No one can do stream of consciousness like the Irish. And no one can do depressing like the Irish. And this book has heaps of both and is brilliant at...moreNo one can do stream of consciousness like the Irish. And no one can do depressing like the Irish. And this book has heaps of both and is brilliant at it. Reading this reminds me of the immigrant attitude that begins with: "You think you've got it bad, well..." And that's what this book hits the read over the head with. While beautiful, it is suffocatingly depressing. The fact that it's a memoir and all this has actually happened to a person makes that depression even worse. And the fact that it's Irish history with all that turmoil and tragedy makes it even worse. And hope of anything uplifting in this book will blow away like Angela's Ashes (Sorry...couldn't help it). (less)
When they said this was a complex read, they really weren't kidding. Not only does it have stream of conscious narration that James Joyce wouldn't sni...moreWhen they said this was a complex read, they really weren't kidding. Not only does it have stream of conscious narration that James Joyce wouldn't sniff at, it's got an omniscient third person point of you.
I had to keep up with not only what people where thinking, what they were doing, but where they were going, seeing, and then who actually doing the thinking. All that, and no first person point of view. I was one very busy buzzing fly flying around trying to keep up.
It is an interesting read and a read that is worth the time and effort. It doesn't number as one of my favorites simply because of the subject matter. The writing was beautiful (once past the complex), but slight satire, with aristocrats and suicide. And while others may prefer Mrs. Dalloway as the primary character, I found just about everyone else more interesting. I would have loved to know more about Septimus. And Peter. And Sally. It was like Dalloway was the vehicle to peek into these much more interesting and tragic lives.
I recommend that this book be read in one sitting. It is such a hurricane of a narration (and I don't mean necessarily a page turner) that to try to jump in after putting it down will only make you dizzy. (less)
As good as I've always heard. I can't believe it has taken this long in my life to read this book. Beyond racism, I feel this book to be a deconstruct...moreAs good as I've always heard. I can't believe it has taken this long in my life to read this book. Beyond racism, I feel this book to be a deconstruction of Man. (less)
When I walked over to my classic cases, trying to decide which book I'll read next, I looked over to the authors that really needed to be read. I narr...moreWhen I walked over to my classic cases, trying to decide which book I'll read next, I looked over to the authors that really needed to be read. I narrowed down my choices to Hemingway and Faulkner. I've read more Faulkner than Hemingway and he's been more hit and miss for me. Reading Faulker for me was torturous at times. I labored to get through each Faulknerian sentence. So I naturally leaned towards the Hemingway collection. And grabbed DITA. I had no idea what it was about. On the cover, there was a painting of a bullfighter being gored and tossed by a bull. Okay, so I figured it was going to be about bullfighting. I was surprised to find that that was exactly what it was about. People can argue for metaphors and symbology, and don't get me wrong, it's there, but bullfighting was what this book was about. It could even be described as a textbook about bullfighting. It gave the history. The moves. The men. The breeding. And quantified and evaluated each and every element of the bullfight. I knew that I would hate this book. First of all, what, no story? No characters or plot? Just a seemingly endless stream of Spanish names, what they were known for, and where they were gored. And then there was the subject matter. The killing of animals for sport. The Girl once told me that while she was traveling, she had inadvertently ended up at a bullfight. She wanted to leave, but was held in tight by the crowds. And forced to watch, she felt sick to having witnessed this. I would have agreed with her sentiment before I read the book. Now that I've read the book, I realized that there is something to it. It may never be something I'd pay to see or anything I'd appreciate watching. But, academically, I can appreciate what Hemingway was saying about it. I can appreciate that it isn't so much a fight, but art. This realization didn't come at once. Matter of fact, the first paragraph was filled with so many Faulknerian sentences, that I had to close the book to make sure I didn't accidentally pick up Faulkner. Hemingway, after all, is known for short, crisp sentences that only hours later hit you like a ton of bricks. Instead, I was being hit immediately with ton of brick like paragraphs. And Hemingway began with the killing of the horses. I was immediately turned off. But I was determined to finish the book. I like seeing things through. And with this one, I'm glad I did. Hemingway equates bullfighting to the literary form of Tragedy. I use the capital T to illustrate the mythic quality of the Tragedy. The bullfight is a story that ends in a death. When I think of the literary Tragedy, I think of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Based on a true story, the reader and Shakespeare lover would never want a single thing changed about the play. We know going into the play that everyone will die. That's the nature of the Tragedy. The beauty of the story comes in getting to know these characters, becoming personally attached to these characters, and knowing that they will eventually die, see their actions that lead up to that death. Unlike the horror movies where we scream, 'Don't go into that dark cellar!' we follow the path of the characters making the choices that will lead to their deaths. We watch, we read, we listen and know it is beautiful. Each action and every word uttered is a nail in a coffin and we wouldn't change a thing because those words and actions are always delicate in their musings towards the shuffling off of the mortal coil. And that's the story