The Bookshelf: “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway

When I was at the book store a few weeks ago I came across a great deal. They had all sorts of literary classics part of a 3 for $10 deal and I’m not the type of person that can pass up a steal like that.

It was tough to narrow down and by all likeliness I’ll probably head back soon for another trio, but I used this opportunity to grab books that I’ve heard about in some capacity for years but have never gotten around to reading.

One of those is today’s Bookshelf pick: “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway.

I’ll be honest, my actual knowledge of Hemingway is short; he wasn’t an author that came up much if at all during school and while I love a lot of the quotes I’ve come across over the years, they weren’t enough to sway me to grab the books.

But man is not made for defeat…
A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

The Old Man and The Sea, 1952

I grabbed The Sun Also Rises because it was Hemingway’s first book, the one that began his career and subsequent legacy as one of America’s great authors.

The synopsis on the back basically describes it as a bit of a love story, and that’s really all I knew about it to start.

What I can say about The Sun Also Rises after finishing it is that… if you were ever afraid to write a novel because you feel like your writing or story isn’t up to par with other published works, think again, read this one, and then write it anyway.

In all honesty I found myself wildly underwhelmed throughout it which is probably why I’d take such long breaks between passages. I’m a quick reader and this is a pretty short one, but it took me well over a month to finally get through it all.

It then didn’t surprise me at all to learn the book had mixed reviews when it was first published, which only begs the question, who was it then that later decided it was such a marvel?

So what’s it about?

Well, it follows British and American expatriates traveling from Paris, France to Pamplona, Spain to watch the running of the bulls.

Along the way they meet people, they talk about themselves and their dull lives, and they drink. A lot. I think every other passage in this novel is about drinking. No doubt Hemingway was an alcoholic.

I’m serious. Almost nothing else happens in this entire novel until they get to Pamplona because they’re just a bunch of writers who you largely can’t understand how they have the money to travel (because they’re writers) in the 1920’s (and it’s the 1920’s), other then them going to this cafe to have coffee and a liquor and then to this bar to have a wine and then to this bar to have a beer and then this bar for more of the same. And then oh, maybe let’s leave this bar but no, here comes another degenerate writer (we don’t even LIKE this one!) and let’s drink with him now for a little.

And then once they’re in Pamplona they drink a lot more but they also meet bull fighters and watch bull fights.

At some point your mind will remind you that this is supposed to be some sort of love story about the main narrator Jake Barnes and fellow traveller Brett Ashley but the focus is more on Brett’s other escapades than anything else and you sort of forget that he’s wildly in love with her until the very end because he almost seems indifferent about the entire thing.

Oh and all the other guys are in love with her, too for some reason (probably because she’s the only woman who can stand to be around any of these vulgar and arrogant idiots) and she seems to take them as she pleases when it suits her, so she seems like a total prize, and then she’s surprised somehow when she finds this type of life unfulfilling.

The bull fights are the only thing described in any great detail and they’re the one part you probably really wish weren’t.

Will I read any more Hemingway in the future?

I mean, yeah probably, because I need to understand why this guy’s work is so valued to this day, but I’ll probably take a break from him for a while and find something with more substance.

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