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We had discussed on Mick's thread to read A Farewell to Arms together in May. I am interested and hope others are also!
Our esteemed professor, John, has volunteered to moderate the discussion. Looking forward to reading and discussing with everyone :-)
Oh goody! I'm reading A Farewell to Arms now, but will have to interrupt it in early May for my annual migration northward. But I will have the other place whipped into shape and more of the novel read by May 17th . . .
My first remark about the novel is on how instinctual a story-teller Hemingway sounds like . . . .
Allora; so on May 17 we will all sort of meet together at what time CST to discuss the book? Or does the discussion just sort of begin on that date and continue until it peters out?
More fun if you get the names right. Udine = OO --dn -- AY City of 30,000 then, 60 today. A rail center. We totally bombed it out again in WWII. I saw it once, Everything within 1/4 mile of the train station was totally new in '63.
Be sure you look up Caporetto. After Caporetto, the Italians "retreated" as fast as they could run across first the Isonzo, then the larger Tagliamento, finally the larger Piave. These rivers are a lot like the Platte in that they aren't very deep, but in winter and spring spread out for nearly a mile. Losses to the Italians, about half dead and half deserted, were over 500,000. Grasp that number, if you can. American losses in WWI were approximatel;y 50,000. Finally, on Christmas Day, at a mountain stronghold, Mt Grappa (no possible military significance except that the armies decided it had significance so there they fought) the Italians held and ran the Austrians and Germans all the way back. More of the Italian equivalent of the Medal of Honor were won here than in any other whole war. I remember when I first went there, I noticed that on the road South from Mt Grappa, there was a shrine on the roadside about every hundred yards for miles. The Italians told me that when the Germans retreated they crucified Italian prisoners as they went and the shrines mark the places.
I remember going back, nearly 20 years ago, and visiting with an older Italian at Grappa, now the Italians' most cherished military shrine. He told me about the medals and the heroes, and that he had been in WWII. I told him I had been a war, but that mine made no sense, (matto) He looked at me a little sadly and just said, Tutti guerra e matto. Frederic Henry figures this out, also. Towards the end, the most important passage in the book, "That was what you did. You died. You did notknowwhat it was about.You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you offr base they killed you. Or they killed you gratuitously likeAymo.Or gave you the syphilislikeRinaldi. But they killed you in the end...."
And another passage about a hundred pages earlier, as Henry gets back to Gorizia (go -REET-see-Uh): "There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything.Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates." And here he strikes on something even more fundamental that I cannot explain, but think about it. Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Normandy, Siapan,and names and numbers of the regiments who fought there. 21st Infantry, Rock of The Marne, Screaming Eagles, First Cav.
so on May 17 we will all sort of meet together at what time CST to discuss the book? Or does the discussion just sort of begin on that date and continue until it peters out? Usually the latter due to time zones, schedules, etc. but if you schedule a meeting time I will do my best to log on at that time.
I spent time researching WW1 a few days ago. Caporetto was gut-wrenching. Great book so far - I am liking it much more than I thought I would. I've been enlightening my husband so much that he is patiently waiting for me to finish the book so he can read it.
I really identify with that last paragraph - place names conjure up a multitude of thoughts about events that happened there.
Professor: I had already hauled out the atlas of Europe and hunted up some of the place names in AFTA, but thank you so much for the historical detail. I suppose to younger readers today, W W I seems like 'ancient' history, but it still stabbed at this old gal to hear about the casualties of which you spoke . .
That earlier passage (upon Frederick's return to Gorizia) makes its impact on the present-day reader, I think, because it calls to mind that war in Vietnam. As the old Italian vet told you, "Tutti guerra e matto." As for the account of the war being reduced to dates, names of regiments, brigades, etc.,, I would suggest that the long black wall with the inscribed names of those who died in Vietnam is, in a way, a counterpart of the crosses along the road from Mt. Grappa, marking the places Italian prisoners were crucified by the Germans. "Glory, honor, courage, hallow" . . . .ashes in the mouth . . .
Hemingway's writing sounds like almost a dull recital of mundane things (especially earlier in the book)----what one ate or drank, where one spent time, etc.---but if you keep on reading, you gradually begin to "catch on". I've heard some critics say that what is left out can be as important as what the writer puts in......what do you think?
