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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Sun Also Rises

My latest book was The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Next up are The Naked Sun, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918, and Anna Karenina.

The Sun Also Rises is the first book where I have to admit that I just fundamentally did not get it.  It didn't seem to be about anything.  It was like watching Seinfeld, but without the slightest attempt at humor.  I kept waiting for something to happen, and it never did.  It was basically a bunch of wealthy people having incredibly awkward conversations while eating and drinking, in between napping, fishing, watching bull fights, travelling, and more napping.  I didn't mind the book.  It was a relatively quick read.  I just felt like I might be reading someone's journal rather than a published work that's considered a classic.

Hemingway has a uniquely direct writing style.  Influenced heavily by his first career as a journalist, he generally states the action in a very straightforward manner.  I found this quite refreshing after an abundance of books where authors seemed determined to express themselves using the most obscure manner possible.  Although the journalistic background doesn't seem to have prevented him from including extraneous facts.  The book includes random facts that may have been intended to make it seem more real, but really just seem irrelevant.  I understand the "show, don't tell" rule of writing, but when the protagonist goes to buy a bus ticket, haggles over car fare, or gets asked for his fishing permit, I really don't need to read every word of those conversations.  At one point he states a fact and then says it has no relevance to the story.

Bull fighting also figures prominently in the story.  It's not an activity that I've ever given much thought to.  It's clearly something that the author loved.  So I imagine it wasn't at all his intent that, on having this first occasion to really think about it, I see it as a fairly barbaric "sport".  Nobody would ever accuse me of being an animal rights activist, but I don't see it as altogether different from dog fighting from a morality perspective.  I can see reasons one would see one as worse than the other, but that was my initial impression.

I can't say that I enjoyed the book.  I didn't dislike it at all.  I have a strange void of emotions even though I clearly feel that the book was void of plot.

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