Review – Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises

I’m going to write a review of all the books in my TBR pile. This is the first one.

I should start this review by saying, I love Hemingway. His distinctive writing style with its journalistic qualities, there’s just something about it. Compelling but I’m never quite sure why. This, his first novel, is the fifth book of his I’ve read.

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, is about a group of friends who mostly live in Paris, going to Spain together to see the Fiesta and the bullfights (there’s quite a lot about bullfighting). It’s not really about anything else, just the building and disintegrating of relationships over the course of that week.

The main character – at least the character who’s voice we hear the story from is Jake Barnes. Jake has a wee bit of a problem, he fought in World War One and this left him impotent – this is implied rather than specifically stated.

Because of this, Jake who is in love with Brett, Lady Ashley, are forever destined to be apart. She doesn’t want to be shackled to a man who, well let’s just say can’t “fulfil” her.

To be honest, this is an awful book. The characters are horrid, the only kind of half interesting one is made the side show – the figure of ridicule throughout the book both because of his Jewishness and the fact he seems not quite get the rules of the game.

Jake’s relationship with Brett is at best masochistic. He enables her to have her affairs and doesn’t seem to mind to much that her behaviour hurts others along the way. In fact, he seems to side with her. I think he feels bad about the whole thing both for himself and others, but Hemingway’s writing style doesn’t really do internal reflection and so the reader implies this (possibly because we feel bad about how they are all behaving).

Fiesta, is very much a book of its time. The casual racism, using Jew and other racists words to describe people is startling. There were times when this made me pause, consider whether I wanted to keep reading this book. I did because while vile today, it is the way people thought and spoke when this was written. And I think says something about the characters in this story.

It’s interesting to note that the most sexually free of all the characters is Brett. And that her need for sexual relationships seems to be without judgement. I’m sure that’s supposed to say something given she’s a woman and all the men around her seem impotent in one way or another but I’m not sure what.

If you read classic literature to understand something about the universality of the human condition (whatever that means), then there was something in this story that still resonates in 2018.

The story is to be about young(ish) people who have had their lives disrupted because of the war. The world has dramatic altered and they are no longer sure who they are, where they fit or whether there’s any point to anything.

And so they seek temporary pleasures – drinking and getting tight (drunk) as it is referred to in the novel. Alcohol features pretty heavily in this book – there’s almost no scene where they aren’t drinking themselves stupid. They do this to fill the great big empty hole in their lives.

The novel is painted as one big party, dancing the night away in Paris, partying with locals at the Fiesta. It doesn’t make them happy. In fact, it made them miserable, Jake at least knows this.

To me, the questions posed in this book are questions we are still asking ourselves today. What are we all doing here? And given the fleeting nature of life, why not do the thing that makes you happy even if it’s just temporary? Eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow you could die.

Despite this book being quite short, it isn’t always great to read. It’s obviously Hemingway and misses some of the finesse of his later works. Where the book comes alive is in the middle section when they are at the Fiesta. You can feel the noise and colour, the heat and the violence.

This book is a slow burner.  It seems on the surface about not much at all but when you dig a bit deeper, it really says something else.



Setting intentions

At the beginning of yoga, the teacher always sets an intention for your practice. Intentions are usually compassion, gratitude or being fully present. I never really understood why we did this but assumed it was for some vaguely religious reason.

Apparently this is not the case, the intention is metaphor that takes yoga from being exercise to something that’s a part of your everyday life. I like this idea and have decided in 2018 rather than setting resolutions or goals I’m setting intentions.

Find a job
This seems blatantly obvious but important for me to write it down. For practical and other reasons I’m considering jobs outside libraries, although it pains me to think that after eight years maybe this just isn’t for me but it’s something I realistically need to consider. While my current situation is depressing, the upside is I do get to take a step back and really assess things; what am I good at, where do my passion and skills lie, are there other areas of GLAM or other fields that would suit me.

Cultivating Gratitude
Last year a friend and I read the Psalms together, it was an enlightening experience. David was incredibly human. He went through some really dark times, was often in danger, sometimes laughed at and he did some terrible things (See 2 Samuel 11 for the story of David and Bathsheba), but he never stopped being grateful and praising God. I found this very confronting – how can you be grateful when everything is falling down around your ears? This year being grateful in any and all circumstances is a strong focus. If David can do it when he’s on the run after an attempt on his life, then so can I.

The world doesn’t need more librarians or writers or success stories. It genuinely needs more people who believe that kindness is something worth pursuing. Not just in the way you treat other people but for yourself as well. It’s not about being a doormat or being taken advantage of because you need to be “nice”, it has personal boundaries; it’s something else, a genuine expression of your love of other people I guess. It also has an element of living in the here and now to it: like stop worrying about all the stuff and focus on being your best self right now.

Starting a book group
A friend and I are starting a book group. It’s literary fiction but not high brow just genuinely good stories. And in great book club tradition is likely to include wine. I’ve never been in a book group before but I’m so excited by it.

I’m leaving home
I’ve lived in the same house for 41 years. I brought some land and have signed contracts with a builder to put up a house. This process started early last year and I was hoping that it would be over by now. But this year my first home will be complete. I can’t wait.

I’ve booked into a writing course with a well know Melbourne author/commentator/famous type person. I booked it out of the hundreds available because it looked like a lot of fun. I want to expand my writing skills, try new things, learn to separate myself from the story so I don’t always just vomit all over the page. I hope it will help me make something of this need I’ve had since I was eight to tell stories.

Yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices
I stopped doing yoga for a large part of last year. I went back towards the end of last year and it was great. Physically difficult but for the hour or so I was totally engrossed and welcomed the peaceful calmness of the yoga space. Living quietly with space for contemplation, prayer, reflection, it’s essential that I find time for this.

Being myself
My massage therapist may or may not have a gift… During the three seasons I’ve had with her – let’s just say she’s said some pretty accurate things, which makes me wonder. At our last session she said to me that I should stop trying to fit the mould everyone wants of me and trust my instincts. I’m going to take her advice. I particularly want to stop saying sorry when I am in fact not sorry. This is something distinctly female I do when I feel I am (but not really) imposing or asking stupid questions or feel like I’m annoying people because they are stressed, irritated or I’m not 100% confident I know what I’m taking about. It needs to stop. I noticed one thing working in tech is that men don’t do this – they say things with complete confidence. So this is definitely something to work through.

To be read
I have a massive to be read pile and this year I plan on working my way through them. The pile includes Hemingway, Richard III, and a whole bunch of romance novels.

So that’s it… That’s my intentions for 2018, not an exhaustive list but it feels like the essential things I’ll focus on for this year. Of course as things change my intentions might change too – so a final intention would be to welcome all the changes with an open heart.

I hope you are excited about your 2018 journey. I know I am about mine.