WASHINGTON (Sept. 20, 2011)—From Joseph Farris, a member of the “greatest generation,” comes a firsthand story of his life as a young soldier and artist during World War II, told through letters home and sketches of daily life serving with the Army’s 100th Division on the French-German border in 1944 and 1945. A SOLDIER’S SKETCHBOOK: From the Front Lines of World War ll (National Geographic Books; ISBN 978-1-4262-0817-1; on sale Nov. 1, 2011; $35 hardcover) is a powerful tale of the vicissitudes and costs of combat as seen through the eyes of a young, raw recruit.
Son of a Lebanese-American shopkeeper, Farris left Danbury, Conn., for battle during the last months of war on the European front. He wrote hundreds of letters home — letters that his parents lovingly saved — took lots of photographs and collected souvenirs. Along the way, he practiced his art as well and saved the many ink and watercolor sketches — not knowing that he was on the way to a lifelong career as a New Yorker cartoonist.
Through Farris’ letters, sketches, photographs and memorabilia such as his Order to Report for Induction in April 1943 and his combat infantryman’s badge, readers will understand what it felt like to be a young soldier during World War ll. Farris was exposed to attacks of tear gas as part of his training. He describes life on the troop ship heading to the front, the experience of spending Christmas Eve in a snowy foxhole, the shock of losing close friends, his exhilaration when Germany surrendered and how wonderful a hot shower felt after months on the front line.
“I entered the army a naïve young man, and left a battle-hardened naïve young man,” writes Farris, who is now in his 80s. “I had much to learn about life, but my experiences serving my country gave me insights that helped me develop into who I am today.”
His is an Everyman story, sweet with homesick notes, generous in perceptivity and rich in the lessons he learned about what matters in life.
In a moving foreword, Anthony Swofford, acclaimed author of “Jarhead” — the award-winning book about the Gulf War that depicts a very different soldier’s experience than the one told by Farris of World War II — reflects on how pain can often be communicated better through artwork than copious facts and details. He writes, “‘A Soldier’s Sketchbook’ is at once a new kind of memoir, multi-narrative and richly visual, and a throwback to a time when national sacrifice at a time of war was indeed national sacrifice.” On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Farris will give a National Geographic Live lecture on his book at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C.
About the Author
Joseph Farris is an internationally published car¬toonist whose works have appeared in the New Yorker and many other major publications since 1957. His numerous books include “Phobias and Therapies,” “A Cog in the Wheel” and “They’re a Very Successful Family.” Farris’ work is in the private collections of President Jimmy Carter and Paul Newman, among others, and many of his New Yorker cartoons are in the permanent collection of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Farris is also a painter. He lives in Bethel, Conn.
Foreword writer Anthony Swofford is the author of The New York Times best-selling book “Jarhead.” Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition platoon during the Gulf War, and that experience served as the basis for his book, which was later adapted into a major motion picture. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s magazine and elsewhere.