The Letters of James Jones


Some 115 letters by the author of From Here to Eternity. covering most of his life. Although an absorbing literary figure, Jones is not a great letter-writer, and this collection maintains only wavering interest. Editor Hendrick excludes Jones' many business letters while keeping what arc apparently the more intimate and revealing. Jones' long-lasting affair with Lowney Handy, his 17-years-older mother-figure/mentor/keeper/mistress before, during, and (briefly) after the composition of From Here to Eternity gets much space, as it deserves, but it is not a gripping love story, and something central between the two correspondents seems untold or unexplained. Jones' letters to Scribner's Maxwell Perkins, the famous editor of Thomas Wolfe. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, show him groping through the clouds of his rejected first novel to find the subject matter of his eventual masterpiece and meanwhile reacting admiringly lo advice from Perkins. When Perkins dies, Burroughs Mitchell becomes the editor for Eternity and for Jones' major novels, including the posthumous Whistle, although Jones defects from Scribner's after a huge offer from Delacorte. Perhaps the most interesting passages here are those about his naturalistic stylings and characterizations, and about novelizing: ". . .I sometimes despair of ever learning technique, so I can just sit down and write. . .The only plotting I know is to have a man do what he would do in his life, but that apparently is not enough." Many will read this book for Jones' slashes at competitor Norman Mailer; and the final pages, with Jones fatally ill and writing Whistle against the calling finger of Death, are moving indeed. Strongest for what it suggests about Jones' grot. his savage pluck in tire face of hostile critics, and large pessimism about mankind.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1989
ISBN: 394-57538-5
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1989


NonfictionWHISTLE by James Jones
by James Jones
NonfictionWW II by James Jones
by James Jones
FictionVIET JOURNAL by James Jones
by James Jones