“Need I say that there is nothing so romantic as war?” Wyndham Lewis asks in Blasting and Bombardiering, his memoir of years spent as a Great War soldier and modernist agitator: “All this culminated of course in the scenery of the battlefields, like desolate lunar panoramas. That matched the first glimpses of the Pacific, as seen by the earliest circumnavigators” (Lewis 114). In a characteristic provocation, Lewis sets out to undercut what by 1937 were already the Great War's canonical affects of pity and disenchantment, focusing instead on the eerie magnetism of war's blasted “scenery” for an artist such as himself. Similarly counterintuitive, even perverse, modern responses to destruction are the subject of Marian Eide's new book on the “terrible beauty” of violence, in the famous phrase from W. B. Yeats's “Easter, 1916.” Terrible Beauty asks why writers—and readers—across...

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