The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway is one of those authors I checked out because I’m supposed to . It’s Hemingway. It’s classic. No one told me to, I’m just naturally supposed to know I need to read Hemingway. Like Nineteen Eighty-Four or Catcher in the Rye or the Great Gatsby – George Orwell, J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald. You just know these names. But there’s something about classics that make me not want to read them. To me, a classic is a classic because it was revolutionary for its time, it was radical, groundbreaking, captivating an entire generation. But that generation is not my generation, and thus, there is a barrier between me and the classics. Sure, classics have a heavy influence on shaping contemporary literature, but it’s not the same. What was ground breaking back then isn’t necessarily groundbreaking now. So it’s hard to know where to stand when it comes to classics.

I’ve still got ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ sitting on my bookshelf unopened (and it will probably stay that way for a good while), but the Old Man and the Sea, a 99 page book, a quick read, I thought I might as well breeze through it and put another classic into my collection. It’s a book about an old fisherman who tries to catch a really big fish. Think of the old fisherman’s tales of how the fish was thiiiiiiiiis big, except in Hemingway’s story there’s 99 pages dedicated to telling the story in painstakingly minute detail.

It’s written well. Yes, I can see why it is a classic, I just wouldn’t put it up there with my favourite books. I don’t think many people could take a story about an old man trying to catch one fish and flesh it out as much as Hemingway did. I don’t think many people could make it as engaging as he did. I think to really enjoy the story you either have to really like fishing or really like writing or really like Hemingway. I really like writing, and so I like this story, and I get the feeling that the story is not about fishing – or not entirely about fishing. There’s the whole thing about the man vs the wild, determination, the ultimate challenge of masculinity. It’s very raw and minimal.

I remember reading Hemingway’s short story ‘Hills Like White Elephants’ and I really liked it. I like his writing, and I think it’s cool he had a real minimal thing going with the Old Man and the Sea, although I think it’s perhaps too long and drawn out. It’s worth the read to check out the buzz around Hemingway, certainly he’s a writer that writers can appreciate. If you haven’t read anything of his before, you’re probably better off with ‘Hills Like White Elephants’.



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