The Sun Also Rises

Being here in Korea, Jill has had to put her foot down on my habit of collecting books.  I love to read, and my weakness is the bookstore.  Eventually, we will move back to the USA, and it will be impossible (or very expensive) if I’ve collected too many books to bring them back.  So…Jill encouraged me to start reading books digitally so as to not add more paper to our future luggage.

I was skeptical at first…but I saw the practicality of it, so I decided to try reading on my iPod with their iBook application.  I’d really like to get a kindle eventually, but I decided to try reading on my iPod before dropping a couple bones on an e-reader.

I’ve just finished my first digital book.  I read Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”  I’ll get to my thoughts on the book in a second.  First I want to talk about the digital experience.

First things first.  Nothing can replace the spiritual experience of turning the physical page of a paper book.  There is just something about holding the books in my hands that seems to build a more intimate connection with the subject material.  Second, when I finish a paper book, I get to put it up on my bookshelf as a reminder of that experience.  I am one who likes to underline and make notes in sections of the book that are beautiful and/or challenging.  Having a paper book is essential for doing this.

Reading digitally also has its perks.  I can carry numerous books in my pocket, and pull them out anytime I want to read.  Apple has done a phenomenal job of creating the book-like experience with actual page turning that looks like a page turning when you swipe your finger across the screen.  And with the iBook application, I can highlight any text I want, and make notes about it that are stored in the iPod’s memory that I can access easily anytime later on.

However, reading on a screen for some reason feels impersonal and distant.  And being that the iPod is back-lit, my eyes get sore after reading for too long (though this can happen reading a normal book too).  All in all, reading digitally is fine.  It’s neither great, nor poor.  If it saves me having to haul numerous books home at the end of our time, then I’ll do it.  I think my favorite part about iBook, is that I have many books sitting in my pocket just waiting to be read when I have a free chance.

On to “The Sun Also Rises.”

This was actually my first Hemingway book.  I try to read at least three classic pieces of literature a year, so after being recommended by a friend, I went for it.  I know after doing some research that Hemingway revolutionized writing.  His short, precise, and vivid sentence structures broke new ground in literature.

As far as the book goes, I have to say that I really couldn’t fall in love with, or hate any of the characters.  They all seemed very bland and shallow.  But on another note, they were painfully human.  I think it’s essential in works of fiction that the readers of the story, care about the fate of the characters (at least the main characters), but I honestly couldn’t have cared less.  This could say more about me than the author.

The bright spot in Hemingway’s book for me, were his vivid descriptions of Spain, and especially the fiesta and the running of the bulls in Pamplona.  His use of precise and vivid sentences led me to feel as though I was right there in the midst of the chaos and joy of the celebrations.  His descriptions had an ability to romanticize the festivities without being overly sentimental or gaudy.

Overall, “The Sun Also Rises” is a book worth reading even though it won’t make it’s way to my list of favorites.

2 thoughts on “The Sun Also Rises

  1. The key to reading Hemingway is to realize that his terse prose is not due to some sense of hyper-masculinity. It is actually in many ways a style that is much more emotionally evocative once read properly. For one, it is (despite its appearance) not a book to be skimmed. Many people immediately think to read for plot because it appears simple, but taking the time to read through the dialogue slowly, imagining how it would be spoken, helps a lot. Much of what Brett says, for instance, is sarcasm. Bill is a completely hilarious character and spends most of the novel going on drunk rants about things like how the road to hell is “paved with unbought stuffed dogs.” Brett is anything but a shallow character. She is a woman who cannot be with the man she loves because he is physically incapable of providing the physical love she craves. She is caught between two eras – the Victorian age where it is all about settling down and raising a family, and the modern era with many new political and social rights. She, like most women of her time presumably, has a lot of trouble reconciling all of her traditional tendencies (such as nurturing) and her new ability to act on desires that were once unspeakable. This results in such predicaments as discovering that nurturing Cohn physically with sex in San Sebastian did him (as well as her relationship with him as a friend) more harm than good.

    In short, I recommend you read it again, carefully. It is one of the most heartbreaking novels you will ever pick up.

    • I really appreciate your insight. This being my first Hemingway novel, I was probably ill prepared for an adequate and balanced reading. I’ll definitely give it another read, keeping in mind the importance of focusing on the dialogue.

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