The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway I've only read shorter works by Hemingway in the past and was never very thrilled by them. Oh I could immediately see that he had a wonderful way with prose - the fact that his writing is so sparse and clean is very deceptive and makes writing that way seem easy. It's not. Using so few words to say so much is incredibly difficult. But I've never liked any of his characters - I've been interested in them, but nothing that I've read before made me think "I must set this aside and read it another time so that I can enjoy the story all over again." With The Sun Also Rises I'm in that same place again - I don't want/need to reread this - but I was very interested in the story and what would happen with the characters. More than anything in the plot I was interested in Hemingway's descriptions of the countryside - I really must read some of his travel essays. I can also see how a story like this gives the reader plenty to discuss when trying to interpret it.Short version, as far as stars go: 4 stars for the writing, 3 stars for the story. While I was extremely interested to follow what the characters did and said, and how various messes would resolve themselves, I don't feel the need to reread. Because I didn't really like those people very much - and they didn't particularly like themselves much either. But I did really enjoy my reading of this, and the outcome did surprise me. (I kept thinking that someone was bound to die or commit suicide and was happily proven wrong.)The reason it's something of a surprise to find myself really enjoying the reading is that I've never had really positive feelings for Hemingway. This is due to having read1) contemporary (his contemporaries, not my own) views and essays gushing over how wonderful Hemingway is and how he's changing literature, (I read in either a biography or an essay that Hemingway grew tired of people who were forever praising him this way, so the whole You Are A Deity Amongst Authors bit wasn't something he always enjoyed.)2) more recent biographies about Hemingway and/or Hemingway's friends and/or contemporary writers, which never make him look good as he did tend to pick up and dispose of women repeatedly.(People who wrote about him as a drinking buddy saw him very differently than those who married and/or dated him. Or saw him move on from one woman to the next. The contrast between those two groups and how they describe Hemingway is pretty stark.)I balance that with the knowledge that, after having read biographies of many authors, most people on the Great Writers list are often not people you'd care to live with, and are often known as having "difficult" temperaments.Anyway, I came at this not expecting to like any of his characters - I didn't - and not really thinking I'd enjoy or get into the reading - surprise, I did. I really wanted to know how he'd tie up various bits of plot. I wasn't satisfied with everything - but at the same time I'm glad things didn't end in ways that I expected. And I now look forward to reading other Hemingway rather than seeing it as a chore that I have to make myself read X and Y novels. (I haven't yet decided which novels will be the X and Y.)Helpful wikipedia links:The Sun Also RisesHemingwaySan Fermin - celebration of Saint Fermin in Pamplona, SpainRunning of the Bulls - Pamplona, SpainSan Sebastián, SpainRandom Thoughts, Quotes:- There are parts of the story set in Paris where I feel you could actually map out where Jake is taking a cab ride and re-create the trip. In fact I'll bet someone somewhere has put that information on the web. (Note to self, google this later.)- The story has (rawr, manly) sports scattered all through it: boxing, fishing, bull-fighting, biking (Tour du Pays Basque cyclists at the hotel), and swimming. And of course drinking, which is definitely a sport in which all the characters partake. Sex, not so much by everyone, but it's in there as a competitive sport as well. (The rawr-manly thing is me referring to Hemingway being thought of by others - and marketed as - "a man's writer" for writing about stereotypically male pursuits like sports, etc.)- Hemingway does a really great job of characters having drunken conversations, with the reader being the sober person listening in. I've been that sober person, and it's much nicer to read such conversations than participate - drunken folk are rarely as witty if you're not drunk too.- My favorite drunken conversation, probably because it involves taxidermy, p. 72-73, 74:"Here's a taxidermist's," Bill said. "Want to buy anything? Nice stuffed dog?""Come on," I said. "You're pie-eyed.""Pretty nice stuffed dogs," Bill said. "Certainly brighten up your flat.""Come on.""Just one stuffed dog. I can take 'em or leave 'em alone. But listen, Jake. Just one stuffed dog.""Come on.""Mean everything in the world to you after you bought it. Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog.""We'll get one on the way back.""All right. Have it your own way. Road to hell paved with un-bought stuffed dogs. Not my fault."We went on....A horse-cab passed us. Bill looked at it."See that horse-cab? Going to have that horse-cab stuffed for you for Christmas. Going to give all my friends stuffed animals. I'm a nature-writer."That's also very accurate in the scenario of "drunk person makes a joke but then refuses to let it die."- I knew about the plot of this book long ago because the "nudge-nudge wink-wink, war wound" part has been fodder for so many jokes and pop culture references. After reading this I can really understand why this bit was whispered about so much because all references to said wound are intensely vague. Which of course makes you wonder how, or specifically where he was wounded. Details are not given. Here're some examples of the vagueness (hiding more for length than spoilers):p 26, adding names brackets so you can tell who's talking, you have to pay attention even with all the text, because it's not always clear. Him is Jake, her is Brett:"Don't you love me?" [him]"Love you? I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me." [her]"Isn't there anything we can do about it?" [him]...[Description here about how they're sitting, and how she's looking at him.]