Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Old Man and the Sea

I bought and read my first Hemingway book yesterday. I don’t think there is an avid reader or high school graduate alive that has not at least heard of Earnest Hemmingway. I am an enthusiast of the classics and I have heard writers, critics, and professors alike singing his praise on shows that I have seen on television, as well as articles I have read online, in magazines, and in textbooks. Taking that into consideration, it is pretty ironic and astonishing that I had never read any of his writing until last Sunday night.

I actually came across the film, based on this book, a month or 2 ago and it has been sitting on my shelf because I wanted to read the book first. I have so many other films lined up to watch that I tend to forget about some all together. Somehow while walking through the book store yesterday, this book found me, as they sometimes do. It is small and thin, only 100 pages, but it caught my eye and I took it to the counter without a second thought. I only started reading at 12 am last night and I did not fall asleep until I finished the book.

I am usually reluctant to read books that have received too much hype because I tend to develop too many expectations of them. With Hemingway, I expected to be blown away. And I was. But it is impossible for me to pass judgment on a book like that because my mind believes that Hemingway is a standard from which other authors should be evaluated. This is obviously because of all the attention I have seen the author receive through out my edification.

Did the book flow the way it did and have the impact on me that it did because I knew it was written by Hemingway or was it really that powerful standing on its on? If I had found an anonymous leaflet on a park bench with same words scribbled across it, would I be as captivated by their form? It is impossible for me to say. I like to think that I know what I like. Many times I pick up books by renowned writers and toss them aside right after I get through the first five pages. But ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ has really resonated with me.

While reading the book I read each word carefully. The book was short so I wanted to take my time and enjoy it. The story focuses in on an old fisherman in Cuba who has not caught a big fish in months. He heads out to sea one morning as he always does and has battle with the biggest fish he has ever set eyes upon. It is a simple tale of resilience, strength, faith, respect, and a testament to the human spirit. The beauty of it all is that the writing is so simple and fluid, yet it holds so much power. It is the kind of book that you could read out loud to a friend.

The story is filled with metaphors, images painted of men walking up the beach after a day out at sea, dragging their masts that rest heavily on their shoulders. The words wrenched emotions out of me. The images he created have lingered with me and they were even in my dreams last night. Some times when I read a book like this I wish I had the company of a scholar to explain and discuss the metaphors with me. At other times I feel like I am content with what I have taken from the book. And what point is it to dissect and analyze every word? Is it not enough to enjoy art for what it is through your personal filters? To just FEEL?

Scholars and critics alike have probed and dismembered literary works over the centuries. Listening to them I feel my filters have been polluted. There are numerous works I will never be able to read from a neutral stand point. I don’t think being free of any influence is at all possible but maybe the influences could be limited. I think Robert Nesta Marley, the greatest communicator of all, said it best in an interview that was filmed in Germany before his demise. “If I was educated, I would be a gad damned fool.”

1 comment:

treespotter said...

the book was the one last thing my dad gave me. He gave me the book and a watch and that was all.

I've been reading the book for the last 20 years... never really knowing how to feel about it...