Archive for April, 2014

bookmark: a farewell to arms

A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

I know, I know – everyone read this book back in either high school or college, at least anyone of my age. I actually wasn’t