Archive for February, 2014

bookmark: to have and have not

To Have and Have Not – Ernest Hemingway

I am definitely on a Hemingway kick right now. This book was quite different than the other two I have read. I think that this was Hemingway’s “social conscience” book, where he depicts people who “have and have not.” It doesn’t seem to me, though, that he is judging people (well, maybe a little) but more just describing the plight of mankind.

Events near the beginning of the book took me a bit by surprise. Perhaps it was because there was nothing to foreshadow the brutal, amoral actions the main character would take. The character turned quickly from someone you felt sorry for to someone you wouldn’t want to call your friend, or even acquaintance. However, the book is about more than just the initial main character.

Hemingway is not a flowery writer given to passages of descriptive prose, but his tight narrative gives a real sense of the time, the people and the place. In many ways this is a book without a plot, even though it roughly follows the actions of one man. It really is more of a survey of human condition.

(Finished 2/17/14)

The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

Following up on reading more Hemingway, I read The Old Man and the Sea for the first time. It seems a bit odd that I never read it before, considering that it is required reading in many English classes. After reading the book, I know that I would have remembered if I had read it.

That’s not to say that I didn’t know of the book, or what the essence of the story was. It’s hard to have gone through an education in the American school system, or even be part of American culture, without knowing the title of the book and having at least a summary idea of the content.

If you want a quick exposure to Hemingway, this is a good way to get your feet wet. In length and style, it is more of a hybrid cross of a short story and a novel. I’m a relatively slow reader and I got through the book in about four or five hours.

I think that being older myself, I was able to relate to what the old man in the story was going through, though he was a much tougher old man than I’ll ever be. The story sounded true and natural. It is not an exciting book, even with the action that takes place. It is more a story of a man doing what he must do.

It’s strange to think that this book was written in 1951, when I was just one year old. I remember Hemingway’s suicide in 1961 being in the news but I didn’t know much more than that he was an author. Now I know that he was a man who crammed more lifetimes into his years than I ever could, even if I live to be two hundred. He was no saint, but a real person with real faults and virtues.

I have already started another Hemingway book and I think there will be more in my future.

(Finished 2/10/14)

Etiquette Guide to Japan – Boyé Layfayette De Mente

A short book on the subject of proper etiquette in dealing with Japanese people, particularly when in Japan. I find it a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of another culture. While there are facets of Japanese culture that I can appreciate, there certainly are others that, as a Westerner, would probably drive me to distraction.

I doubt I will ever go to Japan, so I read this more out of curiosity than that I would find it useful someday. Then again, you never know. If you are going to Japan, this little book would help, but I suspect that if you are going to get into any real depth over there, this book will only serve as an introduction to what you need to know to behave correctly in that country.

(Finished 2/4/14)

blowing snow, my way

I have spent my money on a lot of useless things in my life, and on a lot of useful things that I never used, but one of the best purchases I ever made was my snowblower.

I bought my snowblower in November, 2008, and I have been grateful for it every winter since. Previous to that it was strictly snow shovel work, except way back in my thirties when we owned a pick-up truck with a snowplow on it. Of course, that wasn’t much use for clearing sidewalks since most people frowned on my driving down the sidewalk, not to mention the usually tight fit. Buying a truck with a snow plow now wouldn’t be cost effective.

It was the winter of 2007-2008 that inspired me to buy a snowblower. I think that if I had to clear the driveway now with just a shovel I would just let it go until spring, or else I would hire someone to plow it out. It’s not that I don’t need the exercise, but rather that I don’t need the heart attack. Actually, walking the snowblower up and down the driveway gives me just the right amount of exercise.

I just came in from clearing four or five inches of snow off the drive. With all the snow and cold temperatures we have had this winter, the snow is really starting to pile up on the sides of the drive. It is just so easy to start up the snowblower and in a half hour be done, and that includes clearing off most of my neighbor’s driveway, too.

I think this will be the first year that I will need to mix up a second gallon of two-cycle gas for the snowblower, it has snowed that often. While I would love for winter to be over, I know full well that the beginning of February is really just half way through winter around here. With my trusty snowblower, though, I think I can tough it out.