Skip to comments.Freeper Reading Club Discussion: "From Here To Eternity"
Posted on 01/12/2003 2:39:55 PM PST by PJ-Comix
The Freeper Reading Club now stands at 131 members which makes it (I believe) the LARGEST Reading Club on the Internet. Actually it may be the LARGEST Reading Club anywhere.
Anyway, I hope that most of our 131 members read the current assignment, From Here To Eternity by James Jones. This is perhaps the GREATEST novel ever written. I think it qualifies for THE Great American Novel. Many of you might not know this but most of the characters in this book (and in James Jones' other novels) were based on REAL people. The minor character of Slade (the Army Air Corps soldier) was based on James Jones himself (Jones transferred from the Air Corps to the regular infantry while stationed in Hawaii.)
I'll post more about all this as the discussion continues so post away your comments about this book. Oh, and if anybody else wants to join the Freeper Reading Club, Freepmail me and I'll put you on the Ping LIst.
Nothing much different than locker room type talk there.
Interesting that he would make Slade an over enthusiastic and naive sounding soljier, when he is doing a self portrait.
Most likely having a little fun there. However, Jones was originally in the Air Corps in Hawaii and hated it which is reflected by what Slade was saying on the same topic. Also, Jones became friends with several friends in the Infantry and became enthusiastic about that unit...just like Slade. BTW, there are characters based on Jones in his other novels. In Go To The Widowmaker the main character was DIRECTLY based on him.
How about that! I just yesterday picked up a copy of "Name Of The Rose" while I took my family to Higgins Armory in Worcester (a museum of medieval armor). It was in the gift store. It looked very interesting and similar to a medieval novel I read last year ("Pillars Of The Earth" by Ken Follett). I've been wanting to read Eco for years but never got around to it.
I am sure Mallow was based on a real person (as most of Jones' characters are). There was just too much detail about the IWW (Wobblies) for Jones not to know such a person. Also since Jones was only in his 20s when he wrote FHTE I don't think he would have known enough about the Wobblies on his own to completely invent such a character. Most likely, Jones did meet an ex-Wobbly much like Jack Malloy. I would also like to know which real-life person Jones based Sgt. Warden on.
BTW, Robert E. Lee Prewitt was based on an Army buddy of Jones' named Robert Stewart.
Wobblies were kind of a home grown socialists in contrast to the bolsheviks/communists. They were probably more akin to Anarchists. However, Big Bill Haywood did flee to Russia in 1921 when he was out of jail on bail and died there in 1928.
Jones was never very political. Most likely he did meet a former Wobbly in the army and used him as a character in the book.
The wife of Captain Holmes (Karen) definitely gave as good as she got. Apparently she chewed up a lot of men and spit them out way before SSgt Warden came on the scene. BTW, the notion of an enlisted man having an affair with his CO's wife is preposterous in today's military. I just see no way that this could happen (obviously conditions were different in 1941). The separation between officers and enlisted are obviously much greater today than it was back then. When I was in the service in the early 1980s, there were very strict rules about fraternization not just between officers and enlisted, but also between NCO's and "non-rates." When I made Sergeant, it was made quite clear to me that I was not to hang out with privates and lance corporals after duty.
Lorene, the prostitute girlfriend of Prewitt, was another strong character. She had a plan to make as much money as she could in the whorehouse and then she was to go back to the United States (remember, Hawaii hadn't yet achieved statehood at that time) and take care of her family.
Mrs. Kipfer, the "owner" of the whorehouse is another strong character who doesn't seem to put up with much. (The "Mrs." in her name does make me curious and it is never explained in the book.)
During the 1920s and 1930s, there were a lot of socialists in the United States. Remember, at the time, this was before the Soviet Union was our enemy and just after the 1917 Revolution in which socialism was still perceived to be a "noble experiment" and not yet proven to be the failure we all know it is today.
Huey Long, who served as governor of Louisiana and also U.S. senator was a radical socialist who was becoming wildly popular throughout the country. He wanted to become president of the United States and abolish capitalism and confiscate the wealth of the nation's rich and redistribute it. He even wrote a book about it called My First Days In The White House. We're talking about a guy who thought FDR was a radical conservative and a puppet of Wall Street! Had he not been shot, who knows what might have happened.
