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Visions of War: Picturing Warfare from the…

Visions of War: Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyber Age

by David D. Perlmutter

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312273320, Paperback)

David D. Perlmutter delivers an idiosyncratic and highly original history of warfare by focusing on its images, starting with cave art nearly 20,000 years old and concluding with today's computer games. In between, he brings aesthetic and photojournalistic sensibilities to a series of studies on how artists and cultures (mainly Western) have depicted captains, comrades, enemies, and the terror of war. Readers will find famous pictures on these pages, such as the six American soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi in the Second World War. ("The original group of six could have been cast by Warner Brothers," Perlmutter writes. "Their ethnic background included Anglo-Saxon, Pima Indian, Czechoslovak, and French. Their diversity became one of the selling points of the image and its ideal--they were America, or rather how America wanted to see itself in olive drab in wartime.") Perlmutter shows how some well-known images, such as the crumbling mosaic portraying Alexander the Great and Darius II in close combat, are works of fiction. Alexander and Darius "probably never came within shouting distance," yet this famous picture, in its way, reveals larger truths about combat. And he wonders how the antiseptic, high-tech images of "living room wars" such as the Persian Gulf War will alter warfare in the future: "Could training in virtual war simulations, no matter how realistic in the other elements of war--including noise, jolting movement, and variations in temperature--fail to teach nascent warriors to fear death?" Visions of War lacks a single thesis, but it more than compensates through dozens of fascinating discussions of individual war imagery and what they reveal about human nature and civilization. --John J. Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:36 -0400)

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