Only Six

I failed book club. I gave up on The Awakening two-thirds of the way through. (See prior post.) The heroine wanders through her life, ignoring her children, confounding her family, fantasizing about unfaithfulness, and reveling in her unhappiness. I appreciate that these themes were scandalous in 1899, but even so, I found the tone of book to be annoying and a bit manipulative.

So, I happened across a copy of The Old Man and the Sea and elected it as the next item on my reading list. I found this story to be simultaneously simple and complex, the main character, wretched and noble. Most interesting to me was the old man’s respect for his prey during the life and death battle between them. Something must have been lacking in my education for me to have missed reading this book before now. I recommend it. Read it!

The Old Man and the Sea was also my introduction to the writings of Ernest Hemingway. (Perhaps I haven’t read Hemingway because I’ve been wasting my time on books like The Awakening. Smirk.) Hemingway was certainly larger than life. His published works include ten novels and ten short story collections, and as a journalist he covered World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and the Normandy landing and liberation of Paris during World War II. He received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery, the Bronze Star, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Nobel Prize. He was married four times. He was plagued by injury due to his exploits and he suffered from alcoholism, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, paranoia, and haemochromatosis. He took his own life in 1961. His father, brother, and sister also committed suicide, as did his granddaughter, Margaux Hemingway. Tragic.

Hemingway used short, declarative sentences without subordination, perhaps influenced by his years as a journalist during the war years. He wrote precise dialog and intense action, but his stories were also told in the silences and what was not explicitly stated. He trusted the reader to fill in the gaps. Though he has been accused of misogynism, racism, and anti-Semitism, his influence on American literature has been profound.

It is said that Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story using only six words: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Ponder that!

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