I am utterly failing at my Classics Project this year. Started off strong, but now, in April, I’ve only read one book on the list. This is unheard of for me. That’s not to say I haven’t been reading, I just haven’t been reading the books on the list. I went through a spell where I couldn’t really concentrate or enjoy anything I was reading, which definitely doesn’t lend itself to reading “classic” books.
But I did read my January book, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I got a late start and didn’t finish it until the end of February, but I finished it. Given my feelings about Hemingway, I was proud of myself. The last time I read Hemingway was in high school, when we had to read The Old Man and The Sea. I hated it. With a burning passion. I pretty much swore off Hemingway after that. I thought the author was fascinating, but I couldn’t bring myself to read anything else, for certainty that I would hate it as much as Old Man.
15 years later, one of my favorite movies is Midnight in Paris and it reminded me of how much I liked The Great Gatsby, which I’d been meaning to reread for a few years now. Seemed right to do another Classics Project and to give Hemingway another shot, since I liked his characterization in the film so much. The Sun Also Rises won out and surprise, surprise, I LIKED it.
Seriously, it’s beautiful. I eventually stopped caring that there really isn’t much of a plot or purpose and just let myself enjoy the read. It wasn’t so much about the destination but about a slice of life in 1920′s Europe. I wanted to be reading this at an outdoor cafe (impossible to do in wintery northern Utah). It inspired artwork, which I’m going to try and include with every Classics Project post. Since this is primarily an art and design blog, it makes sense to include illustrations or something else somehow related to reading or the book in question.
But back to Hemingway. I’m actually inspired to read more of his books, though I’ll admit that I need to be in the right mindset for them. It’s a different style than I’m used to reading and Hemingway has a very distinct voice. And as beautiful as it was, Sun is also pretty depressing. Everyone drinks rather than deal with their problems. Most of them aren’t even aware that they have a problem, just that they’re not happy. Cohn is downright delusional. Frankly, they’re a ragtag group that should have imploded long before they did at the bullfights. Speaking of the bullfights, I loved those scenes. I know they’re romanticized and the reality is far different, but I found myself immersed in the scenes. I wanted to be there. The sense of festival and controlled chaos just led right into the events that happened within Jake’s group of friends. The fiesta builds and so does the tension. I would have finished the book a lot faster if there’d been more action like the final chapters. I understand why there wasn’t, and since it’s more a look into a slice of life I know that it’s not reasonable. No one’s life can be exciting all of the time and there was a lot of disillusionment with their lives anyway. Which brings us back to the depressing parts.
Still, I liked it. It inspired some artwork, it got me over my Hemingway hatred and got me to read something out of my ordinary. That’s really the whole point of this project.