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James Jones exhibit to be on view through Dec. 31

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
(217) 333-2177;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- An exhibit in honor of an old soldier and literary giant opens Saturday at the University of Illinois.

The exhibit, which celebrates the life and work of Illinois native son and best-selling novelist James Jones, will run through Dec. 31 at the UI Rare Book and Special Collections Library, 346 Main Library, 1408 W. Gregory St., Urbana.

Titled "Old Soldiers Never Die; They Write Novels," the free public exhibit was mounted in conjunction with the 10th annual James Jones Literary Society Symposium, to be held Saturday in the library. Among the writers, historians and literary scholars planning to attend the meeting are Gerald Linderman, author of "The World Within War," which draws heavily on Jones' depiction of U.S. soldiers in combat, and Kaylie Jones, a novelist and Jones' daughter.

The symposium will focus on Jones' insights into the combat experience and its effects on the individual soldier. As a member of the 27th infantry, nicknamed "the Wolfhounds," Jones witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor, was wounded at Guadalcanal and returned to his hometown, Robinson, Ill., where he began writing about his war-time experiences and observations.

While he was writing "From Here to Eternity," Jones helped create the Handy Writers' Colony in Marshall, Ill., which operated from 1949 to 1964.

The library exhibit showcases a wide variety of items held by the Rare Book and Special Collection Library, including Jones' original and unexpurgated manuscript for "Eternity." Published in 1951, the book went on to become an international best seller, but not before many portions of Jones' more colorful language were deleted, deemed too risquŽ to be published.

Several editorial notes to Jones are evident, including: "This needs more work. It's not near good enuf [sic], but I don't know what to do. Needs another rewrite at least, maybe two." In response to cuts made by his editors (Maxwell Perkins and Burroughs Mitchell at Scribners), Jones also wrote notes on his manuscript: "I sure hate to lose this"; "Can't this be left in if 'the word' is changed?"; "Why do you want to cut it at all?"

Also on display is an original carbon copy of Jones' manuscript for "The Pistol." The typed dedication page reads: "This book is not dedicated to anything or anybody. I would dedicate it to my wife, Gloria, who helped as wife and as reader, were it not that I am tired of books dedicated to wives by men who are grateful to their wives for being wives. My wife agrees with me." Below that dedication, is another dedication, written in Jones' hand in blue ink and to Judy Garland: "To Judy - Whom I have loved & admired for a long, long time - this "original" (uncorrected) carbon - Love again, James Jones."

A case of photographs shows Jones' heavily stamped passport, a contact sheet showing Jones meeting Washington insiders, including Henry Kissinger. A portrait, taken perhaps not far from his boyhood home in Robinson, Ill., shows a young and innocent Jones at age 4.

Also on display are copies of "Eternity" published in a variety of languages, from Spanish to Japanese to Russian, and literary criticism and biographical works centering on Jones, including a copy of "To Reach Eternity: The Letters of James Jones," edited by George Hendrick, UI professor emeritus of English, who will take part in the symposium.

Another case displays items from the 27th infantry division archives. All of the symposium events, including a concert of music from World War II, are free and open to the public. The symposium will be held in Room 66 of the Main Library.

Ray Elliott, president of the James Jones Literary Society, can be reached at (217) 337-6510; the society Web page is