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From Here to Eternity ()


Orrin's All-Time Top Ten List - Novels

This National Book Award winner is actually a part of a trilogy (along with The Thin Red Line and Whistle), but I think it can best be read as part of a quartet with The Sand Pebbles, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Cool Hand Luke.  All four examine one of the central quandries that confront us as citizens in a democracy: how to balance freedom and individualism with authority & patriotism.

Robert E. Lee Prewitt is an Army Private in 1941 Hawaii, an ex-boxer and ex-bugler and potentially a great soldier except for the fact that he's, in the words of First Sgt. Milton Warden, a  "f*** up".    Prewitt's dilemma is that he loves the Army & loves being a soldier, but he keeps running into problems with his superiors (he quit the Bugle Corps when someone else was unjustly made 1st Bugle and he won't box for the Company because he blinded a sparring partner). Ultimately, these problems with authority overwhelm his love of the Army and ruin him.  Along the way Jones presents
us with a loving, but disturbing, portrait of the Army just before the start of WWII.

In addition, Prewitt's dilemma (and Milt Warden's wrestling with the idea of becoming an officer)  serves to highlight a broader question.  Citizens of a democracy are perhaps even more patriotic than citizens of other countries and regard institutions with more reverence, precisely because they are full participants along with their fellow citizens in the nation's institutions.  But at the same time, the weight of these institutions and the authorities who run them tend to grind down individuals & require conformity & obedience to certain standards.  This struggle between individualism & patriotic conformity is nowhere better depicted than in From Here to Eternity.

Personally, I believe this is one of the top 10 books of the Century.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    James Jones Literary Society
    -ESSAY: JONES'S NOVELS: FROM HERE TO POSTERITY?  (ERICA ABEE, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of From Here to Eternity (David Dempsey, February 25, 1951, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of INTO ETERNITY: The Life of James Jones, American Writer. By Frank MacShane (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of INTO ETERNITY: The Life of James Jones, American Writer. By Frank MacShane (Robert Phillips, NY Times Book Review)

If you liked From Here to Eternity, try:

Cozzens, James Gould
    -Guard of Honor

Crane, Stephen
    -The Red Badge of Courage

Heller, Joseph
    -Catch-22

Horgan, Paul
    -A Distant Trumpet

Kesey, Ken
    -One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Mailer, Norman
    -The Naked and the Dead

McKenna, Richard
    -The Sand Pebbles

O'Brien, Tim
    -Going After Cacciato

Pearce, Don
    -Cool Hand Luke

Shaara, Jeff
    -Gods and Generals

Shaara, Michael
    -The Killer Angels

Wouk, Herman
    -The Caine Mutiny

Comments:

Dear Orrin,

You write 'Along the way Jones presents us with a loving, but disturbing, portrait of the Army just before the start of WWII.' It should really read 'Along the way Jones presents us with a loving, but disturbing, portrait of the Army just before the American involvement in WWII.'

Us English, eh?

You also write 'Personally, I believe this is one of the top 10 books of the Century.' Personally, it is the best book I have ever read.

Great web-site. Has given me my 'next-to-read' list. I think I'll try George Orwell's 'Coming up for air'.

Thanks,

Julian

- Julian Coles

- Mar-06-2003, 11:18

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