Hey hey! Apologies for being away for a couple of weeks — things have only just started calming down in my world, following several events at work, my sister coming home for a week-long visit, and two of our pets getting sick (and on a strict medication and diet schedule for the next month or so).
Anywaaay, as you might have read a few weeks back, my May was spent on Hemingway, because the Flips Flipping Pages discussion for the month required us to read at least one fictional work by Hemingway, and another biographical or autobiographical work on (or by) Hemingway.
I read “The Old Man and the Sea” earlier and was quite moved by it, and after that I decided to revisit “The Sun Also Rises.” I had read it for my Great Books class in college, but I remember very little of it, except for the fact that I didn’t particularly care for it.
“The Sun Also Rises” is told from the perspective of Jake Barnes, a young man physically and psychologically scarred by his experience as a soldier (World War I), and the story follows his (and his friends’) exploits across France and Spain, where events come to a head during the Festival of San Fermin (read: Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona.
Jake and his contemporaries are part of the “Lost Generation,” damaged by war, the aimlessness of their lives defined by decadence and empty, meaningless relationships. As I reread this book I remember exactly why I didn’t enjoy reading it the first time around — I get the characters’ sentiments but I can’t relate to any of them, and it gets tiresome after a while.
I also read the Hemingway short story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” which depicts two waiters in conversation while waiting for the last patron, an old man, to finally go home. I thought it was masterful in the way it juxtaposed the attitudes of people in different stages of their life. It touches on the same themes as “The Sun Also Rises” — the old man is also part of the Lost Generation — but it’s short, succinct, and highly nuanced, and IMHO does a much better job at encapsulating the age than the aforementioned novel.
For the biographical work, I read “A Moveable Feast” a memoir by Hemingway (published three years after his death), recounting his days as a writer in Paris with his first wife, Hadley. While I belatedly realized I’d have preferred to read a complete biography (I read the Wikipedia entry on Hemingway the day of the discussion, instead), I did enjoy this collection of essays, which contained lots of fascinating tidbits about his contemporaries, particularly Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald (among others), everyday observations, reflections about writing, and life in general.
We held the discussion last Saturday at Calderon, Kapitolyo, moderated by FFP founder Gege. Of course the place was styled:
And lots of swag — because we love our swag!:
We’ve done a lot of thematic discussions in the past, but this is the first time we’ve tackled a specific author. It was a great exercise, reading both the author and about the author, and it was interesting to compare notes on what we read and tie in Hemingway’s life with his body of work.
Plus, yay for newbies!
The Sun Also Rises, 3/5 stars
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, 5/5 stars
A Moveable Feast, 4/5 stars