Last week my office buddy excitedly told me about the absinthe fountain his girlfriend had gotten him. I stared at him a little blankly, and after he realized I didn’t know what an absinthe fountain was*, he exclaimed, “You need to read more Hemingway.”
So, here I am a week later and a few audiodisks into For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s like standing in front of a master sculptor’s chef-d’oeuvre and not being sure where to look because every element is overwhelming. I read some Hemingway in high school and college – mostly short stories and excerpts. Never a full novel. My last impression of the author was actually from Corey Stoll’s portrayal of him in Midnight in Paris.
There’s this one scene, when Stoll’s version of Hemingway is sitting in a cafe, drinking (of course), and he says, “I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving, or not loving well, which is the same thing.” It’s not a true Hemingway quote (unless someone can prove me wrong?), but it captures the essence of his tone so well.
Hemingway’s every sentence is like hitting a nail on the head. Wham. He writes with a mesmerizing straightforwardness that makes every scene feel perfectly complete and fully imagined. There is nothing outside of what he tells you—even if there was, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the hard-hitting solemnity of his narrator’s thoughts and feelings.
I’m excited to finish the book and analyze how my opinion of it changes from beginning to end. It’s a far more serious type of book than I’ve been reading for the past several years, and it’s refreshing to read something that is more of an intellectual challenge.
Oh, and yes, there has already been a scene with absinthe. No fountain or slotted spoon, though. :)
Michelle would eat pizza every single day if her silly conscience would shut up about eating "healthy" food.
*OK , but in my defense, I thought it was just made with a sugar cube on that slotted spoon thing. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW ABOUT ABSINTHE FOUNTAINS? At least I knew you had to mix it with water. Psh.