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Posts Tagged ‘James Jones’

An Indulgence of Authors’ Self-Portraits

March 24, 2016 | by

Philip Roth

“An Indulgence of Authors’ Self-Portraits” appeared in our Fall 1976 issue, the same year Burt Britton’s book Self-Portraits—Book People Picture Themselves was published. Britton’s book displays his collection of self-doodles by famous authors, artist, athletes, actors, and musicians, much of which was sold at auction in 2009. “So what does Mr. Britton look like?” asked the New York Times in 2009. “He refused to be photographed.” —Jeffery Gleaves

One evening fifteen years ago Burt Britton (now head of the Review department at the Strand Bookstore) and Norman Mailer were sitting together in the Village Vanguard where Britton then worked. On impulse, Britton asked Mailer for a self-portrait. Mailer complied—the first of a collection which began to fill the pages of a blank book in the Strand. These were done by friends—primarily writers—who entered their drawings and salutations when they visited the store. No one has refused him a self-portrait. When he remarked on James Jones’ generosity, Jones explained, “Burt, for Christ’s sake, I wouldn’t be left out of that book!”

As his collection grew, Britton was approached by a number of publishers, but always refused publication on the grounds that the self-portraits were the property of his private mania. But recently Anais Nin and others have persuaded him to let others in on how writers view themselves. Random House will publish the entire collection this fall under the title, Self-Portraits—Book People Picture Themselves. Many of the portraits reproduced here are by writers who have been published and/or interviewed in this magazine.  Read More »

Sex on the Beach

August 5, 2013 | by

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

On August 5, 1953, the film version of James Jones’s From Here to Eternity opened at the Capitol Theater in New York City. A heat wave suffocated Manhattan. The theater was not air-conditioned. Nobody cared. Lines formed around the block beginning on that torrid Wednesday night. Quickly, it was decided to add a one A.M. screening to accommodate the overflow crowds. It was a smash hit throughout the world, and the film’s beach scene became instantly iconic. 

Did the film version of From Here to Eternity so enthrall the masses merely because of that famous beach scene (in which Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, playing adulterous lovers, passionately kiss as the waves wash over them)? Or because it was tailored to the ex-G.I. generation, thriving amid America’s victorious postwar abundance? Winning eight Academy Awards didn’t hurt.

But there’s more to it than that. By the time the film debuted, James Jones’s debut novel had won for itself not just the 1952 National Book Award for Fiction, but also a vast international readership. It would sell a half million copies in hardcover and then three million in paperback. Timing was key. From Here to Eternity was published between the release of the controversial first Kinsey Report (“Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” in 1948) and its scandalously received sequel, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” which induced a critical firestorm when it appeared in 1953. Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s methodologies and conclusions still inspire debate. But there’s no disputing the public’s reaction then to the two statistically top-heavy books that he and his colleagues issued. Shock, dismay, denial, and disgust were in the air, as the Kinsey Reports’ charts about extramarital sex, masturbation, homosexual and bisexual orientations, and other data contradicted American society’s self-image. Read More »


Unread Books; Changing Character Names

November 4, 2011 | by

I’ve never read Moby-Dick or War and Peace, but people think I have, because I told them so. What is the great book you have never—but should have—read?

Just this morning—at five o’clock, to be exact—I was staring at the ceiling, thinking about Krapp’s Last Tape and how shocked my favorite college professor would be if he knew I still haven’t seen or read it. At least I hope he’d be shocked. I have never got through any of Beckett’s novels (and have seen almost none of his plays, or anybody else’s). I have never got through Henry Green’s Living or Concluding, though neither one is a long book, and I have sometimes heard myself call Green my “favorite” postwar English novelist, as if I had read enough to have one. I have never got through Jane Eyre or Giovannis Room or Journey to the End of the Night or Zenos Conscience or Pierre—I have never got through chapter one of Pierre. I have never read The Life of Henry Brulard and am not sure its even a novel. I have never read Memoirs of an Anti-Semite (but have said I have). I will never reread Dostoevsky as an adult, which in my case is more or less the same as not having read him. I couldn’t finish The Recognitions: I stopped 150 pages from the end, when the words just stopped tracking, and have never managed five pages of JR. I can’t remember which Barbara Pym novels I read, it was so long ago, and there are so many I haven’t. I have never made it to the cash register with a novel by Ronald Firbank. Thomas Hardy defeats me. So does D. H. Lawrence: you can love a writer and never actually feel like reading any more of his novels. I have never read Lady Chatterleys Lover. I never got to the end of Invisible Man. I have never read Stoner or Gormenghast or Blood Meridian or Wide Sargasso Sea (see Jane Eyre, above). Or any Faulkner novel all the way through besides The Sound and the Fury. I have never enjoyed a novel by Eudora Welty enough to keep going. I think I got to the end of V., which may be even worse than having put it down, and know for a certainty I never got far in Gravitys Rainbow. I have never read U.S.A. or Tom Jones or Tristram Shandy or Pamela or any novels by Irwin Shaw, James Jones, Mavis Gallant, or Dashiell Hammet. Or Raymond Chandler. I have never read Tender Is the Night, but just the other night someone used it as an example of something, and I nodded. Read More »