James Jones Literary Society
Vol. 12, No. 4
-- Fall, 2003
The President’s Corner:
Do We Go from Here?
By Dave Nightingale
My apologies in advance for the
use of the tired Dickensian cliché but, in this case, it fits the
bill. You see, for the James Jones Literary Society, the year
2003 was indeed “the best of times and the worst of times”—and
that serves to present the Society with a huge question in search
of the answer: “Where do we go from here?”
The best of times?
- The James Jones First Novel Fellowship competition has
been so successful in its first dozen years of existence, under the
guidance of Mike Lennon, that the Society finally
has been able to fulfill a long-time goal and raise the annual
first prize award to $10,000. That’s larger than most, if not
all, of comparable literary financial awards.
Ten of those 12 Fellowship winners either have published his
her novel or have a novel “in press.”
of Chicago Press soon will re-issue “Whistle,” the final novel in
Jones’s World War II trilogy. The motion picture of “Whistle,” with
David Mamet planning to write the screenplay and direct, still is
a work in progress with a scheduled, if perhaps optimistic, completion
date in 2005.
coincide with holding that year’s JJLS symposium in Memphis, Tenn.,
where Jones began writing the final part of the trilogy while
he was hospitalized there.
published two of Kaylie Jones’s last three novels, the just-released
“Speak Now” and the better-known (so far) “A Soldier’s Daughter
Never Cries”, and—no doubt at Kaylie’s behest— also re-issued
James Jones’s “The Ice Cream Headache and Other Stories.”
The JJLS has
gone to some length to have “Headache” placed in schools around
the country to show people that Jones was very capable of writing
material other than war novels. In fact, thanks to JJLS Director Diane
Reed, “Headache” now is a first-time-ever English Literature textbook
at even Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill.
That’s the place
where the Society was founded, folks. It’s James Jones’s home town, of
course. It’s also the town where books that include the “f-word” barely
can make it past the city limits in broad daylight,
let alone be considered as suggested or required reading at
either the high school or junior college level.
Yes sir, and
madam, the JJLS really was on a roll this year.
But it wasn’t
exactly a “sweet” roll, because to dredge up another one of those
horrible clichés: “What if we gave a party and nobody came?”
organizational membership numbers are these:
At the time
the Austin symposium in October, the JJLS had only 216 members,
down 22.3 percent from 1998. And of those 216 members, only 83 per
cent were (dues-paying) members in good standing.
But the sorriest
statistics of all, as of mid-October, were these:
Of the 12
budding novelists we financially enriched with Fellowship honors over
the past 11 years, four were delinquent in their dues, one was purged
from the membership list for lack of dues payments and two never even
bothered to join the Society.
It seems what we
have here is sort of a situation where the hands that feed are being
So, where DOES the JJLS go from here? Perhaps in several directions—and
hopefully none of them in a willy-nilly manner.
First, some (not all) of our symposium programs have to be geared more
to Joe Six-Pack than to academicians. They have to feature
headliners who can literally pull the general public through the
convention doors and, therefore, onto our membership lists.
The biggest membership surge in recent history came after
the 1999 symposium at Southampton, NY, which featured William
Styron, Norman Mailer, Budd Schulberg, Joseph Heller and Betty
Comden Kyle. Admittedly, this was a once-in-a-lifetime type of event
since all of the aforementioned waived their appearance fees.
(The convention cost without such waivers would have been in the
Also, there was another surge in interest, albeit brief, after the 2002
Paris conclave, which was headlined by Mailer and his wife Norris and
the late George Plimpton. (More Society members went to Paris than to
Austin in 2003—understandable, perhaps, but they still did so in spite
of incurring considerably greater expenses.)
And we are actively seeking well-known headliners for the 2004
symposium in Robinson, which will deal with Jones’s novel “Some Came
Running.” There are no guarantees yet, of course, but the attempt is
Yet, dollar signs
and stark realities prevent really big shows from happening every
year. So, we should also consider some bare bones stuff, some
new bare bones stuff.
It was strongly suggested at the Austin symposium that the JJLS send a
delegation to some kind of annual national literary assemblage—like
perhaps the American Literature Assn. meeting in San Francisco next May
27-30—to spread our Society’s word; to tell our peers of the advantages
of joining; and, yes, to flat-out recruit.