Huey Long was assassinated in 1935 while he was running for president for the 1936 campaign. The United States came perilously close to being a socialist country during that time.
Get a bunch of guys together in one place and that's pretty much the way they talk about them. But on the bright side, about 90% of it is braggadocio.
Actually I think there was a much greater separation back then. At that time a lot of the officers were from the elite class of America or what today might be termed Yuppies. I don't think as many of those type of folks are in the military now. Patton and MacArthur were examples of this elite class in the military.
Well...yes and mostly no. Long was probably more along the lines of a fascist (although I think he was just an opportunist). After Long's death, his "cause" was taken up by Gerald L.K. Smith, definitely a fascist. Anyway, for more on the FASCINATING material on the subject of Huey Long, I would recommend T. Harry Williams' Huey Long, probably the most interesting book about a politician ever written. He sort of innovated the interview type of biography where much of the book was based on people who knew Long.
There are many letters that Jones wrote to his brother back in the states that is a rich sort of material about Jones in Hawaii.
He looked at his watch and as the second hand touched the top stepped up and raised the bugle to the megaphone, and the nervousness dropped from him like a discarded blouse, and he was suddenly alone, gone away from the rest of them.
The first note was clear and absolutely certain. There was no question or stumbling in this bugle. It swept across the quadrangle positively, held just a fraction longer than most buglers hold it. Held long like the length of time, stretching away from weary day to weary day. Held long like thirty years. The second note was short, almost too abrupt. Cut short and soon gone, like the minutes with a whore. Short like a ten minute break is short. And then the last note of the first phrase rose triumphantly from the slightly broken rhythm, triumphantly high on an untouchable level of pride above the humiliations, the degradations.
He played it all that way, with a paused then hurried rhythm that no metronome could follow. There was no placid regimented tempo to Taps. The notes rose high in the air and hung above the quadrangle. They vibrated there, caressingly, filled with an infinite sadness, an endless patience, a pointless pride, the requiem and epitaph of the common soldier, who smelled like a common soldier, as a woman had once told him. They hovered like halos over the heads of sleeping men in the darkened barracks, turning all the grossness to the beauty that is the beauty of sympathy and understanding. Here we are, they said, you made us, now see us, dont close your eyes and shudder at it; this beauty, and this sorrow, of things as they are. This is the true song, the song of the ruck, not of battle heroes; the song of the Stockade prisoners itchily stinking sweating under coats of grey rock dust; the song of the mucky KPs, of the men without women who collect the bloody menstrual rags of the officers' wives, who come to scour the Officer's Club--after the parties are over. This is the song of the scum, the Aqua-Velva drinkers, the shamelessness who greedily drain the half filled glasses, some of them lipstick smeared, that the partyers can afford to leave unfinished.
This is the song of the men who have no place, played by a man who has never had a place, and can therefore play it. Listen to it. You know this song, remember? This is the song you close your ears to every night, so you can sleep. This is the song you drink five martinis every evening not to hear. This is the song of the Great Loneliness, that creeps in the desert wind and dehydrates the soul. This is the song you'll listen to on the day you die. When you lay there in bed and sweat it out, you know that all the doctors and nurses and weeping friends don't mean a thing and cant help you any, cant save you one small bitter taste of it, because you are the one thats dying and not them; when you wait for it to come and know the sleep will not evade it and martinis will not put it off and conversation will not circumvent it and hobbies will not help you to escape it; then you will hear this song and remembering, recognize it. This song is Reality. Remember? Surely you remember?"Day is done... Gone the sun... From-the-lake From-the-hill From-the-sky Rest in peace Sol jer brave God is nigh..."
And as the last note quivered to prideful silence, and the bugler swung the megaphone for the traditional repeat, figures appeared in the lighted sallyport from inside of Choy's. "I told you it was Prewitt," a voice carried faintly across the quadrangle in the tone of a man who has won a bet. And then the repeat rose to join her quivering tearful sister. The clear proud notes reverberating back and forth across the silent quad. Men had come from the Dayrooms to the porches to listen in the darkness, feeling the sudden choking kinship bred of fear that supersedes all personal tastes. They stood in the darkness of the porches, listening, feeling suddenly very near the man beside them, who also was a soldier, who also must die.
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