The Sun Also Rises The Sun Also Rises discussion


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I Hate This Book With The Burning Passion Of Ten Thousand Red Hot Suns

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Mary B And the worst thing is- every time I say so some well meaning academic looks at me with piy in their eyes and says the equivalent of "Well yes, it's boring and frustrating and pointless- but that's the *point*. Don't you see what he was trying to do"?

Yes, I do. I really do see where you're coming from. But just because I see why Ernest Hemingwway was trying to torture me dosen't mean I'm going to thank him for it.


Amber Marybeth wrote: "And the worst thing is- every time I say so some well meaning academic looks at me with piy in their eyes and says the equivalent of "Well yes, it's boring and frustrating and pointless- but that's..."

Amen. I hated it to. And yes I seen what he was trying to do but writing/art is meant for pleasure, not for beating one's head against a wall. But if other's appreciate it for what it is then more power to them, just don't expect me to herd along with the rest of them.


message 3: by Monty J (last edited Jul 24, 2014 09:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying Marybeth wrote: "And the worst thing is- every time I say so some well meaning academic looks at me with piy in their eyes and says the equivalent of "Well yes, it's boring and frustrating and pointless- but that's..."

So, what didn't you like? That the imperfections of humanity were exposed? That the lasting destructive effects of war on human character were put on display? That a woman was shown to act on her wanton sexual desires instead of idealized in a nurturing motherly role? That there was a glaring absence of admirable characters? That everyone, even the peasantry, was shown to be seeking satisfaction of their own selfish interests as advocated by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged. That the meaningless pursuit of pleasure was exposed in scene after scene of drunken hedonism and gluttony?

It was a disturbing book to me for all those reasons, except for the glimmers of hope when Jake Barnes, in a drunken stupor in his hotel bed muses over a vague value system of life being a series of exchange transactions. And at the end when he seems to wake up, saying to Brett, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

We should be repulsed. Our revulsion is a testament to the book's effectiveness.


message 4: by Feliks (last edited Jul 24, 2014 09:15AM) (new) - added it

Feliks uh-oh Marybeth. You've disturbed the sleeping giant that is Monty J. Your ten thousand suns are about to be tossed aside like a pack of wet matches from a closed-down cabaret. :)


Monty J Heying Amber wrote: "...but writing/art is meant for pleasure,..."

Art is also for shining light into the dark corners of life that people work with diligence to conceal, so that the carefully hidden imperfections, the dark side of man, can be exposed. For if we cannot see them how can we know what to improve?


message 6: by Mary B (last edited Jul 24, 2014 09:59AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mary B To be honest, I read the book a long time ago. So long ago that I can't even remember specific plot points. I do remember all the bull-fights, petty arguments and drunken stupors. I just remember being repulsed at the boredom I experienced and intensley frustrated with some anticlimax which made me feel as if I wasted my time, despite being imparted with the message.

Reading this book gave me the same feeling as having to stand there and listen to a stranger tell a story you have no interest in. You want to leave, your feet are itching to walk you away from the irritation of the situation, but he insists on going on, and common courtesy dictates that you stay and hear all of what he has to say. It's not as if you don't understand his point. Perhaps another person could tell the same story with a different inflection in their voice and you'd be much more invested. But the way this person tells it grates and chafes on your nerves. It can't be helped.

Like I said, the point of this book has been explained to me many times, and I won't even say that I missed it when I was reading, though I can't be sure because it was a long time ago. Despite knowing why the book is written, it still disgusts me because I felt like I had to force myself through it.

That's never a good feeling. Surely the same ideas can be applied in a way that is more palatable and more gripping? I don't think just because a book essentially does what it has set out to do that it can't be criticized.


message 7: by Mary B (last edited Jul 24, 2014 09:41AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mary B I forgot to add a response to that last comment. As a horror fan I read a lot of material that details the lives of shitty people doing shitty things. I realize how far apart the genres are, but it begs the question, in a story by let's say Clive Barker, there's usually virtually no relatable protaginist to root for. The world he presents is a dark and scary and often hopeless place. You know going in that no development is going to occur, most of the time no one is going to change. There is only grisly death waiting for these people, in some creative form or another and most of the time your heart isn't broken for them, because let's face it, they deserved it. But because the stories are high concept, I can easily get through them.

