James Jones Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

ph_0111207091-Jones.jpg James Jones Published by Salem Press, Inc.

James Jones published one much underrated collection of short fiction, The Ice-Cream Headache, and Other Stories, in 1968. Despite the excellence of several of these stories, he did not return to short fiction, primarily because of the difficulty of writing openly about sex in mass circulation magazines. He wrote two book-length works of nonfiction, Viet Journal (1974) and WWII (1975). The first is an account of Jones’s experiences and observations while a war correspondent in Vietnam. WWII, a much more important work, is an analysis of the graphic art produced during World War II. The book contains some of Jones’s finest writing, as well as an extended analysis of the central concept underlying his best fiction: “the evolution of a soldier.” Jones also contributed essays to Esquire, Harper’s, and The Saturday Evening Post, among other magazines; the subject matter of these pieces ranges widely, from theories of fiction to skin diving.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

James Jones’s first novel, From Here to Eternity, was a spectacular success, both with critics and with the popular reading audience. As several reviewers pointed out, its frank treatment of sexuality and military brutality broke important new ground for American literary naturalism. While the novel had its detractors, it won the National Book Award for fiction. From Here to Eternity appeared just in time to ride the crest of the new wave in paperback publishing, and in November, 1953, Newsweek reported that the paperback reprint of Jones’s novel had gone through five printings of “1,700,000 copiesin the past six weeks.”

The popularity of the novel was augmented by its adaptation into one of the most highly regarded American films of the 1950’s. Directed by Fred Zinnemann and with unforgettable performances by Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, and Deborah Kerr, among others, the film version won the Best Picture award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the New York Film Critics in 1953. Jones himself became an international celebrity.

During the next twenty-five years, Jones remained an enormously popular writer. He and Norman Mailer were sometimes praised for having inspired a revitalized American literary realism. Still, Jones never regained the critical acceptance he enjoyed with his first novel. His much anticipated second novel, Some Came Running, was denounced as a failure. Occasionally thereafter, his work received positive and intelligent reviews. His tightly constructed 1959 novella The Pistol was seen by some perceptive critics as refuting the recurring charge that Jones could not control...

(The entire section is 693 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aldrich, Nelson W., ed. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews. 3d ser. New York: Viking Press, 1967. Jones talks about his methods of composition and defends his novels and his own brand of realistic writing against critical attacks. He also believes that an academic education can hurt a writer. Although he was living in Europe at the time of the interview, he considers himself an American.

Carter, Steven R. James Jones: An American Literary Orientalist Master. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. A deeply probing study of Jones’s spiritual evolution and philosophy and his concern with individual salvation and growth. Includes bibliography.

Garrett, George. James Jones. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Giles, James R. James Jones. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Examines each of Jones’s novels in detail and gives a brief biography of the novelist. Sees a central division between the he-man and the sophisticate in Jones’s life and art. Contains an excellent bibliography.

Hassan, Ihab. Radical Innocence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961. Describes the hero of From Here to Eternity, Pruitt, as a passive sufferer and compares his alienation to that of the Negro. Hassan likes the novel but not the subliterary psychology in which Jones indulges.

Jones, Peter G. War and the Novelist. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1976. Praises James Jones’s From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line highly, describing them as accurate portrayals of Army life and combat and as possessing psychological insights.

MacShane, Frank. Into Eternity: The Life of James Jones. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. McShane provides the most thorough and detailed of the biographical works devoted to Jones.

Morris, Willie. James Jones: A Friendship. 1978. Reprint. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. The friendship between these two writers occurred late in Jones’s life. They both lived on Long Island and were drawn into conversations about life and art. Jones reveals much about his early military career.