of the bullfight. This is so unlike killing animals for sport. First of all, if it is a good bullfight, the matador is in constant mortal danger. According to Hemingway, every matador gets gored several times in their careers. Many die. So what makes this different from straight hunting is the fact that these animals can fight back. And the tragedy comes about that these animals have the deck stacked against them. Not only are they killed even if they kill the matador, but they are first hindered and tired out by other people in the ring. It is the tragic story of a mighty bull faced with something they've never experienced before, never encountered, and how they would fight back. When was reading this, my first instinct was to think 'how cruel.' It wasn't about tragedy; it seemed like torture. Hemingway changed my mind with his obvious reverence and respect for the bull. And his complete disdain when a bullfight is a coward and kills the bull in a manner without honor for a matador. The right way to do it is facing the bull, head on, during a charge and weakening the bull so much that it can barely lift its head, and then slide the sword in, between the shoulder blades, for a quick death. The danger comes in because the matador has to do this in such a way that puts him in the direct path of the bull's horns. If the bull lifts its head at the wrong moment, the bullfighter is gored. Hemingway expressed that very few bullfighters can kill in this way. And that was back in '31. I imagine that bullfights nowadays are mere parodies of the fights that Hemingway wrote about. The fight was comprised of three acts, each with the bull being manipulated into acting. To see its final killing, Hemingway compared it to art. Art that could only be done in that moment and never again. Each fight brings in new art. Some sloppy and some beautiful. I can imagine that. If a regular person, a fly on the wall person, was to see the events of "Hamlet" unfold before their eyes, would it be any less beautiful if it were real? I think that is the question. We see stories like "Hamlet" and can appreciate them because we are so far removed from the actual events and brutality of those events. But what if we were to witness them? Of course, it would be traumatic. Probably scarring. But beautiful. And reading Hemingway's thoughts on death, I completely understood why he killed himself. To die any other way, for him, would lesson his life's story. He was too old to fight in wars. While leading a risky life, it was still filled with too many creature comforts that he never could experience the immediacy of death that he did when he was young. Killing himself was his own way of ensuring a "good death." At first, I wasn't quite sure why Hemingway would include a short story, "A Natural History of the Dead," in this textbook of a book on bullfighting. It had nothing to do with bullfighting. And at first, I didn't think it had anything to do with honor, bravery and cowardice. But a couple hours after reading it, it did hit me like a ton of bricks. It begins by asking if there is need for a catalogue of deaths. After all, during that time, there were plenty of books out about Natural Histories of just about anything: leaves, trees, species. He told of the deaths of men. Everyone dies like an animal and there is no such thing as a "natural death." He presented gruesome war scenes of pickpockets and dead women after an explosion. But the crux of the story is about an army doctor. An unconscious man is brought in with his skull crushed, but still alive. Barely, and not for long. The doctor wants him put with the other dead, since he only has a few minutes of life left anyway. The stretcher people were freaked out by the breathing man among the dead and asked that he be taken and put with the injured. The doctor refused, checking on him again, explaining that they would have to just bring him back. There was argument. And then another soldier asked that the dying man get an overdose of morphine so he could die. The doctor refused; he wasn't in the business of killing or wasting precious medicine. The soldier begged the doctor to kill the dying man and eventually led to threaten to kill the dying man himself with the gun. The doctor pointed out his choice in the matter and the consequences of he would surely face by killing another allied soldier. Then the soldier attacked the docter, who defended himself by splashing iodine in the soldier's eyes, temporarily blinding him. The dying man finally died, the doctor pointed out that there was nothing to argue about. And the soldier, now restrained so they can clean out his eyes, cries out that he is blind and that he can "see nothing." I still have questions and thoughts about this story. So if anyone else has read it, please let me know. This isn't a book I can eagerly recommend to anyone. It's subject matter is not savorable. The writing style, while eventually engaging, is textbook and there is no story to the book. Just lots of information. But it does examine and explore the nature of death, good deaths and bad deaths, bravery and cowardice. (less)
When I first read this book in high school, I coined a phrase for it: "Deadly Boring."
I literally thought that I was going to be bored to death if I...moreWhen I first read this book in high school, I coined a phrase for it: "Deadly Boring."
I literally thought that I was going to be bored to death if I read any further. It could be that the teacher then was teaching character and plot and literary devices and simply being as boring as possible.
I read it again when I was in college, and by this time, completely familiar with literary devices so I could concentrate on the sheer poetry of the langauge. Read this book for the craft, for the art of writing.
A creative writing teacher once said there were two approaches to writing, the Windex Approach, where everything is clear and the Stained Glass approach where what's on the other side of the glass isn't as important as the beauty of the glass itself. This is that kind of book.
Each word is poetry.
I loved this book so much that a friend once painted a picture for me entitled, "Portrait of Max as a Young Man."(less)