Lipton’s Journal/January 3, 1955/171

From Project Mailer

The sensitivity spectrum: To the poet, words are not only important, but he is even driven to tear up the individual word and try to find more meaning within. The general speaks in sentences so predictable that they are the equivalent of one word. For example: “Greater productive techniques are at the heart of delivering X bombs to Y target with maximum saturation, accuracy, and density.” There are really only four words in the above sentence. Which occasions me to wonder if there has ever been a general in modern history who was also a decent poet. I believe not. Totally not. One kills individual people in order not to commit suicide, but one orders the deaths of vast quantities of people because life is always seen conceptually—in other words, the general has taken the life of the people to be murdered away from them by his mind, before he even gives the order. He is merely altering statistics. There have of course been writers like Malraux[1] and Gary[2] who have been good soldiers, but they were adventurer-soldiers, not bureaucrat soldiers.


  1. French novelist and Minister of Culture under President de Gaulle, André Malraux (1901-76) was one of Mailer’s heroes when he was at Harvard. Malraux’s Man’s Fate (1933) was one of Mailer’s models for his long story, “A Calculus at Heaven” (1944), reprinted in Advertisements for Myself.
  2. A prolific French novelist (of Litvak origins), Romain Gary (1914 – 1980) was also an aviator during WWII and a postwar diplomat. Mailer met him in Paris in 1947 – 48, and became reacquainted with him when Gary headed the French delegation to the U.N. in the early 1950s.