Every summer, or almost every summer, I read Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea. Whether it is his prose or the subject of the chase or the struggle that blends the human and the natural world, I don’t know, but I read it again and again. Sometimes I think I’ll jot down my favorite line, but I don’t think I can find it. It’s the story. It’s the way he tells the story. It’s the character, Santiago, and his boat and his friend and the sky and the water and Joe Dimaggio and the fish — the fish’s beauty and nobility.
I have a hardcover copy of the book; it sits on the bookshelf next to my favorite place in the living room; about once a month I notice it and tell it to wait until next summer (that’s Cub humor). I have no markings in the book — it’s a reading copy. Once when we were in Florida we saw the Pilar, Hemingway’s boat. We’ve been to his home in Oak Park in the Chicago area; we’ve been to his home in Key West; we’ve seen his grave in Idaho. His story is sad. This book mirrors his story, I suppose. I leave that to the psychologists. I read the story because I like the story.
Hemingway tells the story of a struggle, three days of fighting to land a marlin, which he lands — or attaches to himself — and then he comes in only to have the marlin devoured by sharks. He manages to get home with nothing but the bones.
And the story to tell of the struggle he had day and night as he talked to himself and to this fish. Is that the point?
What do you like about Hemingway’s greatest novel? And, as you may know, some consider this the greatest of American novels.
Some take it as a parable of life, a parable of the quintessential struggle of life. How do you read it?
By the way, when I looked, there were 680 reviews on Amazon.
If you’ve read this far, I’ll tell you that Kris and I fly to Rome today; we’ll be spending a week or so on the Amalfi coast — soaking up the sun, wandering through the villages, and finally seeing Pompei.
I’ve taken a couple books in the I Tatti Renaissance Library, Scala’s Essays and Dialogues, and one on the history of the popes. And two volumes of Quintilian’s Declamations. And The Complete Pompei by Joanne Berry. Seems like good reading for Italy.