I realize that this book is realistic, and meant to explore the domestic horrors of the REAL world, not a fantasy one, but there is a much shorter story which does exactly that (although I won't say the ideas presented are exactly the same because Hemingway concentrates on poking holes in different areas than Camus, but it's still a good basis for comparison).

The book I'm referring to is called The Stranger. I think the reason I like that book better is not because the primary character is a better person, or because the world he inhabits is any more friendly or romanticized, rather the way the the book is written dosen't make me feel tired, listless, used. It DOES make me question whether society and life itself isn't absurb and meaningless, which I guess isn't very comfortable but it's stimulating. It does what it set out to do without giving me a migraine. I don't feel like my time has been wasted. I think this a matter of style rather than content.


Monty J Heying Marybeth wrote: "I don't think just because a book essentially does what it has set out to do that it can't be criticized."

Of course it can. All but the misanthropes want the world to be a better place. We want heroes who show us how it can be done. Criticism reflects that existential urge toward improvement.

I'm not justifying Hemingway's methods, just describing them in an effort to understand them. It's important to remember that he was just a kid of 24 when he wrote TSAR. He hadn't lived long enough to know anything better to write about. He didn't have answers, so all he had to offer were questions.

When he was writing this novel he was having an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, a best friend of his wife's who betrayed her and married him away from her. Life was crashing down around him.

All around were poor examples, destructive relationships, open marriages, sex for hire. (Much of this is detailed in his memoir, A Movable Feast.) He wrote what he saw. TSAR is a roman a clef novel--a true story with names changed. He documented the invisible, the destructive human character aftermath of war.


message 9: by Mary B (last edited Jul 24, 2014 09:50AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Mary B Monty J wrote: "It's important to remember that he was just a kid of 24 when he wrote TSAR. He hadn't lived long enough to know anything better to write about. He didn't have answers, so all he had to offer were questions."

I think this pretty accuratley summarizes my frustration with the book. I'm not saying there isn't a place for The Sun Also Rises. And I'm definitley not going to insult you for liking something you're well-researched and passionate about. I'm glad you could find something in it.

Maybe one of the reasons I dislike it is because I've already digested similar themes in other books which entertained me more, and the fact that it's lauded purely for it's over all concept annoys me. But then again, maybe at it's time this book was very revolutionary, and since I never saw it in that context, to me it just seems futile and hard to get through. For all I know Hemingway could've been one of the first to TALK about these problems and raise those questions "Is our lifestyle and way of interacting really going to bring us any kind of contentment, and is there a point to all this consuming, entertainment,art, sex- just to consume"?


Monty J Heying Marybeth wrote: "...it's lauded purely for it's over all concept annoys me."

It's not that I "Like" it so much as I respect what Hemingway accomplished, whether it was what he intended or not. (I suspect he hadn't a clue.)

The main attraction of the book for me is it documented my grandparents' era and my mother's lifestyle. It tells a human story that history books never attempt because they glorify war in order to get published.


Mary B I think that documentation enough gives this book more than enough of a right to exist, but not enough of a right to be read again by me. Like I said, I understand why you (and many many others apparently) like it, and I hope I've explained why I don't well enough.


Mary B Feliks wrote: "uh-oh Marybeth. You've disturbed the sleeping giant that is Monty J. Your ten thousand suns are about to be tossed aside like a pack of wet matches from a closed-down cabaret. :)"

lol!


Monty J Heying Marybeth wrote: "It DOES make me question whether society and life itself isn't absurd and meaningless, which I guess isn't very comfortable but it's stimulating. It does what it set out to do without giving me a migraine. I don't feel like my time has been wasted."

As an aside, life has no intrinsic value except to the extent we as individuals assign meaning to it or buy in to someone else's definition. People lost and groping for meaning are a hopeful sign.

"I think this is a matter of style rather than content."

Exactly. What Hemingway wrote was a series of true events that he witnessed. He wrote the truth, and truth is harder to make an interesting story of. With fiction, by its very nature, you have the advantage of taking creative liberties.

The difficulty in making a readable story out of truth is magnified by the limited options.


