The Forever War: Art for the Grown and Sexy

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One other accolade for Joe Haldeman's The Forever War—it was not a book about a boy trapped in a man's body. I feel like I spend too much of my life consuming art and consuming non-artistic writing obsessed with the inability of men to grow up. (Some of it on this site, I admit.) I'm just really, really tired of it. 


There is a love story at the heart of The Forever War, but it isn't at the center of it. It sort of grows with the book, and in that sense I felt that it matched my sense of real life.  Are a man's romantic relationships an important part of his life? Yes. But that part works along with like fifty other parts. In that sense, I appreciated how the romance was important and moving, but along with a lot of other things. More that the romance wasn't just "Do I commit or not?" which seems a rather eternal artistic question. 

I'm just sort of bored with it. I feel like it only represents a certain sort of man. I know that some great art has come out of that question. Mad Men is stupendous. But I don't know that I can do another season of Roger, Pete and Don attempting to manage the infinite pursuit of ass and all which that might mean. I'm just tired. I can't keep looking at the screen, or tossing my paperbacks across the room, yelling "Be a man!" To be a boy or not, isn't the end of conflict. And it isn't the end of story-telling. 

It is good to see a dude in love with a woman, and pining for her in the way that dudes do. ("Poor Marygay," the stoic Mandella remarks to us.) It is good to see a dude who isn't dark, brooding and pathetic. It is good to read a woman who was not some pixie dream-girl, but was just, like, a woman. And it is good to read a book that was post man-child, that was on some grown man shit. Throw in some lasers and wormholes, and all the better.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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