Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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ARCHIVES OF May, 2014

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

En Brera, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 30, 2014

[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

I’m in Paris now. I have flown here to interview Yosi Ben-Hanan. On the right is a photo of Yosi from the last day of the Six Day War.

Lt. Yosi Ben-Hanan in the waters of the Suez Canal. Photo by Denis Cameron.

Six years after that moment, the armies of Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in what would become known as the Yom Kippur War. Yosi was in Nepal on his honeymoon. It took him seven different planes to get home. He arrived at the darkest hour of the crisis. Yosi took command of his tank battalion and led a counter-attack against overwhelming Syrian forces on the Golan Heights. For his heroism in this action, he was awarded the Itur HaOz, Israel’s second highest decoration for valor.

But this day in Paris, the world is a much more peaceful place. Yosi is a two-star general, head of the Israeli Defense Mission in Europe, on the brink of retirement. He meets Danny and me in his office in the Israeli Embassy and takes us to dinner at a restaurant called La Procope, where Voltaire dined.

Yosi is telling us about his mentor, Gen. Israel Tal.

I will tell you a story about General Tal to show you what kind of man he was. [Tal died on Sept. 8, 2010.]

A couple of years after the ’67 war I had left the army and traveled to New York City, to Life magazine. My dream was to become a photojournalist. Sure enough, Life offered me a job. But when I left the editor’s office and got back out on the sidewalk, I started to have a bad feeling. I put a dime in a pay phone and called home to Israel. I phoned Talik—this is General Tal’s nickname—collect.

He took the call.

“Yosi, what are you doing in a place like New York? Life magazine? Have you lost your mind? You should not be taking pictures of others. They should be taking pictures of you!”

Tal

Gen. Israel Tal standing before an Israeli Merkava tank, which he designed.

Talik told me to come back to the army. That was where I belonged. He would make a place for me where I could do what I did best.

“Yosi, I am going to give you the address of the Israeli Defense Mission in Manhattan. It is thirty blocks south of where you are. Start walking now. When you get to the mission, an envelope with a thousand dollars in cash will be waiting for you. Use the money to fly home. Pay me back when you can. Oh, and one last thing: Lay over for a few days in London and Paris on the way. Have as much fun as you can, Yosi, because I am going to work you very hard when you get home.” (more…)

Posted in The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing
4 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Inner Wars and Outer Wars

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 28, 2014

One of the questions I get asked all the time is “Why do you write about war?”

7Samurai

"Again we've survived." The closing image of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai."

It’s a good question, and for years I didn’t have an answer.

I didn’t start out writing about war. For almost thirty years I wrote screenplays and novels and none of them were war-themed. In 1996, Gates of Fire (about the battle of Thermopylae) came out of me for some reason I could not (and still cannot) fathom. Six more novels about war followed. A non-fiction book about the Six Day War of 1967, The Lion’s Gate, just came out two weeks ago.

What gives?

What is it about armed conflict that seems to fascinate me?

I’m certainly not the blood-and-guts type. I’ve never been in a war. I was an infantryman in the Marine Corps but that was in the reserves. My unit never got called up. I never saw action.

I haven’t lost friends in war; I haven’t been traumatized by experiences in combat. I have no ax to grind politically. I would not call myself “anti-war.” But I’m certainly not pro-war.

Marine Lieutenant General James Mattis invited me to speak to some of his officers at Quantico a few years ago, and afterwards he invited me to dinner with his staff. He had read Gates of Fire and had been deeply impressed by the reality of the combat depicted and by the representation of the emotions and the fellow-bonds of the warriors under such extreme conditions. He asked me straight-out: “How can you write so truly about men in war when you’ve never experienced war yourself?”

My answer sounded facile, I know. “That’s why they call it fiction.”

My reply was not facile. It was a true statement of the fiction writer’s experience, of the mystery of the imagination, and of the creative process.

Homer lived three to four hundred years after the Trojan War. He was blind. How could he know what he knew? How could he write the Iliad?

Shakespeare was born 150 years after Agincourt. He did not fight in that battle (nor in any war, for all we know) yet he was able to put these words into Henry V‘s mouth, addressing his outnumbered, weary, illness-ravaged troops:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me 
shall be my brother;

Be he ne’er so vile, 
this day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
 shall think themselves

Accurs’d they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap

Whiles any speaks 
that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

How did Shakespeare do that?

How does any writer write anything?

My answer (and I’ve thought about this a lot) has to do with inner wars and outer wars. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
23 Comments

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

“Remember Who You Are. Remember Why You Are Here”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 26, 2014

[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

I am visiting the 101 Squadron at Hatzor Air Base in the Negev desert. We’re talking about the concept of En Brera, “no alternative.” (more…)

Posted in The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing
19 Comments
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Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t
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The Virtues of War
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