OK, I give up. “Screw it,” as I’ve been yelled at for saying. Life is too short. 2000 books, that’s what I think I have left to read in my life. One a week; ambitious for sure but I’m trying. It’s why I rarely do book reviews when asked, wasting one of my precious weeks to wade through garbage. Sure, I do get surprised sometimes – “Pacific Viking” comes to mind – the exception that proves the rule. If I were paid for it, I’d do it. But I’m not.
Nor am I paid to read Hemingway, instead manipulated by name recognition. Group-think does not only occur on social media; echo chambers as self-licking ice cream cones until everything is viscous and sticky. It also occurs in “art” – remember the story of the banana duck taped to a wall that sold for $120,000; the joyous prank of a mean-spirited ‘artist’ in his final mockery of his own trade; proving that art is less about “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and more “art as a positional good”. Positional good being the idea in economics that something has value only in relation to is possession by others; others who others have said are genius. Isn’t the Nobel committee the end all, judges of what is good and true – and beautiful? Lets forget they once gave the Nobel Prize in Peace to Arafat, the world’s greatest terrorist. And the Nobel Prize in Literature once to Bob Dylan, a musician whose little limericks absent the catchy tunes are basically drivel. Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in literature. He must be good!!!
I have recently tried to read “To Have and Have Not” – my fault, I know. I keep picking up Hemingway, long after I knew that his writing is grating. I have no idea what this ‘novel’ is about, beyond its crass dialogue, insulting language, and lack whatsoever of any descriptions which would make it beautiful or meaningful. Pointedly, for this novel – like all his others – I can’t find a way to care about the characters; there is virtually no beauty to be found; the plots are humdrum; and his style is grating. What could go wrong?
So there you have it, a final judgement upon Hemingway. But who cares, right? He is a novelist upon the lips of everybody who think that saying something insightful about him ushers them into a special club of those who “get it”, somehow giving them the keys to the kingdom. And me, just a washed up novelist who nobody has heard of; a traveler of the lost places who thinks for himself and stands alone. What could be more insulting than that?