Monday, February 24, 2014

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

“Fisherman Up” (Classics)

I read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway because I had it one of my piles of books. What I really was looking forward to reading was the novel I had ordered, The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais.  It was due to arrive in the mail in a day or two, so I didn’t want to start another book.  Then I spotted “The Old Man” and thought, what the heck.  I’ll read this book in between, because it’s very short and it’s a modern classic. To tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting all that much.  I know it’s supposed to be this great novella.  After all, Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize for it, so it couldn’t
be all that bad—but it was about fishing.  I have about as much interest in fishing as I have about what’s under the hood of my car. But brevity is sometimes a great lure (no pun intended), so I dove right in.  Surprisingly, I did like it.  It wasn’t just about fishing.  It was about a tough-as-nails old man who had incredible drive and determination.  The old man, Santiago, was a fisherman in Cuba who was on a dry streak. He hadn’t caught a fish in 84 days. He had hardly eaten in that time, too.  When most men would have withered in a corner, he faced another day with vast resolution and a little inspiration from baseball great Joe DiMaggio.  With his idol in mind, the old man thought he should have confidence and be worthy of “the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of a bone spur in his heel.”  In other words, Santiago needed to cowboy up.  And that he did, and then some. He “fishermaned up.”  I don’t want to give it all away, but will tell you he caught a fish—a big one.  That fish took him on a four-day endurance test. Santiago’s time out there alone on the sea topped the “So you thought you had a bad week” category. For those of you who weren’t assigned this book in your sixth grade reading class, I encourage you to read it now.  It’s a good one.  It’s also extremely short, so if you end up not liking it, you won’t have wasted too much reading time.

As with many classics, you can find this one online. 

As a side note from O. Magazine, September 2003:  Author, Dan Brown, notes that The Old Man and the Sea remains one of his favorite books, “because it redefined my concept of success.”  

Happy Reading,


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Monday, February 10, 2014

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

“Semple-y” Delightful (Laugh Out Loud)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was one of those books that I had been meaning to read for a while now but never got around to it—until a friend loaned me her copy. I’m sure glad she did. As I dove right in, I felt this refreshing splash that sent revitalizing waves throughout my brain. It’s a totally unique and absolutely fun book.  It is about a teenage girl and her relationship with her parents, specifically her mother, Bernadette. Bernadette is an antisocial woman who has her family living in a deteriorating mansion on a hill in Seattle overlooking Elliot Bay.  She is incapable of handling even the smallest tasks and has a virtual assistant in India doing her every bidding for seventy-five cents an hour.  Her husband, Elgie, works at Microsoft and is rarely home.  In the middle of it all is Bee, a smart-as-a-whip girl who wants to go to Antarctica over the Christmas break.  This book is written in a semi-epistolary style with snap and sass. It is a fusion of emails, report cards, letters, faxes, invoices, notes, essays and various correspondences interspersed with Bee’s own narratives.  Through these communications we find out what causes an intelligent, creative, ambitious woman to go off the deep end. We learn Bernadette’s history and the incidents that profoundly affected her.

I have to say that I just love this book. It is absurdly funny and original and gets my “Oh My God, I Just Read the Cutest Book” award.  If you liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary AnnShaffer and Annie Barrows or Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, you’ll probably enjoy this one.  For me, “Bernadette” provoked the same giddy smiles with the humorous, clever writing and memorable characters. I recommend this book not just for individual frivolity, but also for book clubs, because I believe it has high potential for mass appeal.  It is a pure delight.

One of my sisters read the book after I did. She said she didn't like it---she LOVED it! So that's three thumbs-up so far: friend, me, and sister. 

“Do you think I woke up this morning and drank a big cup of stupid?”
Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012), 146.

“Seattle is the only city where you step in shit and you pray, Please God, let this be dog shit.”
Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012), 128.

Happy Reading,


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