“Did you do any heroic acts?”
“No, I was blown up while we were eating cheese.”
I must preface this by saying that I am a huge Hemingway fan. I enjoy not only his terse writing, but the narrative focus of his work. The notions and details that his characters notice are of the exact types I like to think and write about.
It’s all so simple, too. He doesn’t bog you down in dramatic words and complex syntax. He’s got some heavy stuff, and he dishes it out. You read at your own hazard.
A Farewell To Arms was his first best-seller, and there is a lot to like about it. He so neatly articulates the notion of war and its psychological impact. You’re among the ambulance drivers, in the hospitals, by the antiseptic beds, in the hotel bars, watching people in deep lounge chairs, in the park, on the lake. He takes you to all those places, and then further. He takes you into the mind of a war-shaken veteran. What are the things that matter? What are the things that don’t?
His protagonist never just sits down and tells you what he’s thinking. You gotta learn, gotta observe. You can imply things (that are meant to be implied) from the actions and mental remarks of the protagonist.
Despite the easy construction, if you rush through this book, you can miss lots of the finer points of Hemingway’s writing. That’s probably why I think so highly of his work. At least on a technical basis.
That being said, I detest most of his female characters. They’re poorly made figments of the selective imagination, often with no backbone or real personality. It’s a mark of Hemingway’s stories for women to either be unflinchingly cruel or humbly servile. There may be a little variation in the beginning, but by the middle of whatever book, a woman character is one of those two. It’s annoying and disgusting.
I haven’t read all of his work, and I’m hoping one of them proves me wrong. (Or maybe someone can tell me I’m wrong.) I won’t suppose any excuses for him. Only one part, however, stands out to me when Catherine is not in a Hemingway cookie-cutter. It’s her remarks on bravery. I wish I had the direct quote with me, but that segment alone nearly makes the book worth it for me. It’s so stark against the backdrop of her character that it becomes a stunning highlight. (In fact, I’m glad I don’t have the direct quote so that you’ll go through some day and read it yourself.)
Anyway, as much as I dislike how static his female characters are, I have a hard time disliking Hemingway’s work. Alive, he had his fair share of problems, and any reader will see it in his work.
For some reason, that’s what draws me to his writing.
(*Aside: I watched Silver Linings Playbook two days after this post and loved it when Cooper chucks A Farewell To Arms through a window. The coincidence may have made me enjoy that movie a lot more than I intended. I really like that movie.)
Also an update on the Amazon contest: I got cut in the first round!
No success is easy. And someone must always fail where someone else succeeds. I don’t plan on revisiting the manuscript very soon. I have other projects I’d like to work on. If you stick around the blog, you’ll see them here!