Thursday, June 19, 2014

What Do You Remember about Jake Barnes?

Setting: A suburban kitchen. The kids are in bed. Mom and dad are both home from work. The babysitter, Auntie Lea, has stayed late to read chapter 2 of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling with the just-finished first grader. All three adults have been close friends since the first week of college over twenty years before.

Me: "Have you guys read The Sun Also Rises?

Both: "Of course! Yes!"

She exits toward the garage to get something.

Him, in pompous voice designed to get a rise out of both of us: "I read it at The Academy." The academy is the local Jesuit school. Most of my students end up there.

Me, not giving him an inch: "Yes, and I read it at the Washington version of your academy. . ." I, too, am the product of a Jesuit education.

She storms back in, pointing at her husband: "We didn't read it at my school, so I read it during the summer ON MY OWN!" She did not go to a Jesuit school. Her grad school, however, trumps both of ours.

Me: "I read it during the summer. It was summer reading." This, of course, is beside the point. She returns to the garage.

After she returns, I tell them that I wrote about The Sun Also Rises on my blog, and that now some commenters said they might read it. I tell them what Jeff said about not missing what is wrong with Jake Barnes. I'm worried people won't like the book.

One of them: "I don't remember what's wrong with Jake Barnes.

The other of them: "I just remember drinking and bullfighting."

Me: "It is just about drinking and bullfighting." I'm tempted to repeat the last few lines of the book, but I resist.

We go on to argue about the end of A Farewell to Arms (Him: "It's so great, with the rain." Me: "All that, and SPOILER REDACTED."). I recommend In Our Time, my favorite of Hemingway's short stories. We debate whether Hemingway wrote love stories or not (Me: "The women are all weak." Her: "There's always a love story." Him: "The Old Man and the Sea?" Her: "Okay, not that one.") We eventually get distracted and talk about something else.

And now I want to read Hemingway again.

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