Thursday, February 28, 2013

4/50: To Have And Have Not

To Have And Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway
3/5 stars
This is my 4th book in Rex & Jake's 50-Book Reading Challenge,
which Rex leads 10-4. Full list can be found here.

When you consider the writers that got lumped into the standard education process of this country, it's pretty goddamn ludicrous. They were this presentation of non-threatening usual suspects, watered down as archetypes and beaten to death by high school English teachers who wanted to give their students safety. Fitzgerald was a hopeless romantic to an almost dangerous degree, Keruoac was a nomad, Twain had anarchist tendencies, and Hemingway, my unholy god, Hemingway was an unruly MAN (in its most god-like definitions).

Hemingway is the best character non-fiction ever produced. For whatever reason, writers, poets especially, can tend to be pussies. The lot of them go through the experiences, but they consider them pulp, not meals. The meal is the actual writing. Surfers surf because they love it, but if a writer went surfing, it would be so he or she could taste it and then write about it. It's almost exploitation on a personal level. That's not always the case, but I definitely think it's the majority. Hemingway, however, balanced the life and the habit better than everyone else in history, it seems. My brother and I used to debate what man was, a poet or a hunter. Well, Hemingway was both, and not even kind of. He drank recklessly, he hunted big game, he went to bull fights, he wrote poetry, he made fun of other writers, he got into bar brawls, he was an ambulance driver in the Great War, he fished, he fucked, he traveled, he blew his brains out with a shotgun, and he wrote amazing book after amazing book.

This particular book was not amazing, but what it is, especially for its time, is unreal. It's cynical and aggressive even by today's standards. It's one of the craziest books I've ever read. It's a poetic reflection one moment, and then it's wild anarchy the next. It's all over the place. It's not even cinematic in its moments of betrayal or abuse. It's just life as a pointless, rowdy "whatever the fuck ever" existence until the very end, when Hemingway writes page after page of incredible, angelic narration of mankind as a dirty, loud bunch of maniacs just looking to be loved and not be a piece of shit.

It reads like a cocaine conversation, the whole book. It really does. Hemingway was a brute who wrote for brutes as well as academics, maybe even if he was technically only writing for himself. There is tender hope in some of his books. There is a sly chummy laugh in some of his poems. But this book was just straight up "fuck the world" in its most short-tongued and least edited.

The guy will fascinate me forever. I've read about ten of his books, and each one brings out a new side of the guy. He's so complex, but if you pressed him for anything, he'd just shrug and give an answer like, "I like to write," and then take, like, eight shots of whiskey before loading a gun and calling you out for only doing two.

Ah well, to have and have not, I suppose.

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