Hemingway is hit or miss, for me. I fell in love with A Farewell to Arms. I found The Old Man and the Sea a bit sluggish (though, admittedly, this is the point). I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the short stories, and wondered why in the world I bothered to read others. The Sun Also Rises was, for me, a book I could have skipped. I know Hemingway is one of the great American authors. I think he is brilliant at times, but for most of this novel, I found myself “laughing out loud” at all the uses of words like “grand,” which called to mind my favorite author, Salinger, and his enormous dislike for phonies. Now, I’m not saying Hemingway was a phony, by any means. In fact, I think it a testament to his art that he succeeded, after being a journalist, so extraordinarily, in spite of criticism from some of the other expatriates, such as Gertrude Stein. Alas, The Sun Also Rises was no A Farewell to Arms. I don’t think it even rivaled The Torrents of Spring. I was not at all intrigued until the final 40 pages or so, when the story moved to Spain and the bullfights. Here, in the deepest, darkest, and most romantic portion of the novel, Hemingway was masterful, and I couldn’t tear myself away. I just wish the first 60% of the novel was just as inspired.
I just finished The Sun Also Rises this morning. I teach The Old Man and the Sea (7th grade literature) and several of Hemingway’s short stories but had not read any of his full length novels. I do love The Old Man and the Sea, I love teaching it because it gives me lots of room to discuss themes and symbolism.
I must say I completely agree with most of your review. I kept thinking “what is the point of this” and waiting for something monumental to happen or to move me or to make me see what made this book declare Hemingway as one of the great writers of the 20th century, as the jacket declares. I did not feel that the bull-fighting scenes near the end of the book made up for the rest of the book, however. I almost feel like I need to attend an AA meeting or something after reading it though. Seriously, how were these 5 people not dead from all that alcohol? I will try another Hemingway and see how I feel. Any suggestions for what I read next?
Hah! Love that comment about the AA meeting – Hemingway (and his crew of Jazz-Agers) certainly liked their liqour. A revolt against prohibition, maybe? Certainly a statement of excess and a tool of the expatriates.
My favorite Hemingway is The Garden of Eden, but it’s enormously different from any of his other works and was never finished and was not published during his lifetime (which means we might be seeing more than he would have allowed us, had it been his choice). I also loved A Farewell to Arms – his masterpiece, in my opinion. I’m currently reading Islands in the Stream, but I’m not nearly far enough into it to make any kind of judgment call (although I can already say that it is quite different in style/prose, definitely). This one, too, was published posthumously and was “edited” (expurgated?) by his wife – so who knows what might have been taken out? That’s always troubling to me.
I think most people would suggest For Whom the Bell Tolls (which is great), but I would say – go for A Farewell to Arms if you want an example of that pure Hemingway genius that everyone talks about; or, go for The Garden of Eden if you want a glimpse at the man beneath the writer, if you will.