OK - I have no business writing reviews or longish reviews about novels - I don't read criticism and know nothing anyway… -- but WTF… of all the books I've re-read from my youth of late -- this one… not only held up best, but I realize I had no frikkin' clue whatsoever what this book was about when I was 16 or 17 and when I read it with my buddy Drew X., the most tragic kid I ever knew… along with a lot of other Hemingway books and all the Scott Fitzgerald we could find -- even the The Crack-Up at 17… with Mr. McCaffrey, who was all of 22 and straight out of Harvard and very cool and whose father had been one of the editors on the publisher's side of The Moveable Feast, we were told…, and Drew, who at the age of 6, looked (and still looked a decade later) EXACTLY like Opie Taylor (Ron Howard), and who had had to watch his father shoot his mother dead in the kitchen, slipping on the blood holding his teddy bear…, and then watch him (the father) shoot the older brother who survived and is now a well known or well enough known writer…. and who looked like Opie but with an awesome intensity… and this, of course… all in New York… during the days of the Revolution… at the very prep school where J.D. Salinger got kicked out of… but anyways…, I digress.
So Jake Barnes… Jake's had an accident. But apart from a somewhat ironic look in the mirror and a few crappy days and some tears on the top of his bed thinking of Brett…, seems basically OK, no…? in fact, the picture of health…, the very PICTURE of it… walking and drinking and staying up all night and hopping up and down from the tops of buses and up mountains and fishing and stripping down and bathing and floating and diving and soaking in the sun and the sand and taking off his suit and bathing and drying down and drinking and looking and being basically happy -- showing no ill effects, really -- certainly no obvious PHYSICAL wounds of any mutilation -- and even… psychologically… is more happy and clear and sober than anything else, having "paid" he says for everything and for more good than bad…
And so it appears, frankly, that the "accident" is more metaphor than bruise. And that what Jake lost in the war… were simply his illusions. And that the source and goad of those illusions… is love. Which Brett is in the grip of…. Brett, who can only love the man she can't have… but that Jake, at least… is basically free of -- free enough, at least… to allow him to see and note and breath the air….
Obviously fame and alcohol and depression and electric shocks and god-knows-what-else fucked up Papa Hemingway eventually -- but oh… what a book he wrote at the tender age of 26….!