While on a long weekend in Delaware, I re-read The Sun Also Rises for the first time several years, at least. When I first read the book as a sixteen year old, it had an enormous impact, an impact that only grew as I re-read it regularly over the years, picking up on new facets. And no, no I did not figure out what the heck was up with Jake Barnes and his penis the first time I read it. Probably, I just didn’t want to think about it.
This was not the ‘original’ copy from over twenty years ago, but a copy that I bought at, of all place, a Thai grocery store in Arlington, Virginia. Honestly, it was the perversity of the location, as much as anything else, that inspired me to buy it. Just so I could sit here today and tell you, my short attention span’d blog reader, that I bought this book at a Thai market in America.
What can I saw that hasn’t been said? Probably nothing. The anti-Semitism is harder to stomach now. It’s so unnecessary. Not that it’s ever necessary, of course, but it doesn’t serve a useful narrative function except as a sloppy way to show that a particular character is irritating. Though I still want to meet the femme fatale-esque love of Jake’s life (‘curves like the hull of a racing yacht,’ my friend), she certainly appears less desirable to the older me as I have become less attracted to destructive women.
What I still love most is Jake’s narrative obliqueness. There is the famous closing bit where he pretends to agree, but doesn’t really, but the earlier ones strike me the most. My favorite is when the character of Robert says that the place they are drinking at is a nice bar. Jake replies, ‘There’s a lot of alcohol,’ I agreed. Well that’s not freaking agreeing! Robert didn’t say that it had a lot of booze, he said it was a good place. What is Jake actually saying? I suspect that he thinks it is crappy bar that just happens to be on the ground floor of where he works. But he does that a lot, he avoid confrontation by pretending to agree with people, but actually agreeing to something subtly but crucially different.