Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why read The Old Man and the Sea

Ah, Papa Hemingway. I just love your sparse sentences. Sometimes, I try out your writing style. Just the subject, followed by a short predicate. It reads like crap though. Like the sentences in this paragraph. Such a total waste of virtual real estate. So I bow down before you, Papa Hemingway. You make it seem so easy.

My first Ernest Hemingway read was A Farewell to Arms. That book made me an instant fan. I reread a few pages of it last month, as the book club's theme for May was all about Ernest Hemingway: his works and a bio. Then I realized that some of the lines spoken by the main characters are just so insufferable. I gag, but in a good way.

Here's a rather simpler way to show this to you, dear reader. Man asks, "Do you love me?" Woman responds, "No." Man asks again, "Do you love me?" Woman responds again, "No." Man asks for the third time, "Do you love me?" Woman finally admits, "Yes." To which the man says, "I like your hair." Argh!

The book club's swag during the discussion
I wonder if Papa H would approve of all these.
Somehow, I imagine him thinking, "Great. More stuff I don't need."
But I'm not here to talk about A Farewell to Arms. I love that book too much to talk badly about it. What I want to discuss is a much shorter work of Hemingway, which is The Old Man and the Sea. I'm not too sure how to categorize it—is it a novel, a short story (that's gone too long), or a novella? Let's just call this a novella. I love that I suddenly became all gung-ho and just decided that for you, dear reader.

Anyway, The Old Man and the Sea is the perfect book to read if you haven't read any of Hemingway's works. It's short, which will make you instantly decide if you like his writing style or not. It's also what I would like to call a gateway novel. It connects Hemingway's older works with his later fictions. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and I think it just might be the work that tipped the Nobel committee to award him the Nobel Prize for literature.

Wasn't Papa Hemingway a hottie? I get palpitations looking at this.
He served as an ambulance driver during  World War I.
Well, he can take me to the hospital anytime. 
I am partial to Hemingway's earlier works though. The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms are just brilliant. His later novels were hits and misses. The novel that preceded The Old Man and the Sea was very much lambasted by critics; it prompted Hemingway to write something that he said will be his best work. I don't think The Old Man and the Sea is his best though. But a lot of people from the book club liked it, which is good enough for me.

I don't think the novella is about man versus nature; it's more of a man-versus-himself kind of thing. The old man and the marlin that he has caught and held on for a few days are like mirror images. Only a great man can catch a formidable inhabitant of the sea. And having caught the marlin, the old man proved that he still had it in him. He still got his mojo. He rocks.

What I didn't get in the novella are all those religious references pertaining to the old man. He was supposed to represent Christ. He got wounds on his hands which some people compared to, ummmm, the stigmata. And when he finally went home after having spent several days in the sea holding on to that marlin, he collapsed in his bed in a position similar to Christ being nailed on the cross. Whatever. But the novella did make me crave for sushi. Mmmmm. . . Having fresh sushi—now that's a religious experience.

Oh, and this is the first official book club discussion that I attended this year. There's just been too much work. And I had to keep R. company, as the past few months were a very difficult period for him. Well, it definitely felt good to be back, and what better time than a discussion on one of my favorite authors.

R. (right) and I (left), after the book club discussion
Yes, we both wear reading glasses now.
No, we are not hipsters.
We also got the chance to read any biographical work on Ernest Hemingway. I didn't finish mine though. But thank goodness for Wikipedia, yes? From what I read of Papa Hemingway's life, he certainly did lead a very interesting one. War veteran at 19, married 4 strong women, lived in 4 continents, struggled with depression, took his own life. Compared to his, my life seems very much uneventful. But looking at what happened to Hemingway during his twilight years, I realized that uneventful is good.

I opted to read A. E. Hotchner's classic memoir of the time
he spent with Ernest Hemingway. It's a heartbreaking read.


ram said...


Peter S. said...

Hehehehehe. Salamat na rin!


Jack said...

Welcome back, brother. I've missed your wry wit and insightful commentary. I hope you've been well.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Jack! I hope you've been well too!

Kaz said...

Hey - you're back! 2015 seems not to have been good for blogging...mine is very neglected!
I do like Hemingway. I think A Farewell to Arms is still my favourite - SO sad... Must go back to this one though - it's years since I read it. Hmmm...don't have a copy...must needs go to a bookshop...hmmmm....VERY dangerous!!!

Peter S. said...

Hey, Kaz! That's my favorite too! I hope you've been well these past few months.

Louize DG said...

Wow, I really miss reading you!
Haven't tried Hemingway...yet.
A Farewell to Arms seems a good place to start. :)

Peter S. said...

Missed you too, Louize! Mwah!

Bryan Amerila said...

Hi Sir, it's good to see your writing again. (after long writing hiatus? hehe) I'd read The Old Man and the Sea in High School and I hope to read it again after reading your review. With your thought that it's a story of man-against-himself, Life of Pi comes to mind. Just that, latter's the enlarged/lengthy version. The similarities: setting at sea, touching religion, and struggles with one's self, symbolism, etc. Just my observation. Hehe. Not yet read his Farewell to Arms (hope to read it one of these days!), but finished his The Sun Also Rises.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Bryan! It was a long hiatus indeed! Hopefully, I'll be able to make a post once a week.

You are so right! The Old Man and the Sea has lots of similarities with Life of Pi! How could I not have thought about this?!

♔iamrei♔ said...

Just read this two nights ago and I am completely in love with it. One of the best.

Peter S. said...

I love it too!