Last Edited on: 5/12/10 3:28 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Hmmm.... for some reason, I checked in here -- and started to turn right back around. Then I remembered that I have a copy of this book - somewhere. I look around. Ah, yes. There it sits on a bookshelf not too far away from where I am on the computer. I take it from the shelf, thumb through and think....hmmmm.....this doesn't look half bad. Why have I never tried this before? I really have no reason not to try to read this now.
Okay. I'm in!
I see some of you have been contemplating this book (and maybe have reading) since April? I'm just now picking it up, but I'll join you with whatever I manage to get done by next Monday. I guess if I don't want you all giving away important parts I'd better read fast, though.
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The reason for this post is to call attention to a review of a new book, on page 41 of the May 10 issue of Newsweek magazine. The book is Matterhorn, by Karl Marlante. It took its author, who served as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam, 33 years to write. Wrote the Newsweek reviewer: "Reviewers with far more literary credentials than this one have called it a masterpiece, comparing it to The Naked and the Dead and A Farewell to Arms." ......."For those who fought there and survived, and for the families, widows, and children of those who did not, this is their masterpiece."
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One of the things that has struck me about AFTA is the way that a mood comes over you as you read------you get into that world that manages to be both real and UNreal at the same time . . . maybe part of the reason Frederick relies on those familiar little routines (and sub-routines) of Life is to try to keep from succumbing to the surrealism of being IN a gory war being fought for murky reasons in a vainglorious way by inept people in a foreign place?
And the way Hemingway's protagonist is named Frederick Henry, a native English speaker, and is known in the period covered by the book as "Frederico Enrico", a fellow who speaks acquired Italian, has to suggest some kind of duality (with literary significance), IMO. I look forfward to hearing other readers' ideas . . . .
I have no insights, Bonnie, but I appreciate your post. I actually got sidetracked reading another book that has seriously grabbed my attention and FTA has kind of drug for me (I'm just past page 75), but your thoughts, Bonnie, make me want to continue.
My main complaint with this book is Hemingway's many long run-on sentences that are way too peppered with "and". That was really turning me off early on. Then I took to reading those sections out loud because clearly the style of writing is to emulate one's rambling thoughts. Reading aloud sections where he goes on like that helps, but I'm curious if I'm the only one who finds this annoying.
I have yet to get to what is likely the "meat" in this story, so hopefully a wonderful story line will make up for what is, to me, a tiresome writing style. I'm not giving up. Yet.
Last Edited on: 5/18/10 7:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
I'm curious if I'm the only one who finds this annoying.
I have yet to get to what is likely the "meat" in this story, so hopefully a wonderful story line will make up for what is, to me, a tiresome writing style.
I read Hemingway and I drank some vermouth that I had stashed under my bed. It rained.
Darling! I want you to kiss me
No, darling, I can't, I am busy drinking some wine.
Maybe when this reader turns the page and I step out of the wineshop,cafe, the make-shift cellar under my bed.
Why not darling? Kiss me right now or lose me forever.
I can't. I have to tell the reader that it's still raining.
You do love me, don't you. I'll do anything for you. Tell me you love me you emotionally bankrupt lush.
I can't darling, I am being terse. I would have used the word cleverly before terse, but leaving it out makes it
The less I say, the more I mean nothing. You understand, right darling?
Oh yes, darling. Everyone knows everything about WWI, just say nothing, they'll "get it."
Meanwhile, please get me pregnant, mmmkay?
I don't know. It's raining.
But here, have some vermouth.
Hey look, here comes Rinaldi------BABY!
Baby, how are you, baby? Hows this war that we don't talk much about going?
Hell, shaddap, Jesus! Break out the wine, Baby!
I love you baby. He kissed me.
I am having a baby, darling.
and so it went...
I think it's still raining.
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What I read here is almost enough to make me believe I am definitely the wrong man to head a discussion on Hemingway or anyone else on this forum.
I will try to be gentle. Not my nature, but I will try.