..."And there's not a damn thing we could do," I said. [him]"I don't know," she said. "I don't want to go through that hell again.""We'd better keep away from each other." [him]"But, darling, I have to see you. It isn't all that you know." [her]"No, but it always gets to be." [him]"That's my fault. Don't we pay for all the things we do, though?" [her]She had been looking into my eyes all the time. Her eyes had different depths, sometimes they seemed perfectly flat. Now you could see all the way into them."When I think of the hell I've put chaps through. I'm paying for it all now." [her]"Don't talk like a fool," I said. "Besides, what happened to me is supposed to be funny. I never think about it.""Oh no, I'll lay you don't.""Well, let's shut up about it.""I laughed at it too, myself, once." She wasn't looking at me. "A friend of my brother's came home that way from Mons. It seemed like a hell of a joke. Chaps never know anything do they?""No," I said. "Nobody ever knows anything."I was pretty well through with the subject. At one time or another I had probably considered it from most of its various angles, including the one that certain injuries or imperfections are a subject of merriment while remaining quite serious for the person possessing them.p 31, Jake thinking about the wound:My head started to work. The old grievance. Well, it was a rotten way to be wounded and flying on a joke front like the Italian. In the Italian hospital we were going to form a society. It had a funny name in Italian. I wonder what became of the others, the Italians. That was in the Ospedale Maggiore in Milano, Padiglione Ponte. The next building was the Padiglione Zonda. There was a statue of Ponte, or maybe it was Zonda. That was where the liaison colonel came to visit me. That was funny. That was about the first funny thing. I was all bandaged up. But they had told him about it. Then he made that wonderful speech: "You, a foreigner, an Englishman" (any foreigner was an Englishman) "have given more than your life." What a speech! I would like to have it illuminated to hang up in the office. He never laughed. He was putting himself in my place, I guess. "Che mala fortuna! Che mala fortuna!"I never used to realize it, I guess. I try and play it along and just not make trouble for people. Probably I never would have had any trouble if I hadn't run into Brett when they shipped me to England. I suppose she only wanted what she couldn't have. Well, people were that way. To hell with people. The Catholic Church had an awfully good way of handling all that. Good advice, anyway. Not to think about it. Oh, it was swell advice. Try and take it sometime. Try and take it.I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn't keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it went away. I was thinking about Brett and my mind stopped jumping around and started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. Then after a while it was better and I lay in bed and listened to the heavy trams go by and way down the street, and then I went to sleep.Again this came out in 1926 when it was still a big deal to even insinuate characters had sex. So this is racey stuff. As is the use of the word bitch in the later chapters.- Speaking of which, the word bitch is used only by Brett. Here's a sample, p. 243:"I'm thirty-four, you know. I'm not going to be one of those bitches that ruins children."- While plot summaries of the book can make it sound much more racy than the book is (by modern standards) it's also hard not to want to gossip about who's hooking up with who and wth they think they're doing. Robert Cohen tries to leave his mistress, who he refuses to marry, but she doesn't want to leave him. Meanwhile, in the parallel scenario, Jake wants to keep Brett with him and she decides she must leave him - while continuing to tell him she loves him. If it wasn't for Hemingway's writing style this would be the most cheesy of soap operas.- What IS up with this generation of writers and the Jews? This is the second book I've read recently that does this (Nightwood), but I've read other authors in the past that also fixate on the Jews, and use a Jewish character to Symbolize Something. In this book it's a completely negative character. Robert Cohen is introduced as a Jew, and his Jewishness brought up repeatedly in early descriptions by the narrator, though those don't seem particularly negative. But the other characters always use it as a slur when discussing Cohen. I'll put the quotes behind a spoiler link, in case you haven't read the book:p 143, Michael: "No, listen, Jake. Brett's gone off with men. But they weren't ever Jews, and they didn't come and hang around afterwards." p 162: "That Cohen gets me," Bill said. "He's got this Jewish superiority so strong that he thinks the only emotion he'll get out of the fight will be being bored."p 184, Brett: "Oh, darling, don't be difficult. What do you think it's meant to have that damned Jew about, and Mike the way he's acted?"p 203, Michael: "...I said if she would go about with Jews and bull-fighters and such people, she must expect trouble."Having your characters toss the slurs around is one thing - but the opening descriptions of him make it seem as though his Jewishness is an important descriptor, as if it explains something about his actions. I think this actually tells us a lot more about Hemingway than about Jews in the 1920s. Unless it's the concept that everyone felt this stereotype was normal then, while now it's (rightfully) seen as ugly.- Another ugly bit is the use of the word nigger. Why am I adding this? Well, the book contains it, and I'm big on calling out the use of the word in hopes of making people realize how pervasive it is in the literature in the hopes that it will lead to realization of yes, this racism was that deeply ingrained, it was that casual, that often used - it's in some Great Literature and yet rarely is that mentioned. Here it's used to describe a black boxer that one of the characters tries to help out. p 71, Bill speaking:"Wonderful nigger. Looked like Tiger Flowers, only four times as big. All of a sudden everybody started to throw things. Not me. Nigger'd just knocked local boy down. Nigger put up his glove. Wanted to make a speech. Awful noble-looking nigger. Started to make a speech. Then local white boy hit him. Then he knocked white boy cold. Then everybody commenced to throw chairs. Nigger went home with us in our car. Remember the whole thing now. Big sporting evening."That isn't the first time the word was used, and it's used in the rest of the conversation after this speech.