domingo, 25 de octubre de 2015

Fathers and Sons - Ernest Hemingway


Once more, like a salmon, swimming against the stream. For this is presented as a fine classic of iceberg theory, and I don't see it that much like in other stories. So don't pay attention to anything I have been saying concerning Ernest Hemingway. Every reading experience is subject to one's personality (my goodness, Florencia, you discovered gunpowder). It is so attached to ourselves, so related to our character, our nature, our psyche, that it is a pointless task to try to decode why we liked a book and why the others did not. I am the one who doesn't dislike a lot of description about the surroundings, but prefers the descriptions about everything that is going on inside the characters' head. Of course, I like knowing where the characters are and what they are doing, but I greatly appreciate when they reveal why they are doing... whatever they chose to do. I mean, I don't need to know why they are grabbing a cup of coffee and walking towards the kitchen; I can read a map. I'm referring to the great choices in their lives.
So, when I met this writer, I was confused. I felt inadequate. My perception was non-existent. I could not connect with him. I saw a distant, indifferent man unwilling to give any detail about the people and the universe he created. After reading a bunch of stories, it hit me. It was simply his style. He didn't believe it was necessary to write about everything because you would be able to understand through the art of the implicit. Easier said than done. Some of us have to work a little to reach the profound meaning of his writings.

For me, for this innocent, limited lamb that is writing to you at this moment, this is one of the most transparent short stories I have read so far. It is about the relationship between Nicholas Adams and his father, told through memories while he is driving with his own son. Role models, betrayal, hunting, awkward scents, punishments, nature.
All sentimental people are betrayed so many times.

These little snippets of his childhood are substantially honest. And beautifully written. A beauty that can put a smile on your face. A beauty that will certainly horrify you. An unsettling beauty to which you can relate. This cold, minimalistic style that so well defines Hemingway became a modest bundle of emotions, restrained, yet waiting for me to unfold them. Ready to allow me to see beneath the surface. To see the parallel between a beautiful landscape and memories that took place in there but sometimes you wish you could forget. We can forget about picking up a friend, buying coffee, a distant relative's birthday. We can deceive ourselves and think we forgot about those significant scars of childhood, the grown-ups world. However, they always find a way to come back no matter how hard we push them back. We can find temporary sanctuaries, like getting lost in the warm arms of nature. Like in most Hemingway's stories.
If he wrote it he could get rid of it. He had gotten rid of many things by writing them. But it was still too early for that.

A breath of fresh air. Some peace for a broken mind. Finally.

Hills like White Elephants - Ernest Hemingway


Hills like White Elephants
A couple. A bar. A health condition of some sort. And a small research done by a reader to understand what was going on, exactly. Mere descriptions of actions and dialogue were not enough. But the reader doesn't blame the author for her lack of perception. A detached author that seems to barely know them.
A foreign in their lands.

Economy of the words. Emotions, all over the place. In silence. They have lost their names yet their presence is still felt.

Something breaks.

"We can have the whole world."
"No, we can't."

martes, 20 de octubre de 2015

The Capital of the World - Ernest Hemingway


No, he would not be afraid. Others, yes. Not he. He knew he would not be afraid. Even if he ever was afraid he knew that he could do it anyway. He had confidence.

Simplicity is the key. I know. A simple plot can become a work of art thanks to great writing. In this ambivalent relationship I am having with Hemingway, the more I read, the more confused I am. So far, I had a similar reaction only towards Cortázar's work.
A new contestant has arrived. However, I have nothing but good news, today. In a parallel universe, this is the Hemingway I would sing Christmas carols with. (Inside joke.)

"The Capital of the World" is a short story about a young man named Paco who lived in Madrid. He worked as a waiter in a hotel called Pension Luarca, where bullfighters usually stayed. They are described as second-rate matadors, since they achieved greatness but because of certain circumstances, their careers were reduced to memories.

Well, Paco's dream was to become a bullfighter. Even though I can't relate to the romanticism he saw in that heinous activity, I do understand the feeling of having a dream that seems bigger than one's existence. And the reactions it might generate.
Paco was surrounded by people leading dull lives without any prospect. On the contrary, he was a cheerful boy full of dreams and ideals, typical of youth. (Typical?) He was waiting for a chance to create the future he was longing for. Unafraid. Overconfident, even. A raw melody tempting tragedy. Something evoking sailors being lured by an irresistible song.

Paco's joy and desires of fulfilling his dreams can't dissipate the melancholic atmosphere of Hemingway's prose. The smothering sense of nostalgia and loss lies in every page of this short story. (Recurrent themes I always enjoy in this sometimes futile search for empathy.) The author offered some character development that gives the story the psychological depth I always look for. I saw a boy full of illusions, ready to prove everybody wrong. Eager to accomplish his lifetime goal. Unwilling to stay in the same place, beholding how other people's lives were fading out, in silence. Until they are nothing more than blurred lines in the air moving mechanically, helping others to fulfill their wishes.
Paco is not the perfect example, though his eagerness to make his dream come true certainly leaves you pondering about where do you want to go. The defeated bullfighters remembering the greatness of bygone days, leave you thinking about where you are now.
Different questions emerge from all the characters of this story. The answers might soothe you. If you are lucky enough.

sábado, 17 de octubre de 2015

The Killers - Ernest Hemingway


There was a great TV show once. A brilliant sitcom known as “the show about nothing”. But even though it was perceived as a show about nothing, it was about nearly everything. Well, “The Killers” is a story about almost nothing. Could I say it is about nearly everything? I don't know, but it is certainly not as entertaining as the aforementioned sitcom. It might be interesting for academics wanting to study words and structures and other fun things. From that hilarious perspective, yes, it caught my attention that, besides the “almost nothing happens” issue, that “almost nothing” is told in the simplest way possible. That is quite coherent, I guess. The writing is simple, straightforward. You are given a bunch of characters that lack all development; you have to settle with only knowing their names. Passivity is this short story's trademark. The somewhat lack of action is something that leaves you wondering about possibilities and limitations, being and nothingness. It is rather unsatisfying. Too many “what ifs” frustrate me.

I just read about the Iceberg Theory. I am certainly not a fan of an extreme minimalist style but I think I can take it on small doses. I do not ask for meaningless details, daily minutiae that no one cares about; but I want something that allows me to connect with the characters. Use your words and give me emotions. Give me thoughts, feelings, doubts, melancholy, some joy. I do not seek obvious revelations nor redundant thoughts. I would reread The Alchemist, in that case. But again, give me something more... If Hemingway used this style on an entire novel, I can see why the whole reading experience can be tiresome. Even Rory G. described him as painful. So, reader, Hemingway fan, let me know what novel I should try first.

Back to the short story. Some characters deal with a situation that in any world would be considered as stressful, and yet, nothing happens. They stay still, unable to move because of some strange force. You cannot think of something else rather than they are already surrendered, they feel doomed and think that any action is futile having in mind the inevitability of life. It is probable that you do not see all this. Maybe this is me trying to find something meaningful. Maybe there is. Okay, I am sure there is; I simply cannot see it... that well. I guess.

Hemingway, regarding short stories, I think we can be friends. However, concerning novels... you are that estranged acquaintance I would send a Christmas card to, but I'm not sure if we are ready to meet and sing Christmas carols together across town.
We need time. And more small doses.

* This review was written on April 3, 2015; I just found it today. I don't remember the story. I don't know why I wrote what I wrote but... there it is.