The novel is so generous in details and nuance regarding these secondary characters, I feel daunted in even considering how to go about it. I think I will cop out and let these snippets paint the picture for me, hoping I will have the stamina to get back to the novel and do a better job in a re-read.
Because the title of the novel is apt in more ways than expected : I feel exhausted after the last page, as if I have run a marathon myself, emotionally drained yet loath to let go of the story that haunted me for the last couple of months. I came to James Jones with high expectations, aware of the buzz and praise for his sprawling war novels From Here to Eternity, The Thin Red Line , but I picked Some Came Running for my first foray into his work mainly because I really love the movie adaptation.
But her inner self is mostly the same from one medium to another: She was really a nice gal, when you thought about it. Sort of sweet, and good-natured, and malleable. Even if she was not very bright. And ugly as a mud fence. Gwen is the highbrow virgin who pretends to be sophisticated in matters of the heart but cannot win against Ginnie, who would go out with anybody for a drink or a laugh.
Each pretends to be somebody else, just like their men, playing a role, lying to themselves and lashing out when threatened with exposure. Both tragic in their inability to admit who they are. Ultimately it is Love that is put on trial as a mirage that promises us redemption and fails to deliver. Dave Hirsch is her main subject of study, one that she tries to keep at a safe distance but who refuses to be jusged only through his intellectual achievements.
Dave has a tendency to fall in love with every woman that gravitates close to him, thus proving the point of the critical Gwen: Writing is a lot like sex exhibitionism.
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Like the man on the street who is under a compulsion to take his genitals out and show them to people. Especially to women. The novel is not without problems : like my review it has a tendency to meander, to jump from one subject to another, most of all to go into long aimless and repetitive conversations, to get lost in minute details and to follow up on secondary characters instead of focusing on the main actors. I believe it is meant to be presented in this raw form and in this sprawling manner.
It is after all meant to convey the loneliness and the stifling, horizonless society of a midtown America at a time when sexuality was still considered a shameful, tabu subject. Jones portrayal of women is problematic, but this is something that can be said also of the genius of Dostoyevski. He is a product of his times, and if his heroines are shrill, manipulative, use sexual favors to control men and then henpeck them mercilessly at home, it might not be so much a sign of misoginy from the author so much as an example of how society viewed women before the sexual emancipation of the sixties.
He ingeniously accepted her as honest. Nobody but a writer would ever do that. Even as a small boy, he was constantly shocked at the way people went about as if his existence meant nothing at all. He had never participated; he had never acted. And no way out of it; not through love, not through work, not through play, not through courage, not through fear.
No way. There is even an acceleration of time as the novel progresses, from almost minute by minute presentations in the opening chapters to skipping entire years of working 9 to 5 in a factory towards the end. He quite suddeny felt excited, and anticipatory, and in some way, vastly relieved. We might as well, I guess.
Books are supposed to offer comfort and escape to the troubled mind instead of alcohol. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Wolfe — the five major influences his sister, Francine had called them. Other people feel threatened by the written word, or by what these books might reveal about themselves : Frank did not read a book a year and said it was because he was too busy making a living, but the truth was books frightened him. He would never learn to read them easily.
But novels not only evoke emotions in the reader, they also show what, and why they are really felt. They explain — or at least they should do. I just guess — and hope. I read, and I wonder. I might have looked with a kinder eye at his final speech about the educative power of suffering, if not for witnessing the damage that could have been avoided by a less cynical and laisez-faire atitude: Every man must find his own salvation.
Not in friendship; but most particularly not in love. Listen to a love song on a radio and see how it affects you, emotionally, even while your mind may be laughing at it. The simple avoidance of loneliness is not enough. The simple avoidance of pain, of discomfort, is not enough. That way we stagnate. We depend too much on creature comforts, in our culture; and love is one of the main ones of these.
Did you ever notice how disgusting, how really idiotic, requited lovers are? Only when their love finally wears out do they really become human again, suffer again. The maimed veterans of the Legions, the shopkeepers without shops, the wives without husbands, the whores without cribs. The teeming life-loving life-devouring ant heap of the Forum, living their lives out in the taverns and the occasional circus given them for their vote, hooting at the false virtue of their leaders — but their willing prey nonetheless — and trying hard to forget the barbarian hordes gathering like a thunderhead in the horizons of the north.
Another view spoiler [ between the intellectual dryness of Gwen and the slovenliness of Ginnie Moorehead, Dave makes the gesture that should have ultimately saved his soul, marrying the hooker, but even this is not enough in the crushing reality of making ends meet and keeping up appearances of respectability: Poor old Ginnie, who with nothing, the lowest of the lowly, could still go on and live and strive and hope, in her honest, dumb way.
Ginnie was a symbol of the whole human race, and its own affirmation. I prefer to finish my review though not by disclosing the resolution, but the wisdom that Dave Hirsch gained in his years of struggle with loneliness and self-awareness : If he had ever believed in anything, Dave Hirsh believed fervently in the rights of the free individual. Every human being had the right to be treated like a human being, and not like some kind of animal. Every human being had the right to some measure of dignity — no matter how unbeautiful that human being might be physically, or how low mentally. In a similar vein : One simply cannot withdraw from life.
