Quick And Uncomfortable: The Next Stories On My Reading List

I suppose I cheated a little bit on this one. Although I did manage to pick a book that has been sitting on my shelf for a long time, I made a very strategic choice. The next book on my reading list was supposed to be “a book you could read in a day”, and there are a number of books in my collection that fall under that category, but I specifically chose the smallest, thinnest book I own that I haven’t read yet. I do own other, thicker/longer books that I could easily read in a day because the content and writing style would force me to devour them in a single sitting. But I’ve been very busy lately and I wanted to pick something that I was guaranteed to finish not just in one day, but in one sitting. Mission accomplished.

The book in question is a classic: The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemmingway. My husband is alarmed that I have made it this far in life without reading it, and so am I. Given the number of times I’ve heard about other people having to read it for school, and the number of literature classes I’ve taken in my life, I am actually shocked that I never had to study this text for class. My second year American Lit professor picked The Sun Also Rises as the Hemmingway addition to our syllabus instead.

That being said, I knew exactly what the book was going to be about before I started reading. It’s one of those stories that is so well known that you can know the basics of the plot without ever even reading it. Plus, I’ve heard lots of people talk about the story and how it is an allegory for Christ. I even watched a short animated film in IMAX at a friends birthday party years ago. Personally, I think The Old Man and the Sea was a weird choice for kids of that age, but IMAX birthday parties at the Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History) were all the rage back then, and that just happened to be the movie playing when my friend celebrated her birthday.

In terms of tone and style, this was everything I expected from a Hemmingway novel. That American Lit professor I mentioned earlier said that Hemmingway really only ever wrote The Sun Also Rises and that all of his other books were just different versions of the same story. And that Christ allegory I heard about so often? Maybe it’s because I went into this book expecting that, but all of the religious imagery seemed a little heavy handed. But the main thing that will keep me from reading this book again is the content. I know this was written at a time when this sort of this was acceptable, but as a lover of sharks I really had a hard time stomaching the violence inflicted on them. Sure, I could get through the passages that mentioned fishing and cutting up sharks for their liver because there are some communities who have used sharks as a food source. And I’m sure it was less of an issue before they became endangered species and their bodies took on too much mercury from pollution (seriously, shark meat is toxic – don’t eat it). But I really had a hard time getting through the passages when the old man kills the sharks that are eating his fish. I love sharks so much and those passages were just too graphic for me.

All in all, I’m glad I’ve finally read it and crossed this classic story off my list, but I will not be touching this book again.

Bonus Read: Dimension by Alice Munroe:

My bonus read for this category is a short story that is available (and free) online. Some Canadian Lit to counter the American Lit for this part of the reading list. I’ve been taking a lot of online writing courses these past few months (some free, some not so free), and Dimensions was mentioned in one of the lessons. Specifically, this story was analyzed because of the way in which the twist is presented almost half way through the story. Based on the analysis, I knew this was something that I wanted to read. And it’s something that I could read in under an hour, so it made perfect sense that it would be the bonus read for a book I could read in a day.

Unfortunately, I think knowing the twist before hand ruined the story for me a little bit. I enjoyed reading it, but I can’t help but wonder if I would have gotten more out of it if the surprise hadn’t been spoiled for me. Still, this turned out to be an emotional read as it deals with domestic abuse. As someone who has lived through situations of psychological abuse, this story really resonated with me. The only downside is it had that very stereotypical Can Lit kind of feel. I know some of my fellow students of literature will know exactly the kind of vibe I’m talking about. It’s hard to describe in words, but you can just tell it’s Canadian when you read it, and you know it’s the kind of text that would end up on your school syllabus. I’ve taken four Can Lit courses throughout both my undergrad and my Master’s and the ending in particular really stood out as having that kind of feeling and tone. It was a little distracting for me, which is a shame because the ending is so impactful.

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