The second in my Literature with a Capital L series, The Sun Also Rises is another Hemingway, this time featuring am early-thirties group of friends trundling around Europe having adventures consisting primarily of fishing, sex, and bull-fighting. I’m not going to rehash everything I said in my previous post, but my problem with Hemingway boils down to the fact that the Wikipedia plot summary for this book, aka what should be the most succinct summary you can find, begins with “on the surface,” suggesting that the story is not the story, or perhaps that the story is not why the novel matters. Gag.
Jake is a rambling former war correspondent (Hemingway proving that Gary Sues are not a new concept) toodling around Paris with the Diane to his Sam, Lady Brett Ashley. Characters enter and exit the fray, most of them obsessed with Brett, with her willing to let them hound sadly after her while loving the attention right up until she doesn’t. Hemingway’s attitude towards women is on full display for the entirety of the novel, with Brett alternating between a frustration, a vexation and a desire.
It’s weird reading about a novel where someone can just sort of, disappear for what appears to be a span of years, doing little but drinking and banging your way across Europe, staying in downtown Paris and eating at restaurants every night. As I’m writing this, I just finished telling someone about how expensive it is to be a new homeowner (and to generally just be alive in 2023). I’m reminded additionally of my first time watching the movie Phantasm, where a couple of young people in the 70s with apparently no jobs just… decide to drive for a few months. Is this what life used to actually be like, before we were all squeezed like oranges for every last drop of juice available in our rinds?
One thing I appreciate about the story is the tales of bull-fighting. This is an occasionally controversial part of the story, because bull-fighting is unethical and cruel to the animal. I appreciated it because I had no idea what actually went into the sport, and getting it in the kind of detail and accuracy that Hemingway imparts is exceptional.
The Sun Also Rises is another Hemingway. Read it if you like Hemingway. Meh.