Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank is the author of What's the Matter With Kansas?

Recent Articles

Why WWI?

The moment it dawned on me that there might be something to this Internet fad, I remember, was on a day in 1998 when I thought to run an eBay search with the word, “Ypres.” Within seconds I was awash in artifacts -- aerial photographs, vases made from artillery shells, antique Michelin guides -- having to do with the town in Belgium where the British Army suffered some of its most calamitous losses during the First World War. Here, in one place, were more of the sort of objects I covet than I would amass in a lifetime of sedulous thrifting. Now, I am not one of these guys who spends his weekends reenacting infantry battles. With respect to the trench warfare of 1917 -- wholesale slaughter, industrialized and indifferent to individual heroics -- one might as well reenact the Spanish Flu. Instead, the relics of World War I that I collect have for me a very different, and very specific meaning: Each helmet or cigarette lighter or bit of trench art is a token of monumental disillusionment...