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The Thin Red Line: A Novel Paperback – Feb 9 1998
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"When compared to the fact that he might very well be dead by this time tomorrow, whether he was courageous or not today was pointless, empty. When compared to the fact that he might be dead tomorrow, everything was pointless. Life was pointless. Whether he looked at a tree or not was pointless. It just didn't make any difference. It was pointless to the tree, it was pointless to every man in his outfit, pointless to everybody in the whole world. Who cared? It was not pointless only to him; and when he was dead, when he ceased to exist, it would be pointless to him too. More important: Not only would it be pointless, it would have been pointless, all along."
Such is the ultimate significance of war in The Thin Red Line (1962), James Jones's fictional account of the battle between American and Japanese troops on the island of Guadalcanal. The narrative shifts effortlessly among multiple viewpoints within C-for-Charlie Company, from commanding officer Capt. James Stein, his psychotic first sergeant Eddie Welsh, and the young privates they send into battle. The descriptions of combat conditions--and the mental states it induces--are unflinchingly realistic, including the dialog (in which a certain word Norman Mailer rendered as "fug" 15 years earlier in The Naked and the Dead appears properly spelled on numerous occasions). This is more than a classic of combat fiction; it is one of the most significant explorations of male identity in American literature, establishing Jones as a novelist of the caliber of Herman Melville and Stephen Crane.
From Library Journal
Jones's 1962 novel follows the men of Charlie Company as they fight on Guadalcanal. Though LJ's reviewer was less than knocked out by it, a forthcoming feature film starring John Travolta, George Clooney, Nick Nolte, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Oldman, and many others should generate heavy interest.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
The two transports had sneaked up from the south in the first graying flush of dawn, their cumbersome mass cutting smoothly through the water whose still greater mass bore them silently, themselves as gray as the dawn which camouflaged them. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt
Top Customer Reviews
In this novel, we see "C for Charlie" company's struggle for some fictional territory on Guadalcanal in late 1942. It carries some of the most intense sequences of infantry combat ever committed to paper (one of the most harrowing is the company clerk, Bead and his run-in with a roving Japanese soldier while attempting to relieve himself is particularly effecting to make it all the more remarkable, it's based on Jones' own personal experience).
I can't recommend this masterpiece highly enough. Jones has captured for all time, the sights and smells of infantry combat better than anyone before or since. Read it. You won't be disappointed.
The book is a fictional account of the Guadacanal campaign in 1942. Very true to life: real-world mud-roots combat with all the terror, physical discomfort, bizarre events and experiences faced by a green GI company facing their first horrible fighting. Probably an excellent representation of what it was like.
My problem with the book was that I read it several years after seeing the film ( four or five times over the course of a year). The narrative writing in the film soared; the narrative writing in the book is down in the mud and the heat and the pedestrian events of everyday soldiering.
The film built its story on a half-dozen bigger-than-life characters you came to care about. The book has a lot of characters, few of which caused me to care about them. The scriptwriter owed a big debt to James Jones for developing a lot of source material for the scriptwriter to build on.
"From Here to Eternity"
"The Thin Red Line"
"From Here to Eternity" details in unmatched accuracy what the pre-Pearl Harbor
professional army was like for the enlisted man.
"The Thin Red Line" carries that army and those men into combat in the Solomons
with the same honesty and intensity.
"Whistle" takes men wounded in combat home via hospital ship and stateside
Most people have heard of "From Here to Eternity" and "The Thin Red Line" because
they have been made into movies.
"Whistle," the concluding, and in many ways the most important volume of the
trilogy, is less known.
Jones has always dwelt in the shadow of the more famous Norman Mailer. But I
have always thought of Mailer as poseur who wrote what he wrote in order to be
accepted into literary society and become famous. Jones has always seemed to
me the real deal. He enlisted in the army in 1939, was at Pearl Harbor when
the Japs attacked, fought in the Solomons, receiving the Bronze Star with V for
Valor and the Purple Heart.
With the money he made from "From Here to Eternity," Jones founded a writer's
colony and paid the hospital bills of the great and tragic poet Delmore
Schwartz, who clearly influenced Jones' writing. See especially the poem "For
the One Who Would Take Man's Life in His Hands" from the collection "Summer
Knowledge" published in 1938.Read more ›
Just as a side note: if Malick had made the film like the book it would have been horrible.
James Jones doesn't allow the reader to make any judgements on his own about how characters are feeling or saying their lines, and makes some of the important characters almost cartoonish. For example, I was annoyed to the point of distraction by the adverbial abuse of the crazy sergeant and his grinning. By the midpoint of the book I went back and counted over 47 different ways that this sergeant "grinned". He was constantly grinning and we always got the description of how he grinned.
I appreciate the place this book has in the historical field of war literature, but it just seemed clumsy to me.
Most recent customer reviews
"The Thin Red Line" is not your average war novel. I've read books like "Battle Cry" and "The 13th Valley", and while they explored the feelings and... Read morePublished on Jan. 19 2004 by William Sugarman
The Thin Red Line is not a bad book, in many ways it's a great book. It's just that there is a thin line between great and OK. Read morePublished on Dec 25 2002 by Kim F. Hill
I can only say that I believe all reading is worthwhile, so reading this book wasn't a complete waste of time. I found a great deal not to like about this book. Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2002 by Andy Glass
George Plimpton has stated that "The Thin Red Line" contains the best writing about war ever put on paper--"better than Tolstoy, better than anyone. Read morePublished on Aug. 23 2002 by R Takamoto
The Thin Red Line is a fast paced exciting novel of combat on Guadalcanal. Forget all that you know about the dull introspective movie of the same name, the book is nothing like... Read morePublished on Jan. 25 2002 by suetonius
This novel is about loss on humanity during the battle of Guadalcanal (but it could be any war at any point in history). Read morePublished on July 1 2001 by Jan Dierckx
The Thin Red Line is one of the few warfare novels that entertains the reader with both gripping combat descriptions and believable, developed characterizations. Read morePublished on June 3 2001 by Maury Q. Falkoff
"The Thin Red Line" is one of the best books I've ever read. Even from the first pages the book took a hold of me and I could hardly put it down (eventually you've got to... Read morePublished on Feb. 21 2001