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2nd Read: The Sun Also Rises

Updated on September 13, 2012
life into book into film
life into book into film | Source

It would be nice were it possible to ask Ernest Hemingway what the story behind the story was. It would have been interesting. All the characters, such as they are, are interesting. They are also drunk most of the time. But the reader likes them like that. They have such memorable lines. When this was written, they would not have been heard in the movies. Talkies were not out yet. It is 1926 and very politically incorrect. Somehow, all these major players in the Lost Generation drama wind up in the same rooms, whether in Paris or Pamplona, and it is a rare day or night when everything goes smoothly.

English Profs never seem to reach an end or consensus of opinion about books so widely celebrated. It hardly matters. What does, at least for baby boomers, is that old age affords them opportunities to crack open The Sun Also Rises, or another Hemingway read, for the pleasure of it, rather than to satisfy a requirement. Hemingway's breakthrough book is worth it. There is much to think about and plenty to excoriate. The storyteller's crudity and coarseness to the modern sensibility is something readers must accept rather than emulate. The 20s were racist and Hemingway is influenced by translucent journalism. Then, there is that style again that has somehow survived a hefty degree of satire. It really works. Despite a large measure of talkiness and inactivity at first, later on the bullfights get things moving.

Hemingway also introduced the world to Robert Cohn, the two words that begin Chapter One. Described as a middleweight champion from Princeton, he eventually decks many characters, including Jake Barnes, who doubles as the author's alter ego, and a popular torero. Naturally, in the movie from 1957, Brett is played by Ava Gardner, and none of the men stop bickering over her. She married into the British aristocracy and, following her husband's death in WWI, breaks one heart after another. The entirety plays out in the mind as completely realistic in spite of the artifice in terms of language used to bring it into existence.

Although the idea of the great American novel is a standard joke of sorts, The Sun Also Rises is definitely superior, if out of favor, and by now a part of American history itself. Hemingway was able to not only write exceptionally well but live the life, too. No one comes too close in this regard. His novels serve as inspiration to every new generation of artistic creation, and a point of reference to the weather-beaten novelist still at it. Nowadays, it is virtually impossible to find writers to replace the old-timers. And it is hard to say if the moneyed trilogists are helping or hurting this tough and often luckless craft.


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