If I say, I can't stand the way Ms Pennybaker writes. Incessant description and more incessant description. I want to hear about the good stuff, not a description of who designed Jennifer's bra and what it cost before Jeff tears it off. I am not engaged in valid criticism of Ms. Pennybaker. Actually, all I am talking about is my personal reading preferences.
On the other hand, a discussion of why TheSound and The Fury is, at times, a tale told by an idiot, is very pertinent. Why is he using this point of view? What is Faulkner's purpose in using "stream of consciousness" style, totally ungrammatical, rapidly shifting back and forth in time? This sort of criticism is very valid. The other does not even qualify as literary criticism.
Hear what I am saying?
I hear what you're saying, John, but I think personal reading preferences are perfectly fine to talk about here.
The way these discussions go, we should all be happy anyone has something to say.
I love Hemingway's voice. I'm not sure if it's valid literary criticism or not, but I'm not concerned. I like the way he uses the same word again and again until it becomes like the first time you've heard the word. I appreciate stripped-down art - blues, staccato prose, paintings of a single kanji symbol - where someone takes a simple idea and pounds on it until something new comes out.
Hear what I am saying?
Yes, I hear you.
Half-hearted, poorly polished analysis:
Hemingway wrote economically to convey the psychological complexities of his characters. E.H. cut away at the fluffy writing that was popular in the day and in an effort to tell it like it is. Read up on Iceberg Theory.
The pared down dialog contains a lot more than what is said and readers are put to task in figuring out meaning by reading between the lines. An interesting side note: This book was banned for a while for being pornographic. LOL! And I remember asking earlier about wondering if they had sex in the hospital.
The dialog is wooden and repetititve on purpose. The characters, by the time we meet them, are like wooden and benumbed automatons. One hardly expects such broken and emotionally drained people to be eloquent.It is a great irony that the reader becomes painfully aware that these characters don't feel much of anything anymore, or at least they work very hard not to feel. They are, in a sense, zombies. They drink to numb themselves. Fred & Cathy become lovers as a game. They use each other as a distraction from what's going on around them--to avoid going insane and to cope with grief.
If you know anything about post WWI then you know that disillusionment was mood post WWI. This is the birth of the so-called Lost Generation. Like the millions of WWI service members and later vets, Fred has become souless, benumbed, cold, emotionally flaccid--lost. Everything is meaningless: the war, their purpose for being in it, their their goals, the future--life itself.
Readers hopes for some shred of emotion to surface. Ferguson comes close when she tells Fred what she really thinks about him, but she's dismissed as a hysteric. We keep following Fred and Cathy in hopes that they can escape their Hell. But what should be an emotional ending is anyting but. No outpouring of grief. No wailing. No tearing of clothes or dusting of ashes.
And that's the point E.H. was trying to make. See enough hell on Earth and eventually some can become desensitized to the horrors. War is meaningless and one way or another "It kills you in the end."
Last Edited on: 5/19/10 7:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Beautiful, Tome, but I have to wonder if the style of writing is more a reflection of what is inside the author than part of the message that s/he is trying to convey in the piece of literature. In actuality, it is both, I'm sure. I probably need to work on this, but I tend to see a soulless writer when I encounter flat, soulless characters - as opposed to seeing a work of art. That's a little extreme (I don't believe anyone is "soulless"), but hopefully it explains what goes through my mind when I'm reading. How much is a piece of literature a creation (a work of art) and how much is it a reflection of its creator? I haven't yet read enough of AFTA or know enough yet about EH to know really in this case.
I hope you don't mind me saying (and being willing to admit my ignorance)....I don't quite get what you mean when you write: Supposedly E.H. wrote economically to map the psychological complexities of his characters. I'm not being intentionally dense, but I don't understand how "writing economically" (that's great, btw) provides clues as to the complexities of a character. Maybe I'm just really not understanding your use of the word "map".
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Rick, thanks for sharing your opinion and perspective. I realize it's not deep "analysis" to comment on what I personally like or dislike in a writer's style, but willingness to share these things helps to broaden one's perspective and reading your opinion makes me want to go back to it with new eyes.
