There are some writers that are revered among literary circles the world over. They have written classics that have changed the way readers view the written word, provoked the thoughts of the masses, and become beloved stories in personal libraries everywhere. As an English major, I have read many, many celebrated authors. Some, I quite enjoyed; others, not so much. The thing about famous works or writers is that they are often overrated. I’m looking at you, Shakespeare.
My good friend Gidget has always loved Ernest Hemingway. She’s a particular fan of him, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Dorothy Parker and has been recommending their novels and short stories for years. I read The Great Gatsby in high school and wasn’t too excited about it. To me, the characters of the story were just rich, disillusioned people who partied too much and created their own drama because they didn’t know how to live without it. So, when Gidget lumped Hemingway with Fitzgerald, I wasn’t too eager to start reading. It didn’t help that other friends found his books a complete waste of time and couldn’t get through them. It seems to me that you either love Hemingway or you hate him, there is no middle.
However, with my third decade approaching, I finally decided that it was time to give ol’ Ernest a try. I read several descriptions of his well-known tales and finally settled on one that didn’t seem overly obsessed with war or conflict: The Sun Also Rises.
I dove right into the story about a man who accompanies a group to Spain for fishing, partying, and bull fighting, while fighting his own demons and the demons of others. And did I mention drinking and drinking and drinking? Yeah, wine was pretty much a supporting character and Hemingway knew exactly how to describe the state of inebriation.
Reading this book, I was brought back to the feelings I had reading The Great Gatsby. Not in the sense that I didn’t like it, but with the similarities in the writing styles and subjects, I felt like I was back in my AP English class and reading one of the books on Mr. Merrill’s syllabus. I’ve never experienced that kind of feeling flashback from a book before. It was kind of remarkable.
While the book was not a challenging read or a boring story, I found that there was no real plot. It was simply a snapshot of the characters’ lives and the trouble they could get themselves into. The writing flowed well and I didn’t find myself dreading each page. While I’m not sure that Hemingway is as phenomenal a writer as his fans make him out to be, I could see the value in his work and I’m glad to have read it.
Now it might be time to try Dorothy Parker.