The Garden of Eden

I know I’ve mentioned what a huge Hemingway fan I am and this month in the midst of existential crisis I found my way back to my oldest love.  I reread The Garden of Eden, a work that was never published during Hemingway’s life.  The unedited, unfinished manuscripts were found after his death and revised by those who knew his style best (his editor and his wife).  To me, this book contains some of the most beautiful prose by Hemingway.  The setting is a French beach village where David Bourne, a writer, is on honeymoon with his new wife Catherine.  They live a life of luxury drinking all day, eating delicious food and swimming nude until it becomes clear that Catherine cannot handle David’s success as a writer.  I think she may be the most complex female Hemingway has ever written.  She is tortured by gender issues (cutting her hair, dressing, and having sex as a man), she even invites another woman to be part of their marriage, creating a deadly downward spiral of insanity and jealousy.  Catherine is so lost and at the same time so easy to hate.  Your sympathies remain with David because he is elegant and simple even in the face of a fantastically failed marriage.  (It probably also has something to do with Hemingway wanting the reader’s sympathy as well…men are rational and women are crazy…but it works).  There are simple and quotable lines everywhere in this novel.  Here are some of my favorites:

“The drinks are strong but there’s a strong wind today and we drink according to the wind.”

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

“What can there be that will not burn out in a fire that rages like that?  We were happy and I am sure she was happy.  But who ever knows?”

“He sat on the bar stool and looked into the mirror as he lifted the tall drink.  I do not know if I’d have a drink with you or not if I’d met you four months ago, he thought.”

There are so many, I’m not sure if that is a good sampling or not, but they all struck a chord with me.  I’m going to make you read it if you want to get a taste of the descriptions though.  They are truly tangible: food, drink, sea water, you even get to see Africa as you follow David’s story about being on safari with his father.  This book is a treasure and I’m so glad it got published whether it is 100% authentic Hemingway or not.

 

I’ll post the trailer to the movie too.  I haven’t seen it and am a little reluctant to, honestly, but in case you’re interested.  P.S. This only words in this trailer are more amazing, movie-ready one liners straight from the book.

I’m Back and I’ve Read Some Vonnegut

Sorry I’ve been gone so long!  I’ve just been sorting through my life and such, buying a car, battling computer issues but whatever, whatever.  Let’s talk about books!

I just finished reading Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  Sad to say, its the first and only Vonnegut I’ve read.  Glad to say it won’t be the last.  This was the first wartime book I’ve read in a long time and i think the most elegant wartime story I’ve ever read.  Parts of this book are more poetry than prose.  The repetition of the line, “So it goes” force you to see the big picture along with the small tragedies of war.  I love the mixture of bizarre time-travel, Billy’s career as an optometrist, alien abduction, and life with a porn star all interspersed with the experience of living through the destruction of Dresden.  It calls into view just how absurd war really is.  There is also an element of humor that never quite disappears, for example, in the middle of the every day drudge and simple life tragedies, Billy calls his daughter a “bitchy flibbertigibbet”.

Vonnegut refuses to let the reader feel the inevitability that often comes with reading about wars.  You already know the ending, you already know how much death and destruction must be included in the book, but Slaughterhouse Five turns all of that on its head.  It makes you involved.  I’d definitely recommend it.

Book Review #2: The Help

I’ll start this off with saying I very rarely read the current New York Times Bestseller.  I don’t like to give into the hype which probably makes me a little snobby, but if it makes you feel any better I love Harry Potter always and forever.

That being said, a friend of mine lent me The Help and I had some time on my hands so I read it.  Honestly, I wasn’t blown away.  I can appreciate what this book is trying to do because for some Southern families the sixties really weren’t that long ago.  Lots of people my age have moms that had black nannies.  But I was totally bored by the character of Skeeter.   Skeeter’s character just seems to represent a guilty white conscience and she is incredibly, almost unbelievably naive.   She has lived her whole life in this town as a privileged, spoiled rich girl who seems to want the reader’s sympathy because her mama thinks her hair is ugly.  Get some real problems, Skeeter.  Magically, one morning she wakes up with the thought white people should be nice to black people.  Also, the love story between her and Stewart is completely forced and  unbelievable.  I didn’t believe she was in love and I didn’t believe she wouldn’t ever mention she liked black people to her fiance (of five minutes).  The book jacket has quotes of critics calling this book “brave” and “this generation’s To Kill a Mockingbird” which is totally scary to me.  I refuse to believe race relations are still such a hot topic.  This book is not brave.  It is simply a story about a town in the sixties.  Skeeter was supposed to be brave, the maids were certainly brave, but to write this book in 2011 is not brave.  Not to mention I thought quite a bit of Minny’s dialogue was overly-stereotypical.  There isn’t a happy ending for anyone except Skeeter.  I don’t want to spoil it, but I’m just saying the end of this book is absurd.  My dad would probably accuse me of being overly-opinionated, but I suppose that’s just one of my own real-life character flaws.

