Eternity Restored

IN THE old days, it wasn't the threat of losing their National Endowment for the Arts grants that led creative types to censor themselves. It was the likelihood of being denounced or banned. So when James Jones was preparing his first -- and some say best -- novel, From Here to Eternity, for publication 40 years ago, he didn't protest too much when the Scribner's editors and lawyers slashed away. He knew he couldn't have gotten published otherwise.

A significant number of changes were made. The story of pre-World War II Army life in Hawaii is 820 pages long in its published version; Jones' language, descriptions and sexual scenes had to be toned down on perhaps 10 percent of those pages. It was only shortly before, remember, that Norman Mailer had been forced to have his soldiers use "fug" in The Naked and the Dead instead of the similar word they used in real life.

Soon after publication in 1951, Jones gave the original manuscript to Lowney Handy, a friend, mentor and lover in his hometown of Robinson, Ill., whose relationship with the writer is fictionalized in his second novel, Some Came Running. When Jones went to New York in late 1956 to prepare that novel for publication, he met and married Gloria Mosolino. This tended to put a damper on his relationship with Handy, especially after she attacked the new Mrs. Jones with a Bowie knife.

Jones never saw his manuscript again. After Handy's death in 1964, her relatives stored it for a time in a garage. Only an inspired bit of scholarly detective work by University of Illinois professor George Hendrick has reclaimed it for posterity.

Editor of a collection of Jones' letters published last year by Random House, Hendrick contacted Handy's relatives in Robinson and another Illinois town, Marshall. They led him to the manuscript, which was by this point in a bank vault.

The manuscript, recently purchased by the University of Illinois, sounds like an interesting document in itself. The material to be excised is marked, and there are comments in the margin from Jones. Thirteen hundred pages long, the manuscript was treated by the relatives with baking soda in an attempt to kill the lingering odor of mold it had picked up in the garage.

The difference between the published and the unpublished versions, Hendrick says, is that the latter "is a more realistic, grittier novel, more reflective of life as it was. Jones had a good ear for the speech of the late 1930s." Being truer to the author's original vision, it's also, the professor says, a better work than what saw print.

It seems likely the unexpurgated version will be published, although the natural format may be a university press edition. The only house queried so far is Dell, the paperback publisher of Eternity. Dell, which had no problem coming up with $12 million for two books by suspense writer Ken Follett in a high-stakes deal where it'll be lucky to break even, hasn't bothered to answer Hendrick's May 9 proposal. You could take this as another small sign of the confusion in American publishing. Two Strikes Against Him

WHEN IT came to feeling like an outsider, Dave Pallone was the champ. Professionally, he was a baseball umpire, a breed that in the minds of fans and players is only a notch above the absolute nadir of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. But even Pallone's fellow umps didn't want anything to do with him, since he was a scab originally hired during the 1979 strike.

The thing that caused the most trouble, however, was personal: He felt compelled to hide being gay. This caused him no end of anguish and fueled a temper that constantly got him into scrapes, including the famous shoving incident with Reds manager Pete Rose that led to Rose being suspended for 30 days.

Pallone's side of that and other incidents is recounted in Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball, which must have touched a nerve or two because it's become a surprise summer bestseller. "People who buy the book," the author reports, "say they can relate to the stories about leading a double life."

As for Pallone's own life, he wishes "he could go back and do it again. If I hadn't been a scab and had come up through the normal way, it might have been easier for me to come out of the closet earlier. I was in the process of doing it, although it was too late in life to help me personally. But I would have been able to help others."

Then the blow-up came, in the form of reports linking Pallone to a teenage sex ring in upstate New York. He denied the allegations and the investigation was dropped, but he had been "outed" and the damage was done. Pallone's contract wasn't renewed, he writes, "because I was gay, and {the owners} didn't want the publicity surrounding that to tarnish baseball's macho image."

Baseball is often thought of as the most civilized of professional sports, but Pallone describes it as a swamp of homophobia. Nevertheless, he's hopeful that change is on the way.

"I think we'll be stepping forward when that first young man comes out in professional baseball. You'll see that in the next five years with a retired player, or someone at the end of his career. Or it'll be someone who's now a 17-year-old draft choice and needs, because he grew up in a different society, to have his whole life and not just half of it."

