If Only Hemingway Had Written About Pigeon Poop and Nutella Crepes

I already told you I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Ernest Hemingway, our Kilimanjaro connection notwithstanding.

But after recently touring the Hemingway House in Key West, I felt inspired to try it again. Perhaps, 10 years or so after my last try, I’d find him more palatable. I chose The Sun Also Rises.

I admit I can’t quite give you a comprehensive review as I’m not finished yet. In fact, I may never get to the end, which seems to be my problem with Hemingway. Very rarely do I put down a book without plowing through to the very last page, but with Hemingway I’ve done it, not once, but twice. He is that bad.

I don’t know who chooses Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners and what these people were thinking. Perhaps such prize-winning writers are so brilliant and creative that the rest of us just don’t get it.

Here is my problem with Hemingway: He’s really nothing but an expat blogger, an early specimen. And he’s not even very good at it. I know all about expat bloggers, so I’m qualified to talk about it.

Think about it: In The Sun Also Rises, all that happens in the first, like, 100 pages, is a bunch of expatriates – American and British – walking around Paris streets, going to cafés and bars, talking endlessly, and ordering drinks. Lots and lots of drinks. Hemingway obviously loved Paris, and he is obsessed with making us see its special lifestyle, in making us like it (he even repeatedly wonders, through one of the characters, how someone couldn’t like Paris).

The problem is that it’s boring. It lacks character development – so far I haven’t seen anyone making some kind of personal journey, in a coming of age way or otherwise – and there seems to be a big hole where plot should be. Most expat bloggers I know could have written it so much better. Like, where is the humor, Mr. Hemingway? You aren’t even making me laugh! You’re boring me to death with pointless banter between some totally uninteresting characters who are drunk half the time.

I just had a thought. I should totally rewrite The Sun Also Rises as a modern day expat story. I’d prefer to place it in Johannesburg, as that is what I know best as big cities go, but I could even do Paris in a pinch. After all, I’ve mastered riding the metro there, four kids in tow, lugging five suitcases up the winding staircase of the Abbesses station, being attacked by pooping pigeons in the Jardins de Luxembourg, and foiling street vendor ploys to cheat me on the proper price of a Nutella crepe (you can read about my Paris escapades here).

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All I need to invent is a war veteran with a slightly embarrassing injury, bla bla, meeting a girl he knew from the war, bla bla, add in some major plot twist – something about corrupt FIFA officials, Islamist fanatics, a womanizing foreign minister – and voila, it’s gotta be better than the original. Who is with me on this?

4 comments

  1. Sine, this blog post is INFINITELY more interesting than anything Hemingway ever wrote. You run circles around that buffoon!

    • Just now coming back from your website and your review, very well written! Especially the part about Hemingway’s own past and all the parallels was new to me. I mean the parts about the Jewish friend and his jealousy. That really is eerily similar to the story.

      I think Hemingway’s writing is a serious case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone (or at least everyone who has a love of good writing) must wonder why the hype, but Hemingway has been a revered author for so long that no one dares say anything out loud. The fact that his books/scripts became successful movies perhaps played a role in it, and as you said, he was always shamelessly marketing himself and his “manliness” so that he created this image of himself that was much bigger than his actual writing.

      I too will go a looooong time before picking up another Hemingway book. Life is too short:-)

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