To Reach Eternity: The Letters of James Jones

George Hendrick, Editor, Robert D. Loomis, With, James Jones, Author Random House (NY) $22.5 (380p) ISBN 978-0-394-57538-4
Of the trio of American writers on the big scale who emerged in the '50s--Mailer, Styron and Jones--the last is the one with the most problematic reputation. This is partly because he was the least educated of them and his writing was, to put it kindly, less eloquently shaped; but also in part because he seemed insufficiently self-critical and sometimes, particularly in Go to the Widow-Maker , Some Came Running and The Merry Month of May , wrote large chunks of what seemed like barely digested naturalism. This collection of his letters, with an eloquent, sympathetic but not uncritical introduction by Styron, shows, however, how deeply involved in his art Jones was. Despite the playboy reputation of his Paris years, he worked endlessly at his writing, thought deeply about every book and wrote letters to Max Perkins and later to Burroughs Mitchell, his Scribners editors, that are more revealing of a writer's travails than most. It is fascinating to watch the callow youth of the first letters grow into the considerably sophisticated, worldly figure bantering with professors of literature about his work. Hendrick has done his editing unobtrusively, and supplies an excellent biographical note. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
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