For a glimpse of how baseball has already changed in other ways, Jim Bouton's Ball Four has just been reissued in a 20th anniversary Collier paperback. The author asserts the story of his year as an aging knuckleballer with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros is the largest selling sports book ever. It certainly can be regarded as the grandfather of the tell-all subdivision, although Bouton readily concedes that in light of later efforts Ball Four is about as lively as The Bobbsey Twins Go to the Seashore.

Imagine: Ballplayers sometimes get drunk, break curfew, are rude to fans, are crude to each other, drill holes in walls to watch women. It certainly reads quaintly now.

As for differences between 1970 and 1990, Bouton argues that the players are the same, it's just that the world is more dangerous. "Why do ballplayers have to take drugs and have girlfriends in the first place?" he asks. "This may come as a shock to some people but they're human beings. Young human beings. Think of a ballplayer as a 15-year-old in a 25-year-old body."The Music Man

IRVING BERLIN was famous for most of this century -- his first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," sold two million copies during 1910-11 -- but during all those decades he managed to keep biographers at bay. The only exception was his friend Alexander Wollcott, whose brief, florid tribute appeared way back in 1925. Otherwise: silence.

Berlin's legendary reclusiveness gave Laurence Bergreen pause, but ultimately -- even in a climate where subjects have no fear of suing their biographers -- he went ahead, producing a fat tome that is getting good reviews despite having neither direct quotations from Berlin nor his 1,500 songs.

It's an old story: lack of access forces you to report around your subject. "By not having the whole thing simply handed to me, I found myself becoming more enterprising -- looking further afield, questioning more deeply, expanding the scope," says Bergreen.

He also got lucky, discovering, for instance, that the cast of Berlin's World War II show, "This Is the Army," held a reunion every five years at Sardi's. At the 1987 gathering, he snagged a bunch of interviews, such as the one where the show's director, Ezra Stone, told about the rehearsal when he added a concluding couplet to an inconclusive song.

Berlin overheard and "I swear to God, it was like a vampire just seemed to fly from that point to the piano. He ripped up the music and said, 'It has always been and always will be, 'Words and Music by Irving Berlin.' And nobody else!"

When Ian Hamilton was enmeshed in a legal battle with J.D. Salinger over his ill-fated biography, he said at one point that he still hoped Salinger would read the book and like it. Berlin died last fall, before Bergreen was quite finished, but this biographer was under no such illusions.

"He didn't attend the 100th anniversary tribute at Carnegie Hall. They offered him a closed-circuit hook-up, and he still refused to watch. I suspect he would have given my book the similar treatment." In the Margin

OFF-BEAT journalist Chuck Woodbury has come up with a little list of what defines a small town. The primary rule: no McDonald's. Some others: There are no stoplights or elevators, Main Street is still the main street, the movie theater has just one screen, and the restaurant bathrooms don't play Muzak. In The Best From Out West (Morrow), Woodbury tells you about how the most popular bumper sticker on mobile homes is "We're spending our children's inheritance"; about Roswell, N.M., where the Cattle Baron Restaurant charges $10.95 for a steak but $16.95 for a peanut butter sandwich ($19.95 if you want jelly); and a whole lot about himself, like how he sometimes thinks it would be okay to be a cow unless he's passing a stockyard, when he changes his mind . . .

"Apostrophes," the weekly talk show about books that had the sort of following in France that only "The Simpsons" or "Roseanne" seems able to gain here, finally went off the air last month. Host Bernard Pivot, who became in his 15 years the country's great TV star, explained it to an interviewer this way: "I'm sick of reading, reading and reading. I'd like to go the cinema, I'd like to travel. Fifteen years of nothing but books is a long time" . . .

Joe Gores, later to become a successful mystery novelist and screenwriter, asked his college creative writing professor how to be a writer. "It is very simple," answered the prof. "Go to a big city and rent a little room with a chair and a table in it. Put your typewriter on the table and your behind on the chair." Ten years later, he concluded, "you'll be a writer." The Bedside Companion to Crime (Mysterious Press) is devoted to stories like this, about how mystery writers got where they were and what their work is like. Written by H.R.F. Keating, no mean practioner of the genre himself, it's a casual, informal guide best suited to the newly initiated.