Wednesday, March 20, 2013

As You Were edited by Alexander Woollcott

As You Were by Alexander Woollcott, January 1944: Fifth Edition
I love the drawings on the dust jacket of the soldiers
reading as they go about their military business.

This is my prize from yesterday's trip to Berea, Kentucky. I found it in Robie Books, a used bookstore on the edge of the Berea College campus. It was published in March 1943 as Alexander Woollcott's present to the troops overseas. Measuring just 4.5-by-7 inches, it must have fit nicely in a soldier's knapsack.

From the dust jacket:

Some people knit for the troops and some bake for them. Experts design their shoes and scientists balance their meals. But until Alexander Woollcott thought of it, no one had tried to make a book of entertaining reading just for them. As You Were is built like a jeep - it is compact, efficient, and marvelously versatile. Its purpose is recreation - in every sense of the word. It offers humor in abundance - from broad laughter to gentle mockery - as well as melodrama, suspense, and romance.

For being 70 years old this volume is in remarkable condition. Thank heavens, there are no bloodstains or bullet holes! For the reading enjoyment of a fella in the forces, there are nineteen fiction selections including stories by Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Ring Lardner, and O. Henry. 

The American Verse section includes forty-one poems by writers such as Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Walt Whitman. 

Twenty-five selections under American Fact include an essay by E.B. White, three speeches by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., "A Talk to Young Men" by Robert C. Benchley, along with President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural speech, the Declaration of Independence, and the 1936 Thanksgiving Proclamation by Wilbur L. Cross, governor of Connecticut.

This book was actually published two months after Mr. Woollcott's death. During World War I, he served as editor of the military newpaper Stars and Stripes so he must have had some knowledge of what might entertain the soldiers. He also asked for recommendations from Carl Sandburg, Mark Van Doren, and Thornton Wilder. 

I am so glad I found this book. It seems to be a remarkable collection of just the sort of American writings to soothe many a homesick heart of soldiers overseas. 


  1. A terrific find, and in such good condition! I wonder how many of these books sit in old trunks or chests of veterans of WWII. "As You Were" fell into the best of hands, Belle.

    1. This book is great on so many levels, Penny. First, just the whole historic, military connection. Second, because it contains so many wonderful short works of American writers. Although I don't live in a foxhole, it has already become a perfect bedside companion.