At this time,
literary societies associated with Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Dreiser,
Herman Melville, Sinclair Lewis and Philip Roth are among those
who set up shop at the ALA get-togethers and you can bet the
just-formed Norman Mailer Society surely will be represented in San
Francisco next year.
Other bare bones approaches that were considered in Austin included
asking the Society directors to make more speeches and power point
presentations at local service clubs to create interest in JJLS—and
also “directing” each of the 27 directors to personally recruit five
new members a year. (Let’s see: 27 times five equals 135 new members
annually. Not bad, on paper. But, we shall see….)
The bottom line here, though, is that all of this “Save Our Society”
routine shouldn’t fall on just the heads of the directors.
It also should be a mission of faith for the other 175 card-carrying
“Friends of Jones.”
If you originally felt like committing $250 for a lifetime membership
in the Society, there was a presumption that you had more than a
fleeting interest in the advancement of the author and
the preservation of his works.
Therefore, why shouldn’t you always be seeking additional
members who share your beliefs?
And even if you choose to spend only the standard 15 bucks for an
annual membership, it’s certainly not against the law to have the same
zeal for the advancement of the Society as do the “lifers.”
As JJLS Director Warren Mason recently observed: “We may not be the Red
Cross but we sure do need some new blood.”
Was he correct? You could go to the bank on it.----
Malick Returns to the Spotlight
It’s one thing to plan to give enigmatic film director Terrence Malick
an honor. It’s quite another to hog-tie him long enough to actually put
the award into his hands.
Case in point: The James Jones Literary Society annual symposium, held
at the University of Texas-Austin on October 11.
The Society had voted to give its 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award to
Malick, who not only directed the motion picture of
James Jones’s novel “The Thin Red Line” in 1998 but also had
the screenplay credit.
And what better place to make the presentation of the plaque and the
$1,000 winner’s check than in Austin?
After all, Malick lives in that city. And he and his wife even agreed
to co-host a cocktail reception after the symposium, which officially
acknowledged the opening to scholars and the
general public of the James Jones memorabilia collection at the
UT-A’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
One minor problem: Terry and Ecky (Alexandra) Malick had made previous
plans to go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River on October 11.
Sort of “hosts” from afar, you might say.
It took all of the persuasive wiles of two close friends--the Society’s
Kaylie Jones and husband Kevin Heisler—to convince
the Malicks to stay on dry land that weekend.
“I like my anonynmity,” said Malick. “But because of my
ties with James Jones and his daughter, I agreed to accept the
award—as long as no members of the press or photographers were
present. You can call me shy or reclusive if you wish, but I’ve
been burned too many times by the media in the past.”
He did not elaborate.
The JJLS Life Achievement Award plaque to Malick was inscribed: “In
recognition of more than thirty years of innovative, profoundly
philosophical and literary contributions to the world of film.”
Malick, who will celebrate his 60th birthday on November 30, was born
in Waco, TX, and went on to earn a philosophy degree from Harvard and
to study at Oxford University’s Magdalen College as a Rhodes Scholar.
His first two major film-directing successes were “Badlands” in 1973
and “Days of Heaven” in 1978 but he then mysteriously disappeared from
the motion picture scene (moving to Paris, France) before
surfacing nearly 20 years later to direct “The Thin Red Line”
and to receive two Oscar nominations for that work.
Despite his long layoff, Malick’s directorial reputation was such that
many actors, among them Nick Nolte and Jim Caviezel, were willing to
appear for Screen Actors Guild minimum salaries in “The Thin Red Line”
so they could work under him.
The director now says he’s back in action for awhile, sort of.
“Right now, we’re trying to line up financing for the film ‘Che,’ which
is about Che Guevara’s years in Bolivia after leaving Cuba,” he said.
One other thing about the JJLS presentation to Malick: “I told Kaylie
that I would accept the ($1,000) check but only for presentation
purposes,” he said, “and that I would immediately return it to the
Jones Society after the presentation.”
He was a man of his word.
Laine Cunningham Recipient of 11th Annual
First Novel Fellowship
(October 10, 2003) -- The contest is
administered by the University's Humanities Division and by the James
Jones Literary Society.
The Humanities Division at Wilkes
University and the James Jones Literary Society recently announced the
winner of this year’s James Jones First Novel Fellowship.
