Note: This post is part of The Hemingway Collection, an archive of essays, images, and hyperlinks to interesting articles about the great American author.
An essay on The Sun Also Rises by David Gagne
The Sun Also Rises is one of the best books I’ve read in quite a long time. For a while there, I was, for God knows what reason, taking Physics and Chemistry and Biology. It is really an adventure to be back with books and words and reading. I am also amazed that I never could read more of Him when it wasn’t an assignment. And how is it that when I am told to write “a 3-5 page essay” I can only come through with two-and-a-half, but a “one-page response” always wants to be twenty pages long?]
I finished reading SAR around ten o’clock tonight. I could have taken it all in one big gulp when I began a week ago, but I couldn’t do that. It wanted me to bring it out slowly, so I often found myself reading five or ten pages and laying it aside to absorb without engulfing. A man gets used to reading Star Wars and pulp fiction and New York Times Bestsellers and forgets what literature is until it slaps him in the face. This book was written, not churned out or word-processed. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
I never noticed it until it was brought up in class, maybe because it wasn’t a point for me in In Our Time, but He doesn’t often enough credit quotations with, “,he said,” or, “,said Brett,” or, “,Bill replied.” In SAR it stood and called attention to itself. I wasn’t particularly bothered by His not telling me who said what, but it was very…pointed. I first noticed around the hundredth page or so. Then I realized I couldn’t keep track of who was speaking. By not dwelling on it, though, sort of (hate to say this) accepting it, I managed to assign speech to whomever I felt was speaking. Gradually I came to enjoy it, in another plane of reading, figuring out from whom words were originating. To not notice it, as if it were one of those annoying 3-D posters that you can’t see until you make a concerted effort not to try and see, became simple – much like those 3-D pictures are once you know what not to look for. (I abhor ending sentences with prepositions…)
His not telling was heightening to the story. It made things come even more alive. As a conversation that you’re hearing at a nearby table in a restaurant, the exchanges flowed, with me as a more passive reader than in a story written to be read instead of lived. It has always been troubling for me to read a book with the knowledge that there are things I am supposed to be catching, but not quite. The fish in the pools and the allegory and analogy and symbolism aren’t fond of me. Trying to see that the bull-fighters and their purity or lack and how it relates to Him as a writer surrounded by a universe of new fiction printed for the masses, that is all fine and well. The short sentences, the lack of qualifying, “he said”s and “she saids” and such, the tragedy of his love for Brett, those are the things I enjoy reading. Those are the reasons I read and the reasons a man like Him writes. There are stranger things, Horatio…or something like that. I believe Paul Simon read Hemingway at some point in his life. Stillcrazymotherandchildreunionreneandgeorgettemagrittewith… It is a good book.
I was surprised that more was not given to the bulls. The entire story was leading to it, and then it was done and they were gone. Very powerful they were but fleeting. I want to go now, of course, to Pamplona, as I’m sure everyone who reads does after finishing. It is probably terrrrrrrible now with touristas and Coke and Nike all around, but I bet still beautiful. A man was killed this year, did you know?