Magazine article The Spectator

Struggling Writers

Magazine article The Spectator

Struggling Writers

Article excerpt

New York

Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, an autobiographical novel about growing up as the daughter of the author James Jones, has inspired the latest film by Merchant Ivory. The novel was written by Kaylie Jones, and the movie - set in Paris - has just opened in the Big Bagel. James Jones wrote big novels such as From Here to Eternity, Some Came Running and The Thin Red Line. After his initial success with From Here to Eternity, Jones found himself invited everywhere and neglecting his work. Bidding goodbye to New York, he and his wife Gloria left for Paris and the expatriate life in 1958. The film uses the book as a point of departure, telling the story of the fictional Willis family from their daughter's point of view. Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Hershey play the Joneses, Leelee Sobieski portrays the daughter. Seeing the film sure brought back memories.

In the autumn of 1972, William Buckley suggested I interview expatriate American writers like Jones and Irwin Shaw for National Review. I was excited at the idea and for once went to work immediately. I rang James Jones from my room at the Plaza Athenee, where I was living in great comfort after my al fresco stay in Hue, Vietnam, the previous spring. He answered the telephone himself, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: `Hello, Mr Jones, my name is Taki Theodoracopulos and I write for NR and would like very much to interview you.'

JJ: 'I am sorry, but I do not give interviews. Sorry.'

Me: `This is very bad news because I am a struggling writer who has just returned from the Nam and needs to feed two children and a wife.'

JJ: `Well, we are all struggling writers, what can I say?'

Me: `Some more than others. But the kids gotta eat.'

JJ: `What did you say your name was and who do you write for?'

Me: `Taki Theodoracopulos, and it's National Review, the William Buckley fortnightly.'

JJ: `You poor bastard. You better come around.'

And around I went, to his beautiful house on the Left Bank, where he and his wife Gloria treated me with great kindness and generosity of spirit. I didn't meet Kaylie. Jones revealed to me that Paris was over for him, that he was returning to his roots, and - repeating a Hemingway theory - that Paris was for the young and had been irreparably damaged by the modern architecture sprouting all over the city. …

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