Deciding not to be a bitch – The Sun Also Rises (Final)

Gertrude Stein

Wikipedia: – Gertrude Stein in 1924 with Hemingway’s son Jack. She coined the phrase “Lost Generation”. Read more here.

Americans were drawn to Paris in the Roaring Twenties by the favorable exchange rate, with as many as 200,000 English-speaking expatriates living there….Many American writers were disenchanted with the US, where they found less artistic freedom than in Europe. (For example, Hemingway was in Paris during the period when Ulysses, written by his friend James Joyce, was banned and burned in New York.)

Hemingway scholar Wagner-Martin writes that Hemingway wanted the book to be about morality, which he emphasized by changing the working title from Fiesta to The Sun Also Rises. Wagner-Martin argues that the book can be read either as a novel about bored expatriates or as a morality tale about a protagonist who searches for integrity in an immoral world – Wikipedia

Today is our final encounter with Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The last time we visited this book we looked at our protagonist’s reflections on what it was like to be back in France after the week of fiestas and watching the running of bulls in Spain. This week we look once again at the aftermath of the fiesta. As Jake is about to return to Paris, he receives a telegram from Lady Brett Ashley asking for help; she had run off to Madrid to join her young bullfighter lover Romero. Jake finally meets up with the disheveled Brett at her hotel.

She looked away. I thought she was looking for another cigarette. Then I saw she was crying. I could feel her crying. Shaking and crying. She wouldn’t look up. I put my arms around her.

“Don’t let’s ever talk about it. Please don’t let’s ever talk about it.”

“Dear Brett.”

“I’m going back to Mike.” I could feel her crying as I held her close. “He’s so damned nice and he’s so awful. He’s my sort of thing.”

She would not look up. I stroked her hair. I could feel her shaking.

“I won’t be one of those bitches,” she said. “But, oh, Jake, please let’s never talk about it.”

We left the Hotel Montana. The woman who ran the hotel would not let me pay the bill. The bill had been paid.

“Oh, well. Let it go,” Brett said. “It doesn’t matter now.”

We rode in a taxi down to the Palace Hotel, left the bags, arranged for berths on the Sud Express for the night, and went into the bar of the hotel for a cocktail. We sat on high stools at the bar while the barman shook the Martinis in a large nickelled shaker.

“It’s funny what a wonderful gentility you get in the bar of a big hotel,” I said.

“Barmen and jockeys are the only people who are polite any more.”

“No matter how vulgar a hotel is, the bar is always nice.”

“It’s odd.”

“Bartenders have always been fine.”

“You know,” Brett said, “it’s quite true. He is only nineteen. Isn’t it amazing?”

We touched the two glasses as they stood side by side on the bar. They were coldly beaded. Outside the curtained window was the summer heat of Madrid.

“I like an olive in a Martini,” I said to the barman.

“Right you are, sir. There you are.”

“Thanks.”

“I should have asked, you know.”

The barman went far enough up the bar so that he would not hear our conversation. Brett had sipped from the Martini as it stood, on the wood. Then she picked it up. Her hand was steady enough to lift it after that first sip.

“It’s good. Isn’t it a nice bar?”

“They’re all nice bars.”

“You know I didn’t believe it at first. He was born in 1905. I was in school in Paris, then. Think of that.”

“Anything you want me to think about it?”

“Don’t be an ass. Would you buy a lady a drink?”

“We’ll have two more Martinis.”

“As they were before, sir?”

“They were very good.” Brett smiled at him.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Well, bung-o,” Brett said.

“Bung-o!”

“You know,” Brett said, “he’d only been with two women before. He never cared about anything but bull-fighting.”

“He’s got plenty of time.”

“I don’t know. He thinks it was me. Not the show in general.”

“Well, it was you.”

“Yes. It was me.”

“I thought you weren’t going to ever talk about it.”

“How can I help it?”

“You’ll lose it if you talk about it.”

“I just talk around it. You know I feel rather damned good, Jake.”

“You should.”

“You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.”

“Yes.”

“It’s sort of what we have instead of God.”

“Some people have God,” I said. “Quite a lot.”

“He never worked very well with me.”

“Should we have another Martini?”

The barman shook up two more Martinis and poured them out into fresh glasses.

“Where will we have lunch?” I asked Brett. The bar was cool. You could feel the heat outside through the window.

“Here?” asked Brett.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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9 comments on “Deciding not to be a bitch – The Sun Also Rises (Final)
  1. Nadine says:

    I loved this book… and have written some musings on it on my Github blog… your choice is interesting… I chose the last page.

  2. selizabryangmailcom says:

    I love the dialogue. You’re just transported back to another time. It reminds me of Catcher in the Rye. I haven’t read that in so many years, but I remember the feeling of being “back in time” with the characters. Language nuances are different; everything’s the same but just tweaked slightly to the right, you know? Also seems like people talked a lot more about drinking and smoking back then.

    I know I’m going off-topic a little, but doesn’t it seem like we’ve known that smoking is bad for you, like, forever? But on TV recently on a show about whistleblowers the guy who stood up against the tobacco companies and “came clean” about how unhealthy and addictive cigarettes were–the ’90s! At least here, in the U.S. Not the ’60s or ’70s. The mid-90s!

    I think Hemmingway would HATE the U.S. today if he was somehow animated and brought back to life, lol………

    • When my Kindle e-reader was working I had a copy of Catcher in the Rye and I tried reading it, but I was repulsed by it. It’s the only book I can remember I didn’t finish reading. I can’t remember if it was due to the protagonist or the literary style, perhaps both. I’ve been meaning to reread it because it’s often cited as a great literary classic.

      I agree it’s extraordinary how long it took for the dangers of smoking to come to the fore. The movie with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe called ‘The Insider’ does a pretty good job depicting the first real whistleblower and the threats he faced by the big tobacco companies.

      I agree Hemmingway would hate the US today. He would be incensed by Woke culture in particular.

  3. selizabryangmailcom says:

    That’s interesting that you loathed Catcher in the Rye so much! But I totally get that; there’s a lot of books that are called “classics” and “masterpieces” and I, in my humble opinion, would beg to differ. Who, exactly, makes these decisions and makes these lists, right? Professors, academics, authors, philosophers……? And if enough of *those* people say it’s great, then it’s great? I think art is extremely subjective. There may be a base-line consensus on great writing techniques and characters and story, but I think in the end what’s one man’s treasure is another man’s trash, and vice versa.

    But “repulsed” is a strong word, lol. I bet if you read it again you’d still have the same feelings, unchanged.

    • My state of mind back then may not have been very receptive. I’ve seen second hand copies at my local book store, so I’ll probably purchase one. At the moment I’m reading Don Quixote which is a colossal book and will take me time to get through since I’m having a hard time with it.

      I agree 100% that art is subjective. I’m satisfied overall with the literature I have read deemed to be ‘classic’. There will always be differences of opinion of about how they are labelled. I love that ‘one man’s treasure’ quote….

  4. selizabryangmailcom says:

    🙂

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