Jack William Jones: Reading, Writing & Identity

Most of the reading, writing and identity discussed within the memoir of Jack Jones is associated with his political career and his involvement in the Rank and File movement of the late twenties, early thirties in London.

Jack tell us how he was, at an early stage of his career, appointed by the branch to act as collector and distributor of the strike news, immediately placing him amongst the word of reading and writing. We are provided with multiple issues of ‘The Busman’s Punch’, a paper that held significance in the transport movement, which, not only had Jack read and appreciated himself, but chose to make a record of them, preserving them for the future to appreciate to the same extent. We are told in Jack’s memoir that The busman’s Punch ‘within a year, built up to a readership of over 20,000’ signifying the pride and importance Jack instils within the world of politics, reading and writing. By adding the editions of ‘The Busman’s Punch’ to his memoir and discussing the impact it had for the support of the political movement Jack demonstrates how ‘the importance of literature, is not that it rises political circumstance but that it has been a major contested category in the production of culture’[1]

Jack William Jones discusses how historians who have written about the Rank and File movement ‘would have us believe that the movement was controlled by the communist party’ this suggests that, although he does not say so, he is a keen reader of the political writing of historians of the era, whether he agrees with them or not.

Howard Fast Pocket 382, 1946, Print.

Jack describes how he remembers a significant character in his life, a Lord Ashfield, the chairperson of the London Omnibus Transport Company, asking him if he had read much literature. Having assured this important man of his keen readership, he becomes warned by the inability to discuss important titles of literature, that he was in fact lacking something in his range of literary interest. He receives a package containing a book from Lord Ashfield, and in his reading of it he tells us how ‘I resisted the temptation to tell him it was time he read some decent literature’, demonstrating Jack to be quite a humorous, and widely literate man.

 Jack then shares his love of literature with Lord Ashfield by recommending to him, due to his boyhood in America, the work of an American author, Howard Fast, Citizen Tom Paine and Freedom Road. Fast’s Freedom Road is a story based on the life of a ‘powerful ex-slave and Union soldier, who returned after the Civil War accompanied by many other blacks to live with their families on the abandoned land of his former master’ [2]. Literature following the themes of, politics, war, and triumph are all demonstrative of the life of Jack Jones himself, perhaps identifying why he may have such an interest in Literature of this type.


A. B. C. of Chairmanship, Lord Citrine, Published by NCLC

 

Jack goes on to discuss other authors of the time including, Upton Sinclair, John dos Passos, Hemingway, Steinbeck and others and how towards the end of their careers the ‘went sour’, indicating the vast knowledge that he had for not only the literature of these authors but also the relatable biographical context of each one.

Jack’s inspiration from, and profound interest of literature is shown throughout his memoir, he uses literature to not only disprove his opponents in the political world but to challenge them throughout his career, ‘I quite deliberately look along a copy of Sir Walter Citrine’s book on Chairmanship, and placed it as near as I could to his nose’.[3]

 

 

 

[1] Sinfield, A (1997) Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain

[2] Sorin, Gerald (2014) The Long, Unfinished Journey of Howard Fast’s Freedom Road

[3]Jack William Jones, Untitled, 2:443 TS, chapters paginated separately. Extract published in Childhood Memories, recorded by some Socialist Men and Women in their later years, edited with an introduction by Margaret Cohen, Marion and Hymie Fagan, Duplicated typescript, pp.60-8. BruneI University Library.

 

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