Thursday, February 10, 2011
Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway
A couple of things: This book is mostly dialogue (I would hazard 80%?) which is like overhearing a conversation where you're not exactly sure what is going on so you have to listen really hard for clues to put the story together. There are a few pauses in the speaking when a couple of things get done, but then someone enters the scene and we get another 37 pages of conversation. Tiresome. And one of my pet peeves in a book is when, after initial introductions, we are forced to hear a character's FULL NAME every single time he's referred to, which is stupid -Hemingway loves using this word- and cumbersome. Why can't we be on a first-name basis as soon as possible? And Hemingway isn't the only author who does this, a certain Dan Brown (not quite the same literary caliber, I know) loves dragging out every character's full name at every opportunity too. Authors, please please stop doing this, it is most annoying.
So where does that leave me with Islands in the Stream? On the fence. I really should have applied my fifty-page rule, but alas. The only reason I stuck with it was because I read A Moveable Feast and fell in love with Papa, and, naturally, had to get my hands on everything with his name on it. Islands turned up at the used book store for a couple of bucks, so . . . But the story? weighty and intense, which is fine as long as there is something -characters, scenery, fabulous writing, hope, etc- in there to make me want to keep reading. So I held out for the dialogue-free parts which were really good -very evocative, sometimes tender, occasionally funny- read to the end, and called it done.