Thursday, August 4, 2011

World Party: Corrida de toros...olé!

About a week before the end of the month, I realized I had not yet read a book for the World Reading Challenge! July's country was Spain, and, though I'm sure there are much better books representative of Spain by actual Spanish authors, I chose The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway; I'd never read any Hemingway and the library had tons of copies immediately available. [What did I read in high school, you may ask? Apparently not the classics.]

One reason I'd never read any Hemingway is because I was intimidated by his writing. I always perceived it as difficult—full of symbolism and themes and motifs and all that crap that makes it a high school English requirement. I thought he was something like Faulkner with the rambling and incoherence. But I was quickly informed that is not the case with Hemingway. He writes in short, staccato sentences with lots of short dialogue. Apparently this is his trademark. Thanks, high school English, for teaching me about important American authors.

Another reason I'd avoided Hemingway kind of goes with my first reason; I assumed his books were all depressing and serious. Since this is the only book I've read of his up to this point, I'm not sure I've been all wrong on this assumption, but The Sun Also Rises is less dark and difficult than I'd expected. It's more Kerouac and Salinger than Faulkner in terms of writing style and character. Youths of a post-war generation aimlessly wandering the world...eating, drinking, dating, and thinking of little else. The power struggle between young men and women. These are the same youths of other high school reading classics that just seem so miserable and never admitting it, so lost on their quest to find something of meaning in the world. These characters are never particularly likable. They drink and smoke and have intellectual conversations and arguments usually over nothing, and are generally just so lonely.

The Sun Also Rises is probably most well-known for its focus on bullfighting (hence Spain). I'm trying to read into this book as I would have in high school [by reading the Sparknotes alongside to figure out what the hell someone can interpret from this and test me on]. The bullfighting, I'm certain, plays a huge symbolic role—seduction and danger that parallels character drama in the text. But frankly, that is not what I thought of as I read it. I thought, and call me stupid if you want, "They always kill the bulls in the end???" I've seen the bullfighting arenas in Valencia, Madrid, and Cordoba, but I guess I just never gave them that much thought. I didn't know they always killed them. Poor bulls.

Other than the geographical setting and focus on the bulls, I didn't feel much sense of place (of Spain) with this book, which is why I'm certain there would've been better options for this month's country of choice. I guess I'm glad to have read this so I can now actively participate in a Hemingway discussion. [Coincidentally, I just read an article about him and his Ketchum, Idaho, home in an in-flight magazine.] Can't say I'm too inspired to read any of his other works, though.


Jenny said...

Oh no I didn't know that about the bulls either! I haven't read a whole Hemingway book either but I remember reading part of A Farewell to Arms and remember being pleasantly surprised. I don't know why I never finished it. I do hate when I read something with the exception of feeling a sense if place and it doesn't deliver!

softdrink said...

The only fiction book of his that I've read is A Farewell to Arms, and it didn't exactly knock my socks off. But I'd recommend the non-fiction A Moveable Feast, in which Hemingway talks a lot about writing and living in Paris. 

Amanda said...

I LOVE For Whom the Bell Tolls. Love it. I'm a Hemingway fan because of it. I've never read The Sun Also RIses though. Have been meaning to. I was kind of "eh" about A Farewell to Arms and Old Man and the Sea. I just read A Moveable Feast and while there are some great quote stuff and feelings, some of it seemed a little like he was picking on people. Still pretty good though.

Kari said...

I haven't been able to decipher which is his most read/most popular title; favorites seem to be pretty evenly split between For Whom and Farewell, though I've read a fair share of comments from people who consider The Sun Also Rises one of their book favorites. I hadn't considered A Moveable Feast, though, so thanks for that suggestion, Amanda and Jill.

Dreamybee said...

I feel like I went to a pretty good school, but when it comes to the classics, it doesn't seem like we hit very many of them either, including Hemingway.  I read The Old Man and the Sea, but I think that was on my own later, and I really couldn't tell you anything about it now.  I did try reading A Moveable Feast recently, and although I didn't get all the way through it, it struck me as something that would be good for aspiring writers to read.