It didn't even occur to me that I wouldn't enjoy this book. It's Hemingway, right? Mr. All Time Great Author, right?
And from the first few pages, I assumed I would like it. All the elements were there: A Jewish guy from New York who goes to a good school winds up in a life that isn't very exciting but has fantasies of walking away from it all to live a Bohemian lifestyle as a writer. So, what's not to like? And there was a bullfighting picture on the cover. That certainly promises excitement, right? I've actually been to a bullfight once, but I was only a four year old boy and so was very bored and disappointed.
I became a man in his thirties reading about a bullfight and being very bored and disappointed. This book contained the most uninteresting characters I've encountered in Fiction. Lady Brett promised to be at least a little fun to spend time with, because she was decent in bed, but we never heard any details beyond, "I slept with Roy Cohn those two weeks in San Sebastian. Pour me more wine, will you?" The only thing more boring then sitting around with boring people and getting drunk is reading a boring book about boring people getting drunk. Good writers are not supposed to over-use a word in a single paragraph. But I am going to. Boring. Boring. Boring. And even if that means I'm not a good writer, at least I can take solace in the fact that I'm better than Ernest Hemingway.
Dave Sim is a writer/illustrator who has been writing a serial novel in monthly installments for over 20 years, with about 4 yet to go. He occasionally will make famous authors part of his continuing story, and praise them extensively in the endnotes. Ernest Hemingway has recently appeared, and I couldn't wait to hear Dave's praise, given that he seems infatuated with the "manly lifestyle." Allow me to paraphrase his comments: "I was really looking forward to researching Hemingway, and I was prepared to like his writing. But he doesn't write; he just types." Dave also draws a parallel to the Emperor's New Clothes, that there are certain bad authors that you can't dislike vocally without being called an ignoramus. As much as I hate to agree with Sim, I have to say that I have that feeling now: If I dare say that this book sucked, I will be branding myself a caveman-slob.
Fuck it: This book sucked.
There were a couple of nice moments. The two scenes where drunk people humiliated Roy Cohn in public were actually well-written, in that I felt bad for Cohn, and I felt the awkwardness of the spectators as well. But really, these scenes weren't worth building a book around.
I feel bad that I hated this book so much. I mean, I liked Old Man and the Sea well enough, so it isn't like I'm totally illiterate, right? But when I read this book, the only thing that sustained me was the faint hope that the main character, Jake, would be pontificating in Paris and Henry Miller would come by and kick his ass, and all the other character's asses, and then when Lady Brett wanted to sleep with him he would say, "No. You are too boring."
Its supposed to be a big deal that Jake got his penis shot off in the war and that the injury is never explicitly mentioned but is implied. And maybe he and Brett would have had a wonderful relationship if he was sufficiently equipped. I don't think so. I think he could have had two or three mighty testicles as big as cantaloupes, and a monster cannon-penis that had to be restrained by steel straps, and he STILL would have been boring as all hell.
Ernest Hemingway. Feh.
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