Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

100 Books While 40: THE SUN ALSO RISES


Title: The Sun Also Rises
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Published: 1926

It is ok to have feelings if you are always drunk while fishing or watching bull fighting. I guess it is manly to feel but only when you do incredibly manly things like watching bulls gore a horse to death. Where I a man, I would not find this reassuring.

Once you have seen the carnage that was WWI, I imagine it difficult to get excited doing your desk job. What is the point after you have seen how indiscriminately lives are destroyed? It would be difficult to come to any other conclusion than this one: the only thing that matters is that you enjoy your moments. Apart from that, we are promised nothing.

When I think about life through this lens, I know exactly why Hemingway lived as he did. He took joy from the things that he could. He wrote because he enjoyed the struggle. He drank, watched bullfights, and traveled because these things brought him pleasure. The end.

Maybe it’s hubris that makes many of us think there is anything else. That we agonize about meaning, or strive to build businesses or homes, are all folly unless we take joy from the effort itself. Investing in the future at the expense of the now, assumes something. It assumes that life is fair.

These moments of reorientation happen for me periodically. There is a paradigm shift, and then I struggle to make sense of the implications of it. If I had to summarize 2016 it would be thus. What I perceived as indulgent, incorrect actions resulted in excellent outcomes. What I perceived as the hard, correct actions resulted in horrible outcomes. Maybe I need to take up bullfighting and smoke more cigars.

5 thoughts on “100 Books While 40: THE SUN ALSO RISES

  1. I think one of the reasons that this is possibly my favorite book (I know, it’s kind of random) is that it feels so incredibly honest. I mean, I’ve known people like that. I’ve had those relationships. Realizing that a lot of the plot was taken from things that actually happened (which I didn’t know until I’d read the book maybe four times already) explained that to some extent, but I’ve certainly read books based on real life that didn’t seem honest, or accurate. I think you’re right though in that, after living through an unprecedented and incredibly shitty war, either some things really matter, or nothing matters. Or pleasure matters, and not much else. And so you smoke and you drink and you have affairs and you fish and you watch people kill animals and you try to remind yourself that you are still, in fact, alive, and that there is some good that can come from that. Or at least I think that’s what I got out of that book. I suppose I’ll have to read it again. (PS – I have the version that came out in the past few years that has the draft of the book with everyone’s real name still in it. It’s pretty good and very interesting if you’re a giant nerd about this book like I am.)

    • After having a boozy twenty years, I found the book to accurately describe the exhilaration and pain that is inherent in drunken escapades. Sometimes that life really hurts, but it also holds some of my most luminous moments. I guess that’s what it is to leave safety, isn’t it? There’s either pain or glory there, but you have to accept the moments of pain to get the glory. I’m not saying I am going to drink more, because that was sort of a safety for me to avoid being vulnerable. But yeah, I find this book to be very honest about the results of a life lived to its fullest expression. It’s a beautiful mess. Also, I can clearly give your book back now. And after this list I want to read the one with all the names in it.

  2. So the two week post-election drinking and eating binge was Hemingway-sequel. The week -long crying jag not so much. The orgy of donations to progressive causes a useful sublimation for killing things. Huh. I think I understand myself better now.

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