Laine Cunningham’s manuscript, The Message Stick, was chosen
out of 647 submissions to the contest. She will receive the $6,000
first prize on October 11, 2003 at the Society’s annual symposium at
the University of Texas in Austin. The late James Jones is the author
of From Here to Eternity (1951) and The Thin Red Line
Wilkes University’s Humanities
Division administers the contest which was established in 1992 to
honor the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination, and insight into
modern culture exemplified by James Jones.
Set in the Australian Outback, The Message Stick
is both a murder story and a subtle examination of the contemporary
clash of cultures that continues there.
“Ms. Cunningham’s novel demonstrates a mastery of psychological
introspection and an uncanny feel for the spirit of place,” said
Dr. J. Michael Lennon, a manuscript judge and President of the
Cunningham began pursuing her writing career in 1994. While publishing
articles, short stories and poems, she also set up
an editorial service to assist other authors and small presses.
Cunningham has taught fiction and nonfiction writing to adults through
a variety of arts organizations including The Loft, the nation’s
largest independent literary center.
She has twice received writing fellowships from the Jerome Foundation
and has attended residencies at the New York Mills Cultural Center and
Cornucopia Arts Center. In 1999, her short story won an award from
Writer’s Digest magazine and her creative nonfiction manuscript won
second place at the California Focus on Writers
The judges for this year’s contest were Kaylie Jones, the novelist
daughter of James Jones and Wilkes University professors: Dr. Patricia
Heaman, Professor Emeritus of English and Dr. J.
Michael Lennon, Professor of English.
The James Jones First Novel Fellowship welcomes inquiries on the
contest. Requests for guidelines should be sent with S.A.S.E. to James
Jones First Novel Fellowship, c/o Humanities Department, Kirby Hall,
Wilkes University, Wilkes Barre, PA 18766, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submission
deadline is March 1st of each year.
|Fifty Years Ago....
"Robinson native, James Jones, now living in Marshall,
attends a showing of the movie based on his book "From Here To
Eternity" in Sullivan, Ind., after previously refusing
an invitation to attend a premiere in Chicago."
--Robinson Daily News, October
Photos from the 13th Annual
James Jones Symposium
Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
University of Texas at Austin
October 11, 2003
Wesleyan (CT) University librarian Barbara Jones (left), New York City
novelist Kaylie Jones (center) and Professor Emerita Judith Everson of
the University of Illinois-Springfield conduct a panel discussion
entitled “New Research Opportunities in the James Jones Papers” at the
2003 James Jones Literary Society Symposium. All three are members of
the JJLS Board of Directors.
Dickstein (second from right), Distinguished Professor of English at
the City University of New York, meets with three members of
the James Jones Literary Society Board of Directors. Sackrider
(left) of Key Biscayne, FL; Kaylie Jones (second from left) of New York
City and Jim Barham of Champaign, IL. Dr. Dickstein gave the symposium
keynote address and received the Society’s prestigious
George Hendrick Research Award. Sackrider is a former JJLS president;
Jones a highly-successful novelist in her own right; Barham
is the newest Society director.
Robert Taylor (right) of the University of
Texas’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, was in charge of
processing the HRC’s James Jones collection that went on display in
shop with James Jones Literary Society archivist-historian Tom Wood of
Springfield, Illinois. The Texas collection is the largest assemblage
of Jones papers in the world, providing a valuable site for scholarly
about the late author.
--Tom Wood, Archivist,
University of Illinois at Springfield
At the evening reception after the Jones Symposium I talked
at length to Robert Taylor, who processed the wonderful and extensive
collection of Jones Papers at UT-Austin’s Ransom Humanities Center. Of
course we talked about James Jones. I was impressed by his knowledge of
Jones – but not surprised.
Apart from countless hours of arranging, sorting and
a large archival collection such as the Jones Papers at UT-A or the
Colony Collection at the University of Illinois at Springfield requires
thorough and detailed knowledge of the creators of the documents, as
as their families, relations, friends, enemies and associates.
In order to make sense of the thousands of documents in such
collections, the processor must know their context: the relationships
between senders and recipients, their place in the chronology of
events, who was who, who was where when, what was what. Thus, by the
end of the process, the processor has inevitably acquired an intimate
and detailed knowledge of the creators of the documents and their
social circles. Needless to say, Bob and I had a lot to talk about.
All photographs in Vol. 12, No. 4 of this publication are copyrighted
by the James Jones Literary Society, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation
chartered by the state of Illinois. Any reproduction or re-publication
of any of them without the express written permission of the Society is