For this year’s A to Z Blog challenge, I thought I’d draw back the curtain and explore the life and times of a bibliophile. Care to join me?
I had an inauspicious first encounter with “Papa.” Miss Mikula, my English teacher my junior year of high school was a huge fan, and whenever the subject turned towards favourite books, favourite authors (which eventually lead to favourite books), or examples of excellent writing (which somehow came out of the discussion of favourite books and/or favourite authors), she always brought up The Sun Also Rises. When the time came that we were allowed to write a report on a book of our choosing, I decided to give Hemingway a try.
The theme of that paper was why we would put our chosen book in a time capsule. My first sentence went something like this: “If I could choose any book to put in a time capsule, I would choose The Sun Also Rises and hope everyone forgot where it was buried.” Great move, Robinson. Slam your English teacher’s favourite book right off the bat.
I won’t bore you with all the details of why sixteen-year-old Carryl wasn’t impressed, but at the time I found very little to redeem the tale. I couldn’t empathize with Jake, and I certainly couldn’t find any connection with Lady Brett Ashley. The entire story felt pointless, and despairing, and nothing like what I thought such an “excellent” story should be.
It wasn’t until I revisited The Sun Also Rises after college that I saw it for the brilliant work it was. The malaise and despondency that I had initially decried was part of a larger thematic landscape that I was unable to recognize and certainly couldn’t appreciate at sixteen. Encouraged by that second encounter, I went on to read For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. Many years later, prompted by a two week visit to Spain, I read Death in the Afternoon.
Love him or hate him, Hemingway certainly had a way of looking at the world, and being able to share what he experienced with his reader. There was no mistaking the emotion (or its lack), the sense of place or atmosphere. The musky sweat of the bull, the metallic smell of the blood as it soaks into the dirt of the ring, it’s all there and the reader cannot escape it. It’s almost relentless.
Yeah. Call me fan. Not because I’m “supposed” to like Hemingway, but because I really like the way he writes, the way he tells a story in all its complexity.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Miss Mikula gave me a B+ on my paper, commending my willingness to tackle, in her words, such a “difficult” novel.