Everything is still tonight, like a friend was talking and I didn’t hear her until she stopped. Like absence. Coming back from vacation has that feeling of loss because all of the friendships resolve into something real, whatever that may be. Whenever I am away from home, I crave The Sun Also Rises
. I think it got into my blood from reading it again and again at impressionable ages. Since I returned home this time, a couple of weeks ago, I can’t stop thinking about my friends in this book and their fiesta. And I’ve been thinking about the last line of the book and how pretty we all are when we are away.
It seems vulgar to talk about substantive things in this book, compliments or criticisms, because I think it’s one of my best friends, and one of my oldest friends. I probably don’t know any of you as well as I know The Sun Also Rises
, so I don’t really want to go behind its back and tell you whether it’s an angry drunk or has informed opinions about war and taxidermy. I will tell you that it’s a comfort when I’m sad or lonely. Not a gentle comfort, but a comfort nonetheless.
I love getting away for a fiesta and the bonds and prejudices that come from being with people on vacation. I hate returning. Returning from vacation makes me really angry. We were waiting for the plane in Tanzania on the way back from Zanzibar, and I had just gotten to the end of The Sun Also Rises
. I was so pleased to end the book and see the fiesta disintegrate, just as my own vacation did. During my last week on the island, I was reading another book, and I couldn’t even pay attention to it because I so badly wanted to read about Jake and Bill going fishing. I had to stop and change books on my wonderful Kindle (don’t hate). But, as I was sitting in the café at the Dar es Salaam airport, eating my grilled cheese and anticipating what Jake has to tell me at the very end of this book, suddenly it ended – TWO FULL PAGES BEFORE THE ACTUAL END OF THE BOOK. That is the type of evil I’m talking about of returning from vacation. I’m still mad about it, even though, of course, I finished the book when I got home to my printed copy.
I should probably tell you about how much I love the men in this book. Aren’t men sometimes lovely? And I love the women here, too, even though I cannot imagine a woman ever seeing herself or seeing another woman the way Hemingway writes her. She is always sort of framed and hanging in the entryway of the story so that as people are coming and going they see her and comment on her beauty and tragedy. But, there is always something that reminds me of Romeo and Juliet in Hemingway’s men. I know that A Farewell to Arms is really his Romeo and Juliet
(and I love that book as much, even though it is more pristine and not as good a friend). But there is something of the way the men are here that is just the way the men are in R&J. They are all in love and all fighting. And Hemingway’s love stories are made so much more beautiful by being totally incompatible with life. The love is idealized, like maybe all love is, but like the story is not. He tells you about those pockets of comfort in life, but he also tells about what is on either side of them.
I guess I am talking around what I love about the men. I had forgotten in rereading this that there is the hovering analogy of the bulls and steers throughout the book. It is so beautifully done, without being vulgar and literal. I love that all of the emotion among the men – the respect and pity and friendship and jealousy and silent understanding – is there and tangible, but no one talks down to me about it or ruins it by bragging and explaining. Anyway, I have always been partial to Benvolio, and I think Bill is a sort of Benvolio character here, even though you will maybe say he is a Mercutio because of all of his chatter and utilizing. Maybe Jake is my Benvolio. Of course, Cohn must be Romeo. I love being told about all of them.
Mostly what I’m thinking about is the men being in love, even though the story isn’t only about that. The love stories here are so much the opposite of love stories that I am thinking about calling this book an anti-romance. Maybe I am wrong, though. They are about wanting and never having, and isn’t that the flash-bang of romance? Not, obviously, in the literary sense of “romance,” but in the Hollywood sense of romance. The Valentines Day sense. In the sense that vacations are romantic – living a life outside of your own that doesn’t even really exist. For a while now, I have been looking for what I find to be truly romantic in stories. By that I mean, what I find to actually sell me on the idea of love. There are those stories in which people dig deeper than romance to the place that Hemingway’s characters get to, the alienation of actually knowing each other, and then they dig past that to something that I think is love. Maybe that exists. I don’t think Hemingway believed in it, though, and I don’t know that it would have been very interesting to read about if he did. What he writes about, though, is beautiful and interesting, and it exists to me.
I have read this book more times than any other, and even though it is different to me each time, and I see something new, it is always a friend. I don’t really want you to read it. I am happy keeping it to myself. I mostly wanted to tell you about how I love vacations and hate coming back from them, and how it is always just like in the book. I also wanted to tell you about how Chapter 12 is probably my favorite writing that exists, and how I love the rain and I love it when Hemingway writes about the rain. I think Hemingway understood a lot of things differently than I do, but he talks about them so perfectly.