Russell I didnt hate it, but I do see what you mean, def not Hemingways best book (id say that was islands in the stream or farewell to arms). Id put it on a par with accross the river. Its nothing like as good of some of his other works


Matthew You know, I used to hate Hemingway in general, but his writing, particularly the short stories and vignettes, have grown on me. That said; however, The Sun Also Rises was by far my least favorite Hemingway in every way shape and form.


Monty J Heying R.M. wrote: "He hadn't lived long enough to know anything better to write about.'
"


I stand by the statement, but you stopped short of the clarification: "He didn't have answers, so all he had to offer were questions."

That takes nothing away from the genius of what he wrote. He held up a mirror to mankind and said, "Here, take a look at yourselves." He wasn't judging or providing solutions. Raising questions, yes, by choosing where to aim the mirror.


Annemarie Donahue Nobody hit me, but this is my all-time favourite book. I loved every word in this book and actually memorized some of the lines as I thought they were amazing. I can see how people don't like Hemingway, and I can appreciate people out-and-out hating him and his style. Probably the wrong thread for this. :)


message 18: by Doug (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Wykstra And these ten thousand hot red suns, do they also rise?

(I apologize for writing the previous sentence, in which no characters were killed or had sex or got in wicked cool swordfights or car chases. Hopefully the complete boredom of reading a sentence in which none of these things happened didn't drive you out of your mind)


Annemarie Donahue Doug wrote: "And these ten thousand hot red suns, do they also rise?

(I apologize for writing the previous sentence, in which no characters were killed or had sex or got in wicked cool swordfights or car chase..."


@Doug - LOL


Amber Monty J wrote: "Amber wrote: "...but writing/art is meant for pleasure,..."

Art is also for shining light into the dark corners of life that people work with diligence to conceal, so that the carefully hidden imp..."


A story can do that while still being enjoyable. Hemmingway's goal was to tear out every unnecessary word to minimize the novel as much as possible. It was an artistic choice that some were impressed by and looking at it from an artistic perspective I can see what he was going for, but from a reader's perspective I found myself having to force myself through this novel until the bitter end. I got the message but that message did not remain with me because I had zero emotional investment in the story or it's characters.


Mary B Don't worry, you're perfectly entitled to your opinion. And for the record I dont' actually hate Hemingway?

I mean I've only read one other book of his so far(The Old Man and the Sea in high-school), but you know what? I really loved and enjoyed that book. I rooted for the main character the whole way through and felt incredibly sad for him when his acheivement was ripped from him, and then went largely unnoticed. I think I had more of an emotional reaction than nearly anyone in my class.

So yes, I would read other books to see if I liked them too, despite how much I detest TSOR.

It's not so much that I hate Hemingway's style, it's that I felt the combination of his style and the subject matter/characters he chose in TSOR to be particularily dry and draining.


Mary B Doug wrote: "And these ten thousand hot red suns, do they also rise?"

I KNEW SOMEONE WAS GOING TO SAY THAT, LOL.


message 23: by Mkfs (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mkfs Monty J wrote: "It's important to remember that he was just a kid of 24 when he wrote TSAR. He hadn't lived long enough to know anything better to write about. He didn't have answers, so all he had to offer were questions."

That is becoming more and more apparent as I read through The Sun Also Rises. When I last read it, twenty-odd years ago, I greatly enjoyed it. Now, it seems rather rough-hewn, and more journalistic than insightful.


message 24: by Monty J (last edited Jul 28, 2014 08:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying Amber wrote: "..Hemingway's goal was to tear out every unnecessary word to minimize the novel as much as possible."

I see your point and agree in general, but I think his so-called minimalism is an oversimplification. He agonized a great deal over what to leave out and what to retain. It wasn't mere economy for the sake of economy. I think he instinctively wanted a wider audience than just the college educated crowd. His aversion for complex sentences and long words came from his training as a journalist, and lacking a college education, he didn't have to worry about impressing his former classmates and professors with fancy prose, as perhaps did Fitzgerald.

His focus on simple declarative sentences also received encouragement from Gertrude Stein, who recognized a freshness and strength in it.

