My Queer War

James Lord

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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In My Queer War, James Lord tells the story of a young man’s exposure to the terrors, dislocations, and horrors of armed conflict.

In 1942, a timid, inexperienced twenty-one-year-old Lord reports to Atlantic City, New Jersey to enlist in the U.S. Army. His career in the armed forces takes him to Nevada, California, Boston, England, and, eventually, France and Germany where he witnesses firsthand the ravages of total war on Europe’s land and on its people. Along the way he comes to terms with his own sexuality, experiences the thrill of first love and the chill of disillusionment with his fellow man, and in a moment of great rashness makes the acquaintance of the world’s most renowned artist, who will show him the way to a new life.


Praise for My Queer War

"James Lord . . . is a tremendous storyteller. He brings dramatic intricacies to his encounters with Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti, Peggy Guggenheim and a host of other characters in the memoirs and recollections he published over the course of nearly half a century, from A Giacometti Portrait in 1965 to My Queer War, completed before his death . . . My Queer War reflects the skills of a practiced fiction writer who can track a young man's shifting consciousness and knows what is best left unsaid."—Jed Perl, The New York Times 
"James Lord wanted to leave college in October 1942; at 20, he hated every minute of campus life and harbored a secret that shamed him. Volunteering for the U.S. Army and heading off to war seemed like the perfect escape. My Queer War reveals what this young man, so innocent of worldly experience, learned about himself, the army, the enemy, Europe, and even the artists he worshipped (Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein and Thomas Mann, among others) during his tour of duty from enlistment until discharge in December 1945 . . . Overwhelmed by both the atrocities he witnessed and the rampant absurdities of the army, he asked himself, 'Was it merely the war? Being queer in the war, making the war queer.' Portraying his actual war duties as farcical (he was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious achievement—for nothing, he says), Lord delivers a sobering and heartbreaking account of the personal battle he fought to come to terms with his inexperience, hero worship and sexuality in the unforgiving theater of war. In poignant summary, Lord (who died at 86 in 2009) writes, 'I stood by the ragged edge of the action in fear and fascination, and I dreamed that maybe mere proximity might make the story of my queer war the history of an epic.'"—John McFarland, Shelf Awareness

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It all began beside the war-torn sea. In Atlantic City. Truly a queer setting—out of place for an epic adventure, let alone a good venue for making a young man ready to perform the daredevil feats of wartime avaiators. Yet this second-rate, overbuilt resort had been dreamed up like the locus of a psychedelic fantasy by the U.S. Army Air Force for the basic training of would-be fliers into the wild blue yonder. All the Xanadu pleasure domes left vacant by wartime retrenchment were thought well suited for billeting transient thousands of glassy-eyed roo

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  • James Lord

  • James Lord’s books include A Giacometti Portrait, first published in 1965, and Giacometti: A Biography (FSG, 1985), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent work is Mythic Giacometti (FSG, 2003). He died in 2009.