Thinking I've contributed too little too much, though, I think I'll get back to my reading and wait to see what things others of you have to write. ;^)
Last Edited on: 5/19/10 6:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
I don't quite get what you mean when you write: Supposedly E.H. wrote economically to map the psychological complexities of his characters.
Maybe I'm just really not understanding your use of the word "map".
Originally I put map the psychological complexities of his characters in quotes. I revised my post so it's no longer there as it reads like mumbo-jumbo, but I initially liked the phrase as it describes what I am about to try to explain.
Frederic, our unreliable narrator, is telling us a story from memory. He knows the story ends badly. We readers know that Frederic is a drinker as he drinks like a fish throughout the novel in an effort to wash away the feelings.
Maybe this is reading too much into the novel, but try to visualize Fred telling his tragic tale in a bar or cafe. By the end, imagine Fred pretty wasted. Maybe this is why the ending gets pretty surreal. It matches our narrator's
Oh golly, do I feel like a 'primitive' kind of reader, who goes along by instinct from page to page, not dwelling on the writing style, literary 'devices', metaphors, et cetera! One of the odd thoughts that came to mind after reading quite a lot of this book was a comparison between the characters in AFTA and those of MASH 4077 . . . . In a furious effort NOT to be knocked completely off balance by what surrounds him in the strange place in which he willy-nilly finds himself, Hawkeye sets up a still so as to have 'alcohol', filling his hours with wisecracks ('funereal humor'?), practical jokes on the other 'lost souls' stationed in that Korean hell-hole, and some of the goofiest games, schemes, and distractions anyone could ever think up. Just like Frederick and Catherine and the others, drinking, betting on those tired old nags, having 'love affairs', taking meals, etc. Except that, back in those W W I days,maybe people didn't realize that 'modern' warfare was UGLY in a new, inhuman way.....and was this the first time a war did not lead to a clear 'victor' and a patently plain 'loser'?
In spite of how sad it makes me feel, I am glad to at last be reading this outstanding war novel.
Interesting, Bonnie. I love(d?) MASH. I'll be reading this looking for that comparison now!
Okay...I decided there is something I very much like about this book. The short chapters!
Seriously...even if I'm not feeling thrilled with the characters or the storytelling, I can easily make a commitment to read a chapter in a sitting and then another chapter. And before I know it I'm half-way through the book already! What's not to like about that?!?!?!
I feel like a 'primitive' kind of reader, who goes along by instinct from page to page, not dwelling on the writing style, literary 'devices', metaphors, et cetera!
Some want sophisticated analytical response
Some want gut instinct.
What did I want?
Well, I simply wanted to read a classic book and determine whether I enjoyed it or not. You know, entertainment?
I most assuredly did not initially like the book. I still don't care for it.
However, in a strange twist, I am glad I read AFTA and I am glad I dug a bit deeper and found out maybe some of the how and the why of what Hemingway was trying to pull.
I appreciate what he tried to do but, based onmy initial reading it fell flat to me which warranted mocking commentary.
Last Edited on: 5/19/10 10:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Tome - On several occasions I (and members of my F2F book club) have initially not enjoyed a book and then discussed it with my book club or on a forum and came away with a better appreciation for the book and author.
I am way too tired to have much literary insight tonight but here are a few thoughts:
I liked this novel much more than I thought I would. The descriptions and realities of wartime, Italy, and Italians were very insightful. The relationship between Frederic and Catherine interested me less. Catherine . . . needy and whiny and annoying. The dialogue between Catherine and Frederic, especially early in the novel, seemed unnatural (perhaps intentionally).
Did anyone else shudder while reading about the Cesarean? I kept thinking, no! antibiotics have not been invented yet!
and was this the first time a war did not lead to a clear 'victor' and a patently plain 'loser'?
Very true Bonnie, everyone is a loser in war.
I like the way he uses the same word again and again until it becomes like the first time you've heard the word.
Rick, I noticed something similar while reading the novel ? Hemingway has a nuance and conciseness to his writing that I found pleasing.
Anyone else give a thought to two to All Quiet on the Western Front while reading A Farewell to Arms? Very different novels about the same time period.
Does anyone know how much of the novel is autobiographical to Hemingway? I know he was a heavy drinker (one visit to Key West left that indelibly marked in my mind!).