Now for the good stuff: the story moves at a good pace and kept my interest.  Aibileen was awesome.  I loved her voice and what she had to say made the most sense to me.  I also loved her interaction with Mae Mobley.  It was the most heartfelt part of the book to me.  Minny and Celia’s story line was interesting.   I liked that she was almost as discriminated against as the maids.

I went to see the movie after I read the book, interested in the following:

1) Getting out of the house for the night

2) Comparing it to the book

3) Eating candy

I got what I deserved.  The movie is worse than the book and appallingly enough tries to make the white people nicer than they were in the book, practically glorifying Skeeter’s racist, biggoty, bitch of a mother.  No bueno, Hollywood.  The bastardization of book into movie made me think the book might have been braver than I thought.  Is this country really that racist?  Are white people going to be offended at a book and movie that make “them” look bad?  This country is ridiculous.  Sorry, Dad, more unsolicited opinions.

Woody Allen Meets Hemingway

Have you seen this movie???

If not, I would highly, highly recommend it.  I have been to see it twice in theaters because it is downright magical.  You will understand why it has rightly earned a place in a book blog when you see it because Woody Allen (director and writer) is clearly as in love with literature as me(we).  I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into a ton of detail, but just know, any fan of ex-pat writing in the 1920’s will love this movie.

I bring it up specifically today because I have added another book to my list for 2011.  Admittedly, it is a re-read but after seeing Midnight in Paris I had to revisit Hemingway’s memoir of Paris in the 20’s, A Moveable Feast.  I loved it even more this time around.  The first time I read it was for a Hemingway class in college (all Hemingway, all the time!).  I remember liking it, but blowing through it because it was the last book of the semester and I had a research paper to write.  This round I took my time with it.  I savored the phrasing and the classic Hemingway nuances.  He is not afraid of his opinions and I love seeing his point of view as an old man looking back at his youth.  His regrets are poignant and his happiness in Paris tangible.  It seems categorically unnecessary to give a “review” of a Hemingway book, but I guess I needed to post this to say I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Revisiting classics is never a bad idea and I learn from Hemingway every time I read him.

Here are some of my favorite lessons from Papa quoted from A Moveable Feast:

“Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan.”

“There are so many sorts of hunger.  In the spring there are more.  But that’s gone now.  Memory is hunger.”

“All I must do now was stay sound and good in my head until morning when I would start to work again.”

Some of my absolute favorite passages are when he tells about writing in cafes and how he had good days when stories would seem to write themselves, but then he would get interrupted, then find his rhythm again.  It seems to me he saw writing as a game, a deadly serious one, but a game nonetheless, and let’s face it; he won.  He also slips in that he wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks.  Six weeks!  Can you imagine?  He makes me feel inspired and frustrated and inspired all over again.

Janky Comments?

I think I figured out why new folks couldn’t post comments.  Should be fixed.

Shopping Cart #2

And so the time has come for me to order a few more books from Amazon.  I’ve been very good recently about not browsing for $0.01 books.  I went in with purpose and only because I’ve been wanting to read these books for some time.  With extreme self-control I came away with two books:

1. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Because I love The Great Gatsby so much and am beginning to be embarrassed that’s the only book I’ve read by Fitzgerald.  He also comes up in the movie, Midnight in Paris, the new Woody Allen film.  I’ve seen it twice now in the theater.  I won’t go into it too much because I have a post planned about it and a Hemingway book, but let’s just say I’m in love.  That leads me to the next book.

2. Getting Even by Woody Allen

I am bingeing on Woody Allen.  In the last two weeks I’ve re-watched Manhattan, watched Crimes and Misdemeanors and as I mentioned above, saw Midnight in Paris twice.  Oh, and re-watched Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.  Naturally, as any addicted person might, I find myself wanting more.  And what better way to continue my love affair with Woody Allen than through the written word?  I can’t wait.

To Kindle or Not to Kindle

To Kindle:

– The trees will thank you…and I do love the trees

– Lightweight…no more hand cramps from holding heavy hardbacks

– Kindle is not backlit, so there is no problem with reading in the sun

– You can read numerous books at a time without having to pack them

– Downloading books is instant

– Even new books are fairly cheap

photo via bookshelfporn

Not to Kindle:

– There will never be anything quite like the smell of newly printed pages

– I love my bookshelves.  They are both decorative and friendly and comforting.

– I like looking at different editions and coverart

– Recycling books on Amazon is super easy and cheap.  You do have to wait for the books to ship, but these books are already in print so why not share around?  There are thousands of books available for only 0.01 plus shipping!

– I write in the margins and highlight my books a lot.  There’s something reflective and communal about putting your own ink on the pages of books you admire.  (I’ve heard you can type in comments on the Kindle, but I’m not entirely sold)

 

 

I think overall, I wouldn’t mind a Kindle for traveling but I’ll never be able to give up books entirely.  I can’t wait for the day I can see my own writing in print and somehow it just wouldn’t be as satisfactory to see my writing in digital format.  I don’t know, maybe I’m just old fashioned.