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Book Title: Whistle|
The size of the: 12.54 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.8
The author of the book: James Jones
Date of issue: June 8th 1999
ISBN 13: 9780385334242
Format files: PDF
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Ah, James Jones, you and I are old friends, aren't we? I remember when I first heard your name when I saw the film adaptation of your book "The Thin Red Line". An incredible movie on all fronts, far better than its apparent rival Saving Private Ryan (afraid I'm in 'that' camp) that completely changed how I looked at not only film but also at how a story could be told and told well, even profoundly so.
Fast forward a couple years from that and I finally got around to reading the source text, your novel James, and it was damn good. Wow, remembering now I'm amazed my eyes didn't bleed out completely from all the burn out texts I was running on (Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, among others) along with yours, Jim. Sorry, you knew I was a philandering bibliophile when we met. In fact I actually remember reading Thin Red not long after reading Norman Mailer's, your friend (as much as Mailer could or did have 'friends' in the traditional sense of that word) "The Naked and The Dead" (it's been three/maybe four years already?) which was a similar novel to yours in setting though different in execution and voice.
I rated Mailer a bit higher, sorry Jim, due to the bombastic and even Icarus-like ambition of the text, to me at least, that simultaneously showed Mailer's brilliance matched and weighed down, slightly, by his flaws (those flaws binged and fattened with Mailer's ensuing career but that's for another piece...) but your book left an incredible impression nonetheless. Not only for the starkness of the Pacific war setting but also for the brutally honest depiction of men at war where patriotism, propaganda, and sloganeering have no febrile minds in which to take root. And all that's left is the business of war and what it does to those people quite literally caught up and lost in it. Mailer's book was the feast and your book, Jim, well, that was the meditation, two counterpoints I'm thankful for reading so close to one another.
Another year or so later I began the project of reading your first and most well known and most successful novel From Here to Eternity. I remember starting your book while working at an AMC Movie Theater near Beverly Hills (bad job, weak hours, I certainly felt like a damn dogface with an even worse uniform) then continuing, along with other books, as a QA tester at a video game company (better job, terrible hours, with dreams of Israeli Military Service consuming my minds eye and snapping at my heels) and finally finishing the book a few long months into my long attempted stay in Israel. It was at a doctor's office in Jerusalem that I finally put the last word of your 800+ page tome behind me. And yeah, James, it was a tome. As an aspiring, forget it, as a writer, I weigh my words as best I can.
I loved it, Jim.
The book put in my mind now as it did then Melville's Moby Dick. Specifically, that it's a text where you like Mr. Melville threw every last bit of yourself, heart, mind, and body, into the long and exhausting task of mapping out his experiences so thoroughly, and in such a long and all encompassing form, that we can only stand back in appreciation and growing awe as we begin to realize what we're seeing. And that is the human soul being laid bare, and the metaphorical curtain being pulled back, just momentarily, so that we can see its inner workings, and know something of it, even if only slightly, but to know it definitely. Melville had his whaling industry. Mr. Jones, you had your World War II Pacific Theater Campaign. More than one way to reach the goal, you know?
And now here we are once again. I received "Whistle" from my parents when I was in Israel and it remained on the backlog while I a.) read other books and b.) tried to eke out some kind of existence in the apparent homeland, the former was a success, the latter not quite as much. I started reading the book en route from Estonia to New York and back again to old Los Angeles which made it's opening passage, wherein the wounded soldiers from the American Pacific campaign on a hospital ship catch their first glimpse of California and America after months and years long absences, resonate more than a little jarringly. Don't think I didn't pick up on that James, the irony was thick enough it left a taste in my mouth.
I read your book intermittently, James. I hope you don't take that as a slight. Your style is deceptively simple, being like a fuller, more satisfying Hemingway with some working man's Faulkner thrown in for spice and gravitas. But it still took me a while. You write simply but you write fully and truly, and this can require a lot from a reader, least of all time, and most of all commitment. It would seem that the book was too much for you in the end though, that you had to commission fellow writer Willie Morris to write the last few sections of the book (with your copious notes as a basis) in a truncated and even summarized fashion, definitely stings. But even reduced, your message is clear. War is not only hell but it's a living hell, it's a waking hell, it's a living breathing entity that stays with men long after any surrender or victory or treaty. Fuck 'the greatest generation'. Fuck this idea of the just war. Necessary? Yes. Just? Just towards whom? To the soldiers? To those men and boys? The four soldiers, three of whom (spoiler) die, two, possibly three by their own hand, and the fourth, maybe the most intelligent one, driven mad by his own survival, what do you think they would have to say about this saccharine cottage industry that's sprung up around America's involvement in World War II and the idea of 'the greatest generation'?
Now, James, you've been accused of propagating sexism. And I have to say I definitely see it. Partly I see it as based in reality, and partly as something not sexism. It felt more like a combination mass debauch and coping mechanism. Men and women wrestling with something they hadn't ever experienced, a World War and near total mobilization and the promise of death behind it all, and doing all they could to alleviate the pain and make something of their time and even plan for a future. Justified? Of course not. But life it seems can be often explained but only occasionally justified.
Overall the book, your book James, is a punch to the gut, a rubbing of dirt in the mind's eye and a grimly realistic story of what war leaves behind. And scaling back, to take in the greater picture you were trying to make, or in your words regarding your war trilogy as a whole and how it would say "Just about everything I have ever had to say, or will ever have to say, on the human condition of war.", I can't say if you accomplished that James. But I can say you accomplished something wrenching but necessary, you've shone a light on the wounds that may never heal but need to be seen, need to be known, if we as a species on this planet stand any chance of surviving or even of salvation. And that James, is an achievement that could be called grand, at the very least.
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Read information about the authorJames^^Jones
James Ramon Jones was an American author known for his explorations of World War II and its aftermath.
His wartime experiences inspired some of his most famous works. He witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to his first published novel, From Here to Eternity. The Thin Red Line reflected his combat experiences on Guadalcanal. His last novel, Whistle, was based on his hospital stay in Memphis, Tennessee, recovering from his wounds.
Excerpted from Wikipedia.
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