The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Earlier tonight, I was watching Sons of Anarchy.  And I realized, that while it doesn’t bug me anymore really, that SOA was a show that you wouldn’t want to watch if you had recently quit smoking. Then, when I sat down to write this blog, I realized that Hemingway is an author you wouldn’t want to read if you were trying to not drink.  I don’t drink that often, and even I have a can of Smith & Forge Hard Cider next to me while writing this. (It’s only my 2nd of the night, so this should remain fairly coherent, just fyi).

The Sun Also Rises was listed by Barry Hannah, Bobbie Ann Mason, George Pelacanos, and Reynolds Price.

I both liked The Sun Also Rises more than Farewell to Arms, and less than Farewell to Arms.

I liked it less for a very small reason that actually isn’t that big of a deal.  It just seems more trivial than A Farewell to Arms.

The reasons I liked it better:

1. While the main female character, Brett, was crazy, she was crazy in a manner that I could better relate to.  Catherine of Farewell to Arms was just…codependently crazy.  Brett has the opposite problem.  She is impetuous, a drinker, and a definite fornicator (it sort of rhymed, I went with it), unable to commit to anyone for sure.  She and the narrator are in love, but she can’t be with him. (It’s all very confusing, my dear). She’s engaged to a man named Mike (our narrator is Jake) but has recently run off to San Sebastian with a friend of Jake’s, named Cohn.  Who then develops an unhealthy attachment to her.

“Come off it, Michael.  You’re drunk,” Brett said.

“I’m not drunk. I’m quite serious. Is Robert Cohn going to follow Brett around like a steer all the time?”

“Shut up, Michael.  Try to show a little breeding.”

“Breeding be damned. Who has any breeding, anyway, except the bulls? Aren’t the bulls lovely? Don’t you like them, Bill? Why don’t you say something, Robert? Don’t sit there looking like a bloody funeral. What if Brett did sleep with you? She’s slept with lots of better people than you.”

2. Even though this was his first novel, in some ways stylistically speaking, I felt it was better than Farewell To Arms.  I think he captured his characters in a more fully dimensional manner.  I had more of a sense of who they were, whereas in Farewell To Arms, I really only fully felt that way about the narrator.

3. The subject matter was a lot lighter in some ways (a festival in Spain while the bulls ran), but because Hemingway touched on so many of the ex patriate community in one book, and characterized them so well, I felt that it actually delved deeper into people’s psyches.

4. There are so many moments in this book where it doesn’t feel dated at all.  Like, I could imagine saying or doing something one of the character’s did.  Maybe the wording would be slightly different, but who -hasn’t- been irritated by a lovesick “suitor” of a friend who won’t go away?  Who hasn’t said something similar to Mike’s words up above, or at least heard or thought them?  And that’s not the only instance where I felt that with a few tweaks, Hemingway could have written this book in the last 10 years.

5. Hemingway captures the feeling of “festival” really well I think, his writing for the time frame of the festival gets both choppier and hyper-focused. He will chop along at a frenetic pace for a bit, then focus on one instance with a hyper lens. Which, if you have ever been to a long party (I used to hang out with friends over New Year’s for a succession of days with parties each evening, which isn’t quite the same but has that same frenetic/slowed down pace to it), is a familiar thing.

Side Notes:

I read while looking up stuff for Farewell To Arms that what Hemingway is drinking during certain points, his characters are drinking. His love for a good martini pops up in this book.

I read his granddaughter, Mariel Hemingway’s memoir this last week. It was okay. I wasn’t overly impressed with it. She had a stilted writing style and didn’t delve deep enough into stuff. She’d lightly touch on it and then go “And that was that, and I had to learn to live with it, tra-la-la” and then ended the book with feel good “I figured out it was my life’s work to write about and tell the story of growing up in my messed up family”. But, it is interesting to see the mental illness that dripped down the family tree.

Have a great weekend! I would have had this up yesterday but for some reason WordPress wouldn’t give me a new entry page, even though Dave had no issues whatsoever.

Which was grrr.

But I got over it.

Cider helps.

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