Sunday, June 28, 2009
Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #74
Title: A Farewell to Arms
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: Have we ever talked about how much I love poppies? Few things in life make me as happy as spotting a cluster of poppies waving in the breeze. They're so cheery and spontaneous-- how can you not love them?
Thoughts: OK, we're all friends here, right? So no one's going to judge me after I confess to a great ignorance? You all know me-- American Lit major, book worm, general nerd-- but you may not know that until now, at the ripe old age of 26, I hadn't read a lengthy Hemingway work. While we're being totally honest here, I may as well mention that the only thing I've actually read of his is one short story, "Hills Like White Elephants", something I'd blame partly on the zeal of professors seeking to rid syllabi of the canonical white male authors and partly on my own avoidance of the macho-man-does-macho-things ethos I've always associated with Hemingway. I've had a copy of A Moveable Feast stuffed in my bookshelf for a couple of years, but I've staved off reading it out of fear that I'll rush off to Paris on the next flight out and find myself gnawing on a baguette on the Rue de Rivoli before my poor Man Friend even realizes I'm gone!
To my great surprise, I really liked A Farewell to Arms, and I found the story to be incredibly moving. Between the lines of Hemingway's starved, spare prose lies a tender love story, the story of two people brought together and bound by the nearness of death. Frederick Henry's experiences as an ambulance driver in war-torn Italy closely follow Hemingway's own life, and thought the details of Henry's affair with a nurse differ, the emotions are as true to life as biography, if not more so. I highly recommend this book. I ran to Strand and picked up a copy for Tromant as soon as I finished, and watch out, this book may be headed your way soon, too!
One last thing: an unexpected side effect of this novel was that I consumed more pasta while reading it than I have in the last few months combined! Everything other scene takes place while someone is slurping macaroni or spaghetti-- I'm just glad that I didn't take to guzzling grappa with the same vigor!