Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Book Review: A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Setting off on these classics sets me up for a let down. How is a book likely to live up to all that's been said about it? And then I wonder if I'm likely to not like it simply because so many others have. The book read almost like a caricature of Hemingway, as if a certain style was expected of him, so he fulfilled it. Oh, all this ability was there was well. Most of the story was told with what wasn't said. And what is said beyond the dry simple sentence, simple descriptions, events, even emotions, stands out dramatically. When there is a flurry of emotion and confession we understand tat what is being felt is ten times greater than what is on the page. We are set up for tragedy when their love comes off so strong and practically unhealthy. I thought for sure they were bound for some Raymond Carver-style tragedy, instead we are given a nearly classical tragedy. I can't help but wonder when a story ends like this one about the lessons learned. If he is only to grow more cynical and hateful after this, is that enough? Great heights bring corresponding lows; we must expect that. And what else was he likely to take away? Did I expect him to go back to the bar, order another dozen demi-blondes and sort things out for us on the page? Could we really see him finding hope in all of this? He wasn't a really hopeful sort to begin with. It's not that I disliked the book, but I wonder that because we were set up with the extremes of love, the subsequent violence of war, then the ending is sort of the simplest one possible. Would we accept such an ending these days? Do we not want more from what we read now than we might have then? Maybe a book with such a simple and tragic ending was so stunning in comparison with what was being published at the time. I just do not thin would laud the book in the same way if it was published today.

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