Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pretty Books About Nothing

"No man is an island; entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away to sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
- John Donne, Meditation XVII

Instead of making us all read the same book, my grade 11 teacher let us pick our own books for our assignment. I had already been reading For Whom the Bell Tolls so I figured I might as well continue. I had picked it up off his bookshelf because of the title; it was part of a quote my mom had written down once. I'd heard of Ernest Hemingway before but never knew much about him, so I didn't know what to expect. It didn't (read: doesn't) help that I know nothing about the Spanish civil war and so most of the historical aspects were lost on me.

For Whom The Bell Tolls was unlike any book I had ever read before. I wasn't sure if there was a point to the story. The dialogue that was realistic but most authors would have edited it out. It was like Hemingway wasn't creating a story, it was like he was there writing everything that happened. That style was new to me.

I wasn't sure I liked the book. It seemed to go against everything I had learned about editing. The night before my assignment was due I stayed up late and wrote my first stream of consciousness. It was about death, inspired by the title of a piece of art called "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living". My teacher gave me 100%. It was a piece of crap.

I thought it was over, after that. I hadn't disliked the book, but I hadn't loved it either. I wasn't rushing to start reading Hemingway's other stuff. But it stuck with me somehow. I thought about it for 3 years, sporadically. Every once in a while I would think about the John Donne quote, the one featured in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Then, this school year, in my literature and culture class we read 100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez). Not that the books are similar in any way, but there's a character in 100 Years named Pilar, which happens to be the name of one of the main characters in For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was just a minor coincidence, but it made me want to give Hemingway another chance. So, for my birthday, I asked for an Ernest Hemingway book. They got me two: The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms.

The Sun Also Rises
About 1/3 of the way through this book I began to worry that it was about something and I was missing the point. It probably is about something and I am missing the point. There are a lot of things that happen and I don't think they mean anything but it's nice to read about Paris and Spain. At one point the narrator, Jake, blatantly states "that had nothing to do with the story". It's funny because it seems like nothing has anything to do with the story.

I like The Sun Also Rises because it's a very pretty story. First of all, it seems like nobody ever works. Instead they drink and have sex and go on vacation to Spain where there's a giant fiesta happening. Secondly, Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes are two really awesome characters. I believe that's all you need to make a good story. I want someone to make this book into a movie because it would just be perfect. Imdb says someone did make a movie in 1957 and it looks terrible, I think someone should remake it starring Charlize Theron and Matt Damon.

"Oh, Jake," Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together."
"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Anyways, I haven't read A Farewell to Arms yet. Probs gonna read it on the train to New York. I did read another book though, it was also about nothing. But it was more about nothing than The Sun Also Rises.

Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin
Like The Sun Also Rises, I wasn't sure if this book was about nothing. So I asked Riese because she's smart.

Me: You read 'Shoplifting From American Apparel" right? It's not about anything is it?
Riese: No, it's not about anything at all.
It made me want to write a book because I write things that have no point too. There isn't even a moral to Shoplifting From American Apparel. Maybe the moral is if you do two days of community service they'll erase your record after 6 months so you should always do two days of community service.

Here is an excerpt from Shoplifting From American Apparel:

A few days later Sam met Kaitlyn in Williamsburg to go to the annual work party for the organic vegan restaurant where he worked. Kaitlyn had a "Synergy" brand kombucha in her jacket pocket. She said she dropped it earlier and it made a very loud noise and people looked at her. "Drop it now," said Sam. "No," said Kaitlyn. Sam tried to take the kombucha and it went further into Kaitlyn's jacket pocket. "I can't get it, why is it sliding away," said Sam. "Stop trying to grab my kombucha," said Kaitlyn laughing. A few minutes later Sam gained control of Kaitlyn's kombucha and dropped it and it made a very loud noise.
Brb, have to go write a book.

P.S. Read both these novels.


nina. said...

hahaha. i want to read these books.

Battlestar Luna said...

I liked "A Farewell to Arms".

laura said...

i haven't read any of these books but i have seen the physical impossibility of death in the mind of a something living and i don't think i would like damien hirst if i met him, but i don't want to assume things.

laura said...

*in the mind of someone living blerg.

saint modesto said...

nina: do it!

luna: i've just started reading it yesterday.

laura: i totally know what you mean! it's kind of creepy.