Monday, July 6, 2009

like a garden party but boring: The Sun Also Rises is a resounding disappointment

Never has the Lost Generation looked so boring as in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Now, to be fair, that is likely because I wouldn't even acknowledge the majority of bumming around the Left Bank stories written by all those wine soaked expats as worth consideration and I haven't read many more notable works recently enough to remember clearly. But it is as if a bunch of ne'erdowell blue bloods, upset that they didnt get invited to Gatsby's, decided it would be a jolly good show to have an extremely well mannered romp about Europe. I say, there will be tennis and perhaps wine? Would you like another absinthe, señor, or are you too "tight"?

Give me Henry Miller. In his Paris at least they have the decency to fuck, to be proud of their drunken buffoonery, to get the syph or a dose of the clap, take their injection and keep on trucking. His Paris had spirit, and (dare I say it) some fucking balls. It seems it wasn't just Jake that had an "accident" in the Great War what left him impotent, but Hemingway's whole goddamn plot. (Oh, rot.) Did that intervening decade really matter that much? Did expats grow balls as Germany rattled their spears?

And don't tell me that is just ennui. Oh, they are too bored to fuck, too drunk on wine and those neutered bulls. Oh, the pressures of life after the War have rendered them unable to commit to the debauchery they have been accused of. "Oh me, oh life. Bring another bottle round, garcon. I am so dearly tired."

It's not ennui, its euphamism. Everything happens offstage and through implication. There is sexual tension aplenty (who isn't "falling in love"?) and some talk of death but (aside for couple glorious pages where the prose lights up as Hemingway describes a man being gored to death by an angry bull and the gentle gloss of bullfighting with those fancy swords) its just empty talk and play acting.

Maybe Hemingway felt the need to self-censor, that writing of that European decadence during Prohibition was enough and to write of sex and death uninhibited would be crossing an unspoken line. Given that the work was criticized for (inexplicably) being too explicit, too sexual, too licentious maybe the public wasn't ready for the truth (they weren't even ready for Tropic of Cancer in 1961). Or, maybe Hemingway and his "lost" friends were really that boring, well mannered, weepy, and pathetic. Honestly: crying after winning a fight?

5.5 out of 10

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