elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

From Here to Eternity (The Restored Edition) by James Jones

The first time I received the offer to read the uncensored version of From Here to Eternity by James Jones, recently re-published by Open Media Road, I did question why they were “proposing” me this novel. While I well remember Montgomery Cliff in the role of Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt, that was not enough reason, I thought, to enlist this novel as an LGBT book to be read during pride month. So I did my little research, what I always do when I’m not sure about a book, and I discovered that James Jones was forced to cut out from the novel not only a lot of “bad” words that was unthinkable to print on paper, but also 2 scenes in which there was an indirect reference to homosexuality. According to the sources, one of the other famous character of the novel, Pvt. Angelo Maggio, played in the notorious movie by Frank Sinatra (who wanted so much this role to become himself a fictional character in The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola), confesses he allowed another man to have oral sex with him for money, they "comes in handy the middle of the month". And then in a second scene, there is a military investigation into gay activity in the barracks.

Even if it wasn't still enough, according to me, I was enticed to read it. Indeed the queer elements in the novel are way more than the two scenes of above, and both Prewitt than Maggio have a good share of it. Maggio indeed convinces Prewitt to go on a double date, Maggio with Hal, the French tutor he usually dates when he needs money, and Prewitt with Tommy, an aspiring writer who is not only Hal’s friend, but also former lover of Bloom, another fellow soldier of Prewitt and Maggio. Sincerely I don’t remember if Bloom’s character was in the movie as well, but here he has an important, even if tragic role. Actually all the characters somewhat involved with the queer elements will not have a positive end, and maybe that should have been the reason to not cut it from the story, but probably a post WWII America was not ready for the sex and the queer.

The story is too famous to summary it here, so I prefer to concentrate on the scene that is probably the main reason I read the novel. The double date between Prewitt/Maggio and Tommy/Hal is at the same time romantic and sad; for sure Prewitt is not into Tommy (and that is quite ironic considering his character was played by Montgomery Cliff), but I did not find in him any hate for Tommy or Hal. I re-read more time a passage in which, from what I understood, Prewitt is remembering how he was molested by two older men when he was still a kid; so, if anything else, he was the one who probably could have hosted some repressed anger for homosexuals. Maybe the author avoided this implication making Hal stating clearly that he doesn’t like boys, but grown men. In any case, James Jones presented to the reader Tommy and Hal like nothing the public imagination of the time thought about homosexuals. Sure, Hal is tall and lean, elegant and well-mannered, but he is not feminine; and Tommy is bulkier than many soldiers, for sure more than Prewitt and Maggio (who, in the novel, is small, but energized like a crazy ball). In a very long scene, the author brushes the characters of Tommy and Hal like an impressionist painter, giving the reader just that touch of information to build their whole life, especially that of Hal. An American who loves France, like many homosexuals of the time, Hal is forced to stay in the US by the war, and the less American state he can pick is Hawaii. For most of his scene, I quite liked him, he was witty and always polite, even when Prewitt tried more than once to make him snap. Sometime I even thought he was really in love with Maggio, and maybe he was. Maybe the closing scene about them reflects a bit the prejudice of the time, but all in all, Hal is a really positive character, way better than many other in the novel.


Amazon Kindle: From Here to Eternity: The Restored Edition
Publisher: Open Road (May 10, 2011)

Reading List:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading list&view=elisa.rolle
Tags: author: james jones, genre: historical, length: novel, review, theme: military

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