Fitzgerald takes us by the hand into the forest along a given trail and out the other side, describing the beauty of the birds and ferns and frolicking deer, sharing how it made him or some character feel. Hemingway takes us along the same trail but steps aside and allows us to discover our own feelings as they happen. He trusts and relies upon our knowledge and imagination where Fitzgerald impresses us with his.

What Hemingway discovered was a way for a reader to have a more authentic, more natural experience in that sacred trinity of reader-work-author. Beyond some point the less an author intrudes the better. He tried to make himself disappear.

What Hemingway achieved with The Sun Also Rises was a highly accessible tale of misbehavior, an easy read that anyone could pick up and get something from. The portrayal of decadence and absence of admirable characters mimics what Fitzgerald accomplished the year before in The Great Gatsby, a beautifully written novel that didn't do nearly as well in the marketplace for at least two decades.

But in the end, it's always a matter of a reader's taste.


message 25: by Monty J (last edited Jul 30, 2014 06:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying R.M. wrote: "For my part, I don’t think Hemingway ever set out to offer answers. I’m not sure offering answers is how he conceived of his art."


I'll frame my reply with something from Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet:
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Living into the answers is about maturity. As time goes on, writers typically have more to offer. Hemingway copied, theme for theme and even to the extent of using a neutered first-person narrator, what Fitzgerald published just a year before TSAR was relieased. I document this in my blog:http://www.wattpad.com/58144891-the-s...

But where Fitzgerald's Carraway sees "personality as an unbroken series of successful gestures" and pauses a few other times to reflect and philosophize, Hemingway's Nick Barnes remains in shallow water, musing in a drunken stupor over life as a series of value exchanges and ruminates over the definition of immorality. I document multiple examples of Hem's exchange transaction theory of humanity in my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

It could be said that Jake's observations on human behavior reflect Hemingway's attempt to make sense of the post-World War I disintegration of values both he and Fitzgerald had written about.

"Further, I wonder if many or even most writers perceive the point of narrative fiction to be to offer answers. Is it not more about elucidating themes through conflict?"

John Steinbeck addressed the purpose of literary fiction more than once in his journals and interviews. He said, paraphrasing, that true literature has no higher purpose than to light the way toward a better world. His greatest novels, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men and East of Eden demonstrate his philosophy.

"Thus, for me personally, I find it something of a straw man to ask whether Hemingway was mature enough to offer answers rather than merely questions, because it seems to me the point at issue is, as with much or most fiction, the themes he addressed, not whether he had ‘the answers’.."

Male or female, an effective value system is vital to maturing and the orderly functioning of society. Even at age seventeen(ish), J.D. Salinger's Holden was seriously questioning phony values, looking for something better. To quote Mr. Antolini's misquote of Stekel: "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one." (Note this was quoted more than two decades after TSAR, right after World War II, but first written in the 1860s. Several wars later, what have we learned?)

"I just cannot see how The Sun Also Rises can be described as the work of an immature author thrashing about in the dark."

Hemingway, though exceptionally mature for a man his age, was sorting things out, like most of the Western World after World War I. I didn't say Hem was immature, only that he hadn't lived long enough to have any real solutions.

Jake's reflection in that last line, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" can be taken two ways. Has he wised up to Brett's narcissism or just accepted it as a fact of life? After taking us through all the muck, he's kicked the can down the road, something Steinbeck tried to avoid. I think he showed greater maturity than Hemingway for doing so, despite being a few years younger.

All great writers thrash about. It is part of the job description. Some succeed in offering answers. For others, even daring to ask difficult questions and to show the quest for answers is enough to shed light where it is needed.


message 26: by Monty J (last edited Jul 31, 2014 02:41PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying R.M. wrote: "...'Of Mice and Men', for example, is a perfect example. It's not about providing answers.
."


I suppose it's a matter of how to interpret what one reads. Steinbeck showed that bigotry was not okay--Curley's wife calling Crooks "n----r" and threatening to have him lynched He also proposed that euthanasia is an acceptable way to protect someone like Lennie from being chained to the wall of an asylum for the rest of his life.

By exposing bigotry, Steinbeck was proposing a solution. By showing Lennie's euthansia, Steinbeck was raising public awareness of the inhumane treatment of the insane. The implicit solution is to reform the judicial system. He didn't preach, as he did in East of Eden with his admonition timshel, but it was clear he wanted mankind to change in specific ways--get rid of racism and the mistreatment of the insane.

