Title: The Old Man and the Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Originally published: 1952
This is a middle shelf book.
I have created a new category for rating books that I’ve read purely for this one: the middle shelf. It definitely does not belong on the lowly bottom, forgotten about and dusty, but it hasn’t earned its place on my top shelves, either. I have been a long-time fan of Hemingway (I know, I’m so original) after studying The Sun Also Rises in school and reading A Clean, Well-Lighted Place as my introduction to his short stories. As someone who enjoys clean, simple writing that says more with less it would go without saying that Hemingway is right up my alley.
The Old Man and the Sea has gotten itself in the position of having its own large shoes to fill. You know when you see those lists of one hundred books you must read before you die and a good number of them are highly disappointing? Well, yeah, they are their own worst enemies. Your expectations are soaring, your love for the author is high, and you cannot possibly fathom how a piece of writing from them could let you down. Yet I didn’t feel so much let down by The Old Man and the Sea as I did rather indifferent.
I enjoyed most of the writing yet found he overused certain terms and words throughout the text. While I am aware this was likely intentional stylistically and that he had good reason, it doesn’t mean that it can’t annoy me. And it did. The story was good but common for Hemingway: a man who has lost much shows great courage in the face of his largest adversary yet. I felt the way about this as I did after reading too much F. Scott Fitzgerald in a row: I was longing for a little variety.
There were moments in its compact plot that I felt taken, pulled under by the story and eager to know what happens next. But that would subside and soon I would find myself waiting for the next swell. Reading it was not unlike being on the sea itself now that I think about it.
As an introduction to Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea is worth every last phosphorescent bone in your body (read it, you’ll understand). Even as a reintroduction to an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile, sort of a whetting of the long-reduced appetite it would be good. To get yourself back in the swing of things, you know?
I came away from it feeling like I had read it before. I enjoyed it, I would lend it to people without disclaimers, but I wouldn’t credit it as one of the greatest stories I’ve ever read. Yes, I would say that I’m quite indifferent about the whole thing.