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Ernest Hemingway

If you are an Ernest Hemingway fan, read on.  If you are not… no hard feelings.  (Those of you who are reading on, I will attempt to use as few adjectives as possible and no fluff. In honor of EH)

I’m sure it goes back to high school when I read my first Hemingway book.  The Old Man and the Sea grabbed my attention and imagination in a hurry.  Who doesn’t want to read about a Cuban fisherman catching a sword fish and fighting it for several days only to lose it to sharks?  Pretty great stuff.  That started me reading his other books.

Most summers I read portions of Hemingway’s first novel,  The Sun Also Rises.  Likely this is due to the fact that the book’s timeline is summer.  The book was written in 1926.  “Sun” follows a group of dysfunctional British and American ex-patriots living in Paris after WWI.  The group travels together to the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona Spain to watch the bullfights, the running of the bulls and participate in all the revelry and debauchery.  The group predictably implodes, and there is very little of redeeming value in the end.  There are a few bright spots, however.  Jake and Bill going fishing in Burguete, most notably.

What keeps me coming back?

Good question.

There is something undeniable about the book’s story line of what Gertrude Stein called the “Lost Generation.”

If you are still reading I will assume that you have read the book and that I have said nothing you did not already know.

So without further comment, this book review is actually of a book about The Sun Also Rises.  Again if you are a Hemingway fan and a “Sun”  fan, this book might be for you.

Everybody Behaves Badly,  written by Leslie M. M. Blume, is a book about a book.  The title is lifted from a line in the original, spoken by the protagonist Jake Barnes.   Ms. Blume does a fine job of setting the stage for “Sun”.  She chronicles the lives of the people that inspired the “characters” and the early years in Paris that a young Hemingway and family struggling to make ends meet, inhabit.  Very much a Whose Who of that era (Stein, Pound, Beach, Fitzgerald, Ford).  Blume writes well and tells an engaging tale.  Her command of the English language is enviable.    

Some highlights:

The historic context, the post WWI era, produced a major shift away from the straight laced world of Victorian literature that had dominated English literature for close to 100 years.  Hemingway became the voice of the Modern Era.  His spartan use of the language and his reporters eye ushered in a new style of novel.

Hemingway was as big of a character as the novels he wrote.  His legend, largely self created, grew with his reputation as a writer. He was as good at marketing himself as he was promoting his work.

Hemingway had a knack for betraying family and friends.

Hemingway worked very, very hard at his craft.  He was disciplined and dedicated.  He worked well under pressure.

If you are a Hemingway fan, this is a fun book.  A little depressing at times but always lively.  If you have ever wondered where this story line came from, here is your answer.  Is it worth a read? Yes.


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