Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A farewell to Hemingway's boyish innocence

This is difficult for me. I can't very well be trusted to offer an unbiased opinion of A Farewell to Arms when I am clearly in love with its author. But I was a journalist . . . I can be unbiased. *struggles to keep a straight face*

So young and full of hope.

This is the story of Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver in the Italian army during World War I. This is also, in many ways, the story of Hemingway himself, who was, coincidentally, an American ambulance driver in the Italian army during World War I. But that's not all. According to the back of my 1957 copy, it's "one of the most moving love stories ever written." Really, blurb writer? That's the description you're going with?

I was skeptical of that summary before I read the book (this isn't my first Hemingway rodeo), and the more I read, the more irate I became at said blurb writer. Is this deserving of the label "classic"? Of course. Is it poignant? Absolutely! Is it the greatest love story ever told? Dear God, I hope not.

Fred's love interest, British nurse Catherine Barkley, is said to be based on Agnes von Kurowski, the real-life nurse who cared for Hemingway in Milan after his legs were nearly blown off by a mortar. I'm not sure how closely the fictional relationship between Fred and Catherine parallels that of Ernest and Agnes, but the two stories certainly don't end the same. In real life, Agnes broke Ernest's heart, which was allegedly the catalyst for his future pattern of leaving one wife after another; in book world . . . well, let's just say that Ernest rewrote history a bit.

She's a heart breaker, dream maker, love taker.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In the interest of full disclosure . . .

Some of you know me from life; many of you don't (unless my suspicions are correct and my mom is the only one reading my palaver). But before we move forward in our book-related relationship, I have something to tell you . . . something awful.

Today, I was going through my shelves and making a list of books I own but have yet to read (for the love of Ernest Hemingway, WHY can't I stop buying books?). In the midst of my endeavors, I was confronted by some books in my collection that offend my literary sensibilities.

Every reader has these books. You know, the ones you keep on the bottom shelf and hope visitors don't notice and always mean to get rid of but never do because you subconsciously intend to read (or reread!) them even though they remind you of your SECRET SHAME.

Embarrassing books: I has them. Behold!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The importance of being Ernest (Hemingway)

I'm a little more than halfway through A Farewell to Arms, and I'm having thoughts. Many thoughts. Mainly about how Ernest and I would have been BEST FRIENDS and how I kind of hate Gil in Midnight in Paris because he gets to hang out with this guy:

I realize dear Ernest had some, shall we say, less-than-desirable qualities. I also realize he was a cat person . . . but we could have made it work.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Books, with a side of reheated green bean casserole

Thanksgiving got me thinking about things I'm thankful for (I'm nothing if not original), but I was too busy proving my gratitude for copious amounts of food and wine to write this post yesterday. So here it goes . . . the day-after-Thanksgiving post that would really have been more appropriate yesterday but you're getting it today so go make a turkey sandwich and simmer down.

I'm thankful for the usual things, of course: my dogs, who let me put sweaters on them; my husband, who just smiles and hugs me when I say something crazy; my family, who let me know they miss me without guilt-tripping me for moving across the country . . .

The list goes on and on, but this is a book blog (or at least it's trying to be, bless its heart), so I'll narrow it down to these delights of typesetting ingenuity.

One of my favorite things about books, besides the stories they tell in their pages, is the way certain books can embody moments in your life . . . or even connect you to the former owner.

I'm a casual book collector. I like to find a couple of beautiful used books every time I visit a new place, so I have a lot that remind me of happy vacations and new experiences. But three in particular hold more meaning for me than the others.