'Unknown' but Unforgotten

Today is the seventy-second anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In Pearl Harbor Ghosts, Thurston Clark says that "the ways in which Pearl Harbor continues to haunt the nation, and those who survived it, is a continuing and changing one." Clark includes among the haunted Ray Emory, who was a seaman first class on the cruiser Honolulu at the time of the attack. Emory continues to lobby for adequate, accurate memorials for the 653 "Pearl Harbor Unknowns," military personnel whose remains are missing, fragmentary and too often misidentified. "These kids gave up their lives and each of these stones costs just sixty-eight dollars," says Emory. "That’s all they got, and you’re telling me we can’t do a better job of saying when and where they died?" After noting Emory’s belief that he is motivated by "a matter of simple justice," Clark adds his story to those of others, most of them survivors or descendants of survivors, all of them still on the long march of memory, grief, and reconciliation:

He believed that once these graves were properly marked, then the Unknowns' former [shipmates] might visit them to lay flowers and pay their respects. But I suspect he had also embarked on this crusade for the same reason that Sterling Cale had finally written down his Pearl Harbor experiences after fifty-nine years of silence, and that Dick Fiske later became friends with the Japanese pilots who had bombed the West Virginia: They were all trying, in their different ways, to exorcise their own Pearl Harbor ghosts.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

 

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.