When I was in high school I read many of Ernest Hemingway’s novels and short stories. I enjoyed the terse nature of his writing. I liked the realism. I noticed that I found Hemingway’s writing slightly depressing and inspiring at the same time.
This summer I decided to read some Hemingway novels I read years ago. I read The Old Man and Sea while sitting on Pismo Beach. It was a lovely setting, and the background noise of crashing waves added to the atmosphere. I read To Have and Have Not on top of Lookout Ridge and in my living room. During my time on Lookout Ridge helicopters were buzzing around like bumblebees. The electric company was working on power lines. As an aside, commuting to and from work on a tether underneath a helicopter looks pretty amazing. I read The Sun Also Rises at Pismo Beach and at home. Somehow I managed to forget to put sunblock on my feet and ended up with an impressive sunburn. The last time my feet were so thoroughly sunburned was in Florida in 1995 during Spring Training (I was also reading on the beach, but I forget what book . . . ).
I still enjoy reading Hemingway, but his use of ethnic slurs is troublesome. I had forgotten about that aspect of his writing. To Have and Have Not took me by surprise.
A story may have different functions. It may entertain. It may challenge. It may encourage. It may warn. These three Hemingway novels provided all of that and more.
One last note. I like when an author writes something that resonates with life experience. Early in The Sun Also Rises the narrator (Jake) has a difficult meeting and goodbye while remaining rather stoic. Later that night after getting into bed his mind returns to that scene and torments him. His conclusion: “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.”