In TSAR Hemingway simply showed people misbehaving and pretty much left solutions to the reader.


message 27: by Petergiaquinta (last edited Jul 31, 2014 12:41PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Petergiaquinta This isn't really my discussion here, but I've been following along and I've enjoyed reading what the two of you have to offer. I'm especially intrigued by the passage Monty quotes from Rilke. Perhaps I can offer this small tidbit about how perhaps Hemingway did "live along some distant day into the answer." Consider the bleakness of TSAR and the absolute nihilism a few years later of A Farewell to Arms. But contrast those two earlier works with what he writes ten years later, For Whom the Bell Tolls. The title alone points to a different set of values, a different response to conflict, a different perspective on the part of the author. Robert Jordan is a very different kind of character from Jake Barnes or Frederic Henry. I'd say in this later book Hemingway had found some answers of a sort.


Petergiaquinta As I said, this isn't my discussion (and truth be told, I'm no great fan of Hemingway), so I don't align myself with either side of your discussion. I don't expect "answers" from a book like TSAR, and I don't fault it for failing to provide answers. It's being written in the wake of the greatest destruction we've managed to wreak on Earth thus far, and in response its characters are damaged and directionless. That final line is one of the bleakest in the book, if all we have in this blighted, ruined world is the possibility of thinking things might be somehow different from what they are.

But that's very different from Santiago dreaming of lions at the end of Old Man. What a rich (happy?) ending we have there in comparison to TSAR and Farewell to Arms. Santiago may be dead, but he has led a long and productive life; he's been a part of a community of sorts; he's been successful in that final endeavor. None of that could be said about Frederick Henry or Jake Barnes.

I do see a progression in Hemingway's writing, and it would be short sighted not to acknowledge it. He is a young writer in TSAR, and he gains wisdom and maturity as he grows older. He doesn't remain a directionless member of the Lost Generation his entire life. He does struggle with mental illness, and he gives in to his demons at the end, but he grows and matures over the course of his career, and I think there's an arc of sorts to what he is writing about. The empty nihilism of Farewell progresses into the necessary sense of community and sacrifice in For Whom the Bell Tolls. A transition book might be To Have and Have Not. I just read the New York Times review from 1937 (the Internet is a fine place too), and Hemingway gets crushed there. But whether or not you hate the book (and I'm not one of its haters), Harry Morgan is a transitional figure to Robert Jordan. You can make the case that he dies understanding what Jordan knows already about our place in the world.

I have not read Islands in the Stream, and I don't know if Hemingway ever really wanted it published, did he? (I know he wouldn't have wanted Kenny Rogers to have sung about it.) But if my understanding of that book is correct, the character is older than Robert Jordan, and younger than Santiago, and although he may be miserable and lonely, doesn't he join a cause bigger than himself and sacrifice himself by the end?

So yes, I do believe there is a progression at work seen through the shifting in values of Hemingway's protagonists. Part of this is the natural progression of age and wisdom through experience. Hemingway is influenced by Marxism and the necessity of fighting against fascism. He sees the world in different terms, and it is worth fighting for, he decides. Those younger, more immature characters are replaced by older, wiser ones. So in this way, there might be some "answers" in those later books that aren't so readily available in the earlier ones. But my own belief is that good literature raises more questions than it provides answers for.


message 29: by Stephen (last edited Aug 19, 2014 05:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen Bauer The main character, clearly based on Hemingway himself, was pathetically, obnoxiously narcissistic.


drowningmermaid You know, I really quite liked it. But I was raised by two people who both utterly hated it, and so I was certain going into it that it was going to be the most unbelievable waste of ink I'd ever encountered.

But it really isn't. That would be "Fallen" by Lauren Kate and "Hush, Hush" by Becca Fitzpatrick.

Hemingway, at least, was trying for something that had never been done before.


message 31: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn Monty J wrote: "Marybeth wrote: "And the worst thing is- every time I say so some well meaning academic looks at me with piy in their eyes and says the equivalent of "Well yes, it's boring and frustrating and poin..."

I'm not the OP, but speaking for myself, I wasn't at all repulsed by it. I was bored stiff.


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