A few years ago, I started watching old black & white movies. The reason was that they felt like a window into a time no longer here. Or a time that is connected to today, yet rougher, different. I forgot the exact movie that started it, but it was a 1930 movie about a criminal. Somehow, in mid-2005 perhaps, I felt like finding out how today’s recession related to the infamous Great Depression. All I remember from that movie is not well-tailored suits.
All this to say is that what we consume in terms of books and movies connects us somehow to the mindset that resulted in that creation of that piece of media. This piece that I’m writing is not really about Hemingway’s book, though I greatly value the way it was written. It feels nearly Japanese in its minimalism, an appreciation of fishing. I do agree with one one piece of critique published in the New York Times in 1952: when Hemingway writes about the fisherman’s philosophical thoughts, he really expresses his own, which diminishes the character in the book. But it doesn’t take you out of the story, which feels like the origin of The Life of ∏ and countless other stories that deal with a (hu)man, a boat, and the sea.
The reason I read The Old Man was to read the work of a craftsman. I will probably not read much else of Hemingway’s work, but it’s good to know what makes this writer so appreciated. It’s completely different from other writers, yet somehow feels at the foundation of the craft of English writing.
Next up, Tolstoy.