KC filmmaker Don Maxwell is set to shoot "One Kind of Officer," based on a Civil War story by Ambrose Bierce.
His take on Bierce is 180 degrees out of phase, however. He says, "Bierce's unique contribution is the idea that war is always bad and that it turns everything upside-down. Truth becomes lie, black becomes white."
Bosh. Bierce favored the cause he fought for (war was not "always wrong"), but this war gave him his first chance to see human interaction in crisis . What he learned of the human condition in those circumstances he set in his war stories - gingerly I think - and much moreso in his non-military writings.
As someone who has read a lot of Bierce, I find his Civil War stories almost mainstream. The mixture of gall and vinegar we associate with the man is concentrated in civilian subjects.
Maxwell says "A cynic is usually a disillusioned idealist. Bierce's concern for human beings never flagged, otherwise he'd have never written these stories."
How uplifting. May I suggest, as an antidote to this, H.L. Mencken's account of Bierce at the funderal of critic Percival Pollard?
Pollard believed that American literature was broken; he attacked the problem at its root, the reputations of the poseurs writing best-sellers. That was the kind of friendship Bierce could enjoy. Asked what should be done with Pollard's ashes, he told Mencken that they should be molded into bullets and fired at publishers.
"Bierce's concern for human beings ..." Strum that harp, talespinner. Bierce is laughing so hard at this, the devil has to cover his ears.