Friday, November 7, 2014

Green Hills of Africa: a review

Somehow in my summer of perusing used bookstores Ernest Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa ended up in my 'not yet read' stack. I can recall thinking that I should set aside my assumption that I would not like Hemingway and read something I wouldn't normally read. Hemingway is famous for some reason, right?? 

And so, casting my literary prejudices aside, Mr. Hemingway's wee book ended up in the aforementioned book stack, and then made its way with me to Jamaica based solely on its stature - I was at my weight limit for luggage; only small books were welcome on the journey. 

Even so, when I first sat down to read this book, Z was too fresh in my mind. Although that was a fictional imagining, I could so believe in the vileness of Hemingway and his interference with the Fitzgeralds that piling on the topic of slaughtering animals in Africa as a sport and a proof of masculinity ... well ... let's just say Mr. Hemingway had a bit of an uphill push.

Hemingway's sparse prosaic style, of course, is not a style I appreciate. And then there is his rampant self-centered stupidity. How is this for logic?: "He [their white guide] hated to have anything killed except what we were after ... No killing to kill, only when you wanted it more than you wanted not to kill it." So, then, you could only kill whatever you wanted to kill? Okay. Got it. That's some high standards. 

Sexism. Racism. Colonial swaggering. Alcoholism. Slinging insults at other writers from the safety of the safari camp. I finally called it quits this morning after one last attempt. I have read 47 of 200 pages. I can take no more. I love reading too much to have to suffer through it. 

The list of novels I've been unable or unwilling to finish is fairly short: Anna Karenina and Middlemarch because of baby brain in the first case and time constraints in the second (hey, profs, how about you DON'T assign thousand page novels to people who have 5 other novels to read?), Tale of Two Cities, even after my grandma told me I was probably too young the first time I tried to read it, so I tried again. Nope, sorry Chuck. 

And I think that's about it. I can still see the value of those three books though. Green Hills of Africa, not so much. It will find itself on some book donation pile here in Kingston. Maybe someone can use it to start a fire for roasting breadfruit - that would be a fitting end.

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