddenly thrown... Articles of War presents a tough and visceral vision of war as "a universe unto itself" and a moral crucible.
The Detroit Free Press:
Hyper-realism is the category that Articles of War, a slim debut novel by Nick Arvin, falls into. Indeed, it redefines the type, so perfect is its sense of what a single soldier might feel as the shells come whizzing in... A necessary addition to war literature and a book I won't soon forget.
The Rocky Mountain News:
Arvin's ability to capture the grim and fragmented atmosphere of war-demolished France parallels his deft hand in exploring the inner reverberations of Heck, full of unmatched hope and monumental insecurities. Such descriptions quake with enormity, and Arvin's handle on the psychological gravity is both immense and extraordinary.
O, The Oprah Magazine:
At one point early in 18-year-old George Tilson's romantic and harrowing experience of World War II in France shortly after D-Day, he finds himself longing for the Iowa farm country that the army has plucked him from. Tilson is the hero of Nick Arvin's first novel, Articles of War (Doubleday). In this delicate and lovely scene, he is with a beautiful French girl, Claire, who charmingly calls him Iowa -- everyone else calls him Heck because he does not cuss. He thinks "of the wide fields he had worked and in their absence seemed to know them with an intimacy he had never felt before." This is exactly how longing and loss affect our memories, and this scene is typical of the book: precision and sweeping imaginative intelligence that reminds one intensely of Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage. Heck is a character, like Crane's Henry Fleming, who responds to war with paralyzing fear... The battle scenes here, along with the one extended love scene, are described in such extraordinary detail that the effect is almost hyperrealistic, saturated with color, emotion, and physical sensations. Heck moves through changing landscapes and interacts with a rapidly shifting cast of characters, not one of whom Arvin neglects to make as three dimensional as someone you might meet and get to know on a long trip. The force that gives Articles of War its true power is not just the economically gorgeous writing, however; it is an artistic courage analogous to the one required of these young men at war: to render love, pain, death, and heartbreak, to live inside these human dramas, know them, and deliver them on the page, never for a moment with sentimentality or without respect.
The Christian Science Monitor:
One eerily striking scene follows another... A haunting, unsettling examination of fear in the face of destruction that would terrify any sane person.
This fierce, compact tale of one grunt's war takes readers to the same time and place - the woods of northern France in 1944 - where Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim was captured by the Germans. George Tilson, aka Heck, is another awkward, uncertain American 18-year-old mobilized from America's heartland to the European theater. Disembarked in Normandy, he meets a struggling French family: a one-armed painter; his daughter, Claire; and son, Ives. Claire nearly takes Heck's virginity, but he fumbles her seduction in a fit of fear. He's then trucked off to battle, where he experiences real panic under bombardment: "The noise was like nothing he had ever experienced before, a noise such as might be used to herald the beginning of a terrible new world." Heck is halfway through his nightmarish advance through a forest peppered with German snipers and booby traps before he fires his gun in anger, and that's only to kill the company dog. His second shot comes when his company sergeant, Conlee, an ex-foxhole mate and one of many to mark Heck as a coward, enlists him in an unexplained but horrifying mission. Arvin's first novel is an elegant, understated testament to the stoicism, accidental cowardice and occasional heroics of men under fire.