From Here to Eternity

by James Jones

Men grin a lot. Men curse a lot. Men like to fight, hurt themselves, & hurt each other. Men will do anything first for sex, second for alcohol or money (they're tied). Men who see a woman too often will get sick of her. Men are homoerotic in the army at the very least. Men would find it a badge of honor (and not shameful) were a whore to fall in love with them. Men actually feel emotions more keenly than women but have no idea what these feelings are, nor what to do with them, nor how to express them. OK. I'll admit it. That last one doesn't come from the book alone but is something I have figured out in my own life in the past month while reading this book. Also, if love can neither be created nor destroyed, then all the building up we do of another person at a relationship's beginning, and all the breaking down we do of a person at a relationship's end doesn't mean a thing. Being anything other than yourself and saying anything other than what you feel: both are futile. There is simply no accounting for love. Love is.

Of a break up:
"He walked on towards the intersection, never looking back, seeing in his mind the fine tragic picture his figure disappearing down the hill must make, as if it were himself standing back there in the door. And the strange thing was he had never loved her more than at this moment, because at that moment she had become himself."
Of a card game:
"But the game had gone on concentratedly through it all with that passionate singularity generally attributed to love, but which few men ever feel, for women."
Of inanimate objects:
"Stark loved his kitchen, it was already 'his,' with the single-mindedness women have been taught to dream of and expect, demand, and decry when attached to anything but love."

And what of women? Well, there aren't really any in this book. OK, there are a couple. Fewer than a handful. Most are whores. The one that isn't is enigmatic. Hmm. What's that saying? That whores are easy to figure, but "normal" women are impossible? I don't know if what I write is true. I can only say with any certainty that it is clear that a man wrote this book. That being said, one of the things I like best about my literary project is that it forces Classic Bitch to read books she would likely never select for herself. And I am here now to tell you: From Here to Eternity is an excellent book.

James Jones in his writing I think has taken a cue from Rudyard Kipling. He has certainly taken his title from one of Kipling's Barrack-room Ballads.
Gentlemen-rankers out on a spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha' mercy on such as we,
  Ba! Yah! Bah!
Recall that Kipling starts every chapter in Kim with a poem. Jones starts his book with that Kipling poem. Both authors are self referential. Jones even drops a line in near his book's end about how a man might write a book about whores and call it "From Hair to Maternity." Not joking.

Is this dissuading you? Don't let it. James Jones has written a dynamite knockout of a novel; massive, intricate, unrelenting. The subject matter may or may not be your cup of tea: Life on an army base in the time immediately preceding America's involvement in WWII. The book itself is dedicated to the U.S. Army. My copy is over 800 pages & hard to put down. The author follows two main characters, and the third-person narrative styles in the presence of each protagonist are distinct from one another. One man starts out seemingly fairly crazy but is relatively sane by book's end, and the other follows the inverse of that. Both would cut off his nose to spite his face, but each goes about achieving it in a different way. I find myself relating to one main character but not to the other. I could go on & on. For now I'm off to go rent the movie with my pal Dave.

Note: The word "whore" was used five times in this review, including in this note. In the actual book, its frequency of use is exponential.