May 12, 2016

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway's writing style is so distinctive, flat of affect yet descriptive in its own way, it's easy to see why his work continues to be read today and why it made such a splash upon its publication. Plus it really, really makes me want to move to France.

Jake is a newspaper writer living in Paris, socializing in a milieu of other English-speaking ex-pats of various kinds. The narrative centers around a small group of his friends: Bill, visiting from out of town; Cohn, hot off the successful publication of his first novel but struggling with the second; Lady Brett Ashley, with whom Jake has a complicated past and is probably still in love; and her bankrupt fiance, Mike. Different combinations of the group make their way to Pamplona for the infamous running of the bulls and the bull-fights, described in lush, explicit detail.

The decadence of ex-pat life, even a bankrupt one, cannot help but be alluring. I wonder if anyone has tallied up how much alcohol the group consumes in the story, as it seems each meal is accompanied by multiple bottles of something or other. Cafes, cobbled streets, black jazz bands, fishing in the Pyrenees, and overnight trains, with only the complexities of interpersonal relationships to get in the way. It's a heady life Hemingway describes, and it is quick to catch the American suburban imagination. A classic, indeed.

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