- Books, Literature, and Writing
A Book You Should Never Read
A Book No One Should Ever Read
I have a basic rule of thumb when it comes to reading books and that is: Start what I finish. I don't know if it's my mildly obsessive compulsive nature or if it's my fear that by not finishing a book I will end up missing out on something potentially great. The only book I remember intentionally not finishing was one of Alexander McCall Smith's stupid detective books, which was so dreadfully boring and poorly written, I nearly died while reading it. However, he is apparently a well respected author who has sold far more books then I, so his drivel must sit well with a number of folks.
I would have gladly read all of Alexander McCall Smith's books, if it had meant that Whistle by James Jones had never been written. Whistle, also a classic and the third book in James Jones' World War Two Trilogy (The first two being From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line - Both of which were adapted into wonderful films) is perhaps the only book I have ever read, that made me feel dumber for having read it (Note: since writing this, I have read James Franco's debut short story collection, which is the biggest waste of time and asinine drivel ever put to ink and paper) and I really would have considered suing the author for the time I lost reading it, were it not for the fact that James Jones actually died while writing this hunk of crap. Let that be a warning sign to you all- if the author can't survive writing it, how on earth will you survive reading it?
So, what makes Whistle so terrible? I'm glad you asked. For starters, it's 452 looooong pages and it's poorly paced. The four main characters- Johnny Strange, Marion Landers, Lt. Winch and Bobby Prell- are indiscernible. They have been wounded in the War and are at the hospital ward recovering from their various wounds- physical, mental and emotional. Great premise, with tons of potential and, handled by an author with a modicum of skill, could have been terrific.
The four identical characters, are all assholes who cheat on their wives/girlfriends throughout the text. They are all foul mouthed, they are all drunks, they are all utterly unlikable and I found. myself rooting against them- and, Jones does such a poor job telling the story- that I didn't even know what i was rooting against. I just knew by the end (spoiler alert) when all the characters were either dead or in the loony bin, that I was happy that these characters would no longer be roaming the face of the literary world.
The second major issue, and I'm not puritan- not by any means-was the graphic sexual nature of the story. Roughly two hundred pages of the book are used to discuss oral sex- the desire to perform, the desire to receive it and graphic depictions of it. While I am certainly not opposed to a good sex scene, Jones' obsession with it actually brings the story to a grinding (not pun intended) halt and is completely unnecessary to the furtherance of the story. The scenes are neither erotic nor artful. They are simply a waste of time and energy to read. They are simply there as filler, the lingering desires of a dirty old man.
In the authors own notes at the front of the book, he says that Whistle was going to say everything that he had to say about humanity and the horrors of war. All that Whistle said to me was that Jones was a horny old man who should have spent his twilight years making love to his wife instead of writing this horrific travesty of a novel.
There are better war novels out there, including the first two book in Jones' own trilogy.
Why this book is considered a classic, I have no idea. Can someone explain this to me?