Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Sun Also Rises

"I could picture it. I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends."

"She grinned and I saw why she made a point of not laughing. With her mouth closed she was a rather pretty girl."

"That was morality: things that made you disgusted afterward."

"The world was a good place to buy in. It seemed like a fine philosophy. In five years, I thought, it will seem just as silly as all the other fine philosophies I've heard.
"Perhaps that wasn't true. Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about."

I don't know about you, but I have a perfect habit of finding the perfect book for a perfect time in my life. I was in the airport waiting for an airplane and I'd brought only one book with me; usually I bring two or three or four, and then only read one. This time, I was going to make a choice before I left and stick with it. So, waiting for my plane, I got out DAVID COPPERFIELD and I got back to the story, as I'd left it a few weeks before, when I was distracted by schoolwork. But reading DC requires a certain sense of whimsy and wonder in your voice and in your heart, and it just wasn't with me that afternoon. I had a line of dialogue from THE SUN ALSO RISES still ringing in my head from a conversation the night before, so I sought out an airport bookstore and bought a copy. I'd read Hemingway, but never SUN.

I started it in the airport and finished it four days later, riding on the train back to my apartment.

Jake Barnes, he of the Great War and America and of an unspoken war wound, is in love with Lady Brett Ashley. Lady Brett is in love with Jake, but Jake's wound keeps them apart. Meanwhile, she sleeps with almost everyone else in the book who expresses an interest. I'm a sucker for love stories that end badly, and this seemed to be the kind. But Brett isn't in the book all that much, at least compared to the effect of her. All the men are caught up in her, and I was caught up in her too. I thought of girls like her, and I understand when Jake says, "To hell with Brett," and all the same runs to help when he receives a telegram from her. I understand when he says it's been hard on Mike that it's really been hard on him, and I understand when he tells Bill that he feels lousy as hell. I'm far from Jake, but I know what he means, and I understand how he got that way and why he stays that why, and I can't decide if he's better off. If he didn't have that wound, if he and Brett had slept together when they met in England during the war, he would be just another man she met and loved and left. But because they can't, Jake is the one she talks to and walks with and kisses in cabs.

Annie said it stabs you in the guts, but I think it's more of a light touch of someone's fingers on your elbow in a movie theater. You know it's bad news, but you can't help but want it, and more.

"Oh, Jake" Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together."

"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

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