I plan to finally check out From Here to Eternity, hopefully also in unabridged version, something I keep putting off due to sheer size. View all 5 comments.
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I am yet under the spell Some Came Running put on me fifty-two years ago. If James Jones wasn't himself a sorcerer, he surely must have tapped into some magic reservoir of imagination when he created the most poignant romantic tragedy I've ever read. I've kept the paperback copy from but haven't opened it since. Was afraid Jones's story might no longer affect the profound emotions it did back then in me—a small-town Midwesterner on the verge of running away to the Army to flee his failures. I've learned from sad experience along the way trying to recapture a past enchantment often dispels the memory's potency.
Some Came Running 's was one I had rather not risked losing. Now, the movie left so little impression on me I have barely a recollection of seeing it. I did not recognize the music. Knowing what it represented, though, I could feel through its peculiar, rending harmonies, its swells, diminishes, and earnest tempos, the depth of longing and anguish and sorrow shared by Gwen and her lover as they returned to me from the book.
It drew me in like a siren song. With my old paperback copy still in boxes with hundreds of other books from my recent move, I went online to see if maybe there was an ebook version. This is when I learned not only that Some Came Running had been out of print for over half a century, but that a newly abridged edition appeared just last year. It was here I discovered that the version I had read was drastically cut from the original edition—down more than half the 1, pages of the original.
The cut version had been published in conjunction with the movie. I take an irreverent joy from this, fully appreciating the author's passion. Kaylie Jones's revelation also explains in part—for me, anyway—her father's genius for getting under social pretension and into the marrow of his readers' souls, enabling me to thumb my nose at such contemporaries of Jones as Norman Mailer and William Styron. Some months before my first reading of Some Came Running I had come across a piece of nasty gossip Mailer published about Styron reading aloud at a dinner party some of Jones's work in his absence and making fun of it.
At the time I highly admired all three novelists. Sadly I admit this disparagement of Jones's skill influenced me to regard him for a while thereafter in a lesser light. Time has proven to be the true test of their merits in my estimation, all three of them. Simply put, Some Came Running is more real to me today than anything I have read by Mailer or Styron—and not only because I've just finished reading it again.
It is the reason I read it again. I remember Mailer and Styron as clever wordsmiths—Mailer, especially. Brilliant even. But that's about all I remember of their work. It was top-tier, original literary writing, which no doubt dazzled the hell out of me at the time I read it, but which has not remained with me at any depth. Theirs might as well be, if it doesn't sound like writing, I rewrite it. Leonard Michaels blamed his lack of commercial success on this concept, despite winning literary awards for his essays and short fiction and seeing his novel The Men's Club made into a movie.
I should revise further, mess up my sentences, make them warm, make money. It's an imitation of necessity. Max J.
Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running
Friedlander, my favorite art historian, says, 'unconscious action leads to style. Conscious action to mannerism I'm not saying good writing precludes genius, or that genius must break the rules of good writing. I can't tell you what it takes a writer to reach genius. But I do know this: James Jones created a world that entering even only half of has kept me inside it for half a century. He did this by increments: subtle layers of consciousness, language and voice.
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You're in the main characters' heads whether they're actively thinking or merely in tune with the narrator, whose voice morphs into that of whichever character's point of view we are sharing. I've gotten so accustomed to Jones's leaving the apostrophes out of contractions I almost did it above. It was a little distracting at first in the reading, and I really see no artistic need for it, but eventually if I noticed it at all I found myself enjoying the author's little literary bird flips. Come to think of it, there's something more particular within the world of Some Came Running that's held me prisoner all these years, although the ambience of the fictitious Parkman, Ill.
And I've no doubt this backdrop, this so familiar setting with its ways and its people, their attitudes and outlooks and vernacular, so familiar I find myself unconsciously substituting characters from my childhood for those in the novel, so familiar I feel the heavy pull of nostalgia for a hometown I haven't seen for so long and might not ever see again, this imaginary Parkman, Ill. But the real, inclusive grip Some Came Running has on me, has on my heart and most likely always will, is a kitchen. Yes, you read that right.
A damned kitchen. It is where they spend most of their time when they're home, where they entertain Dave and help him with his novel on his many many visits to the place they call Last Retreat.
Some Came Running
Long and rough-beamed, with a roaring brick fireplace at one end, this kitchen in my imagination glows with a soft amber light that brings a mystical life to the woodwork, the laden bookshelves and the sensible furniture. When Dave first sees it he imagines he is staring down a huge hall in a medieval castle. After Dave has had a chance to take in this marvel as a first impression, Bob asks him what he thinks of it. It was like a haven, like a haven on a snowy blowing freezing night.
Like in one of those oldfashioned Christmas card pictures you always loved to look at but didnt much believe in places like that any more. This imaginary medieval kitchen has haunted my sleep dreams on and off ever since I made its acquaintance the year LBJ came to power.
Both Sides Now: The Duality of Sinatra, Small Towns, and “Some Came Running”
Emotions living there are as potent as any I have known when awake. It's where Gwen weeps alone in anguished frustration at the secret she keeps from everyone, the secret that keeps her from consummating her love for Dave. It's where Dave confronts Gwen, and later Bob, beseeching them with his own anguish over the tortured incomplete love affair. The author would like to, and chooses to, believe that such ladies could exist in as well as Aug 14, M.
I'd wanted to read this for some time, but I've never actually seen a copy in the UK, and also there are three different versions of it out there, making it difficult to decide which to read. Decided to go with this new "definitive" version as an eBook as this is a seriously weighty tome of over pages, and I thought it would be easier than lugging the actual thing around. Also, from what I understand, there's a lack of punctuation in the original which is apparently annoying, but I didn't r I'd wanted to read this for some time, but I've never actually seen a copy in the UK, and also there are three different versions of it out there, making it difficult to decide which to read.
Also, from what I understand, there's a lack of punctuation in the original which is apparently annoying, but I didn't really want to go for the shorter abridged version either. The book probably is overlong, but very seldom becomes tedious, so I don't think it matters much. However, some of the more mundane details do seem a little unnecessary. But there's something about James Jones I really like. This is the character that is closest to him as an artist—the conflicted antihero, the Wee Small Hours Frank, the forlorn guy with the cigarette, leaning on the lamppost.
But Gwen is still pushing for an intellectual relationship with Dave, and remains keenly interested in his discarded manuscript. As she reads it and Dave paces in the garden, Minnelli inserts a shot of a rabbit quivering in the grass, which Linklater greets with joy. During their passionate discussion, Dave keeps pressing her to let him get close, and at last she does.
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He cites the performances of the two brothers as an example of how the director accomplishes this. Gwen assures her grateful rival she has nothing to fear. Again, Minnelli puts them both in his wide shot.
Subsequently, Dave angrily returns to his loose-living pals after being rebuffed yet again by Gwen. Ginny is so eager to be close to Dave that she repeatedly follows him in and out of a small closet, as he packs for a gambling trip with Bama. Again, everything is in the staging. Linklater pauses to indulge in some wistful speculation about the ease and diversity enjoyed by directors like Minnelli, who was then under contract to MGM. If you had a studio deal you could make a lot of movies, two or three a year. I love you! He could milk everything for believable drama. But their impulsive decision to get married draws scathing contempt from Bama.
Regardless, the lovers hastily get hitched by a city official. Against a wall lit with a blood-red wash, the dark silhouette of Raymond staggers through what is clearly a set. Then the carnival tableau fills the frame as Minnelli pans to a seething crowd at a shooting gallery beneath swirling amusement park lights. All the light and movement, and the score going nuts. All the emotions just in a swirl.
Raymond spies his prey and shoots. The final scene is a funeral for Ginny on a sylvan hillside, famous for the touching moment when Bama finally removes his hat in her honor. Dave Hirsh is a cynical Army veteran and an occasionally published but generally unsuccessful pre-war writer, who winds up in his hometown of Parkman after being put on a bus in Chicago while intoxicated.
Ginnie Moorehead, a woman of seemingly loose morals and poor education, has taken the same bus. Hirsh had left Parkman 19 years before when his older brother Frank placed him in a charity boarding school , and is still embittered. Frank has since married well, inherited a jewelry business from the father of his wife Agnes, and made their social status his highest priority. Dave's return threatens this, so Frank makes a fruitless stab at arranging respectability, introducing him to his friend Professor French and his beautiful daughter Gwen, a schoolteacher.
Dave is entranced by Gwen, falling in love with her even though she rejects him, interested only in Dave's "mind" and undeveloped talent as a writer. Dave moves in different social circles. He befriends Bama Dillert, a hard-drinking southern gambler who has serendipitously settled in Parkman.
Dave moves in with Bama, and they regularly gamble together, sometimes going on road trips to do so. Two factors seem to offer Dave hope and redemption: he takes a fatherly interest in his niece, Dawn, and continues to try to romance Gwen. Despite his somewhat notorious reputation, Dave is basically a good, honest man, well aware of his own shortcomings.
His cynicism is often a mask to hide the pain of rejection. Though Ginnie is not his social or intellectual match, he eventually sees her basic goodness and responds to her unconditional love. Saddened by Gwen's rejection and Bama's decline from alcoholism and diabetes, disgusted by Frank's hypocrisy and social climbing, and conflicted by his feelings for Ginnie, Dave nonetheless marries Ginnie and goes to work in a defense plant while continuing to work on his writing. As Dave tires of his work at the defense plant and Ginnie becomes more materialistic, their marriage goes downhill and Dave decides to leave town.
As he walks through town at night during Parkman's Centennial Celebration, Ginnie's jealous, drunken ex-husband, who had followed her to Parkman, stalks and shoots Dave in the face, killing him in the film version, Ginnie's ex is a Chicago hoodlum, and Dave is only wounded, while Ginnie is shot in the back and killed after throwing herself in front of Dave.