In Our Time: Review




In Our Time: Review

Half-way through reading Hemmingway's collection In Our Time I was interrupted
by my roommate, George. He wanted to know how I liked the story. He seems to be
very impressed that I'm reading Hemmingway. I explained to him that it was, in
fact, not one story, but a collection of short stories. He asked if they had a
common theme or not, and I found it difficult to answer. "Yeas and no," I said.
I then went on to explain that although one character, Nick, appeared
occasionally, the stories didn't flow as one large story. "It's sort of like a
painting," I told him, "If you could pick out any one individual brush-stroke
and study it, it would be meaningless. But if you pull back and see all the
brush-strokes, you can view the painting in its entirety." He thought this was
very wise and went away, contented that I was a literate genius.

Myself, I didn't really know what to gather from the stories. I've never
honestly read any Hemmingway previously. I've started to read The Sun Also Rises
about ten times and gotten waylaid by Batman, Robert B. Parker, and the like
each time. I think I read The Old Man and the Sea ages ago in high school, but
it was so long ago that it has slipped completely from my memory. He is one of
those authors that I always connect with my father and his college years for
some reason, although I'm not entirely sure why. I've always wanted to read
Hemmingway, but I've always wanted to read all of Shakespeare, Homer, and Eliot,
too.

The edition I'm reading has the short stories separated by "Chapters" which do
and don't tell a story. The "Chapters" strongly remind me of Pink Floyd's The
Wall. I was also surprised at how simple it is to read them. They are perfect
examples of how Poe defined the short story: quick, (sometimes) powerful, and
written to evoke one feeling. After reading The End of Something, for example, I
was struck by how easily Hemmingway made me sad. The ending to A Very Short
Story was pure torture. All the stories are simply constructed, no superfluous
words, no extra images to clutter the feeling. They seem to be written with
Strunk and White's Elements of Style in mind. After not one of them was I
wanting for more. Each was a universe unto itself. Out of Season was difficult
because I wasn't sure of how it made me feel, almost as if it was beyond me to
understand what was happening to the characters and therefore I wasn't supposed
to have read it.

I enjoyed reading In Our Time, sitting on a float in a pool in the sun. The
whole time, though, I was worried about what sort of "response" I was having to
each story. I think it clouded my mind while I was reading and I must try to
avoid that. If I had simply picked the book from a shelf and read it on a summer
day, I think my responses would have been subtly different, although I'm sure I
don't know in what way. I am never sure what kind of "response" a professor is
looking for in these "response" papers, or how formal they should be, but this
is obviously the first of many and I will learn from your response to it.