Hemingway is one of those authors I have wanted to explore for a long time [along with James Joyce, Saul Bellow or John Updike] but I have inexplicably never really gotten around to it. Actually, this is not entirely true… I did read Hemingway’s memoir-ish A Moveable Feast, and loved it.
But The Sun Also Rises was my second look at Papa, and I do want to read more.
It was entirely coincidental that I was reading it during the same days [seasonally speaking] in which the novel itself takes place.
The bullfights of Pamplona, along with the daily early-morning three-minute suspension of sanity known as the → Running With The Bulls takes place from early to mid-July.
And that is where we find ourselves in this book.
Jake Barnes, [whom I could not help but identify with what I know of the persona of the author], is an American journalist stationed in Paris. He likes bullfights, drinking, fishing, and….. not working.
This book is like one long, extended party, where people venture from café to bar, and stay in either place only long enough to suggest the next rendezvous, the next café or bar where they will consume as much alcohol as is humanly possible!
I’ve never read of such wanton dissipation since, well….. A Moveable Feast!
So, in the first portion of the book we meet all of Jake’s friends, beginning with Robert Cohn, the Jewish writer, ex-boxer. Cohn is the only person in this book that is not a severe alcoholic.
Then there’s Lady Brett Ashley, the sort of English dame hottie that everyone not only wants, but also… has! Jake and Brett maintain a close, although platonic [for reasons I will not get into] relationship throughout the course of the book, and they are paranthetical characters, in my opinion.
The ever-insouciant [and ever-soused] Mike Campbell is Brett’s boyfriend [well, she has others, too] and he hates Robert Cohn, not only because of Cohn’s Jewishness, [racism abounds in this book] but because of the fact that Robert loves Brett.
Then there is Bill Gorton, sort of a happy-go-lucky guy who rounds out this fivesome of ne’er do wells. A spicy amount of secondary characters are peppered throughout, but suffice it to say, these principal five all end up in Pamplona for fiesta week, where they trample and gore their way through all of the hotels and bars like a wild herd of multi-horned rhinos!
At one point, a brief fight breaks out between Jake and Robert Cohn, and the following few lines illustrate the near skeletal way that Hemingway writes.
I swung at him and he ducked. I saw his face duck sideways in the light. He hit me and I sat down on the pavement. As I started to get on my feet he hit me twice. I went down backward under a table. [from ch.XVII].
I went down backward under a table?
Anyone writing this sparsely [not to mention disjointedly] nowadays would not be published.
And yet. And yet… there is something about this book that is good.
Something that makes it well worth reading. Hemingway [successfully] gets away with this sort of austere, clip-clop style… utterly devoid of pretense. Leaving you with the feeling that you have a brother, or maybe an uncle, that would have related these events to you in much the same way.
Or maybe even a Papa.
I enjoyed The Sun Also Rises, in a non life-altering way!
So what am I saying about this, my second foray into Hemingway?
Am I ‘fer it, or ‘agin it?
I say overall, it is a thumbs up! Read it.
Hey, and now that I think of it, I read Old Man and the Sea way back in high school.
But it was required reading, so…. doesn’t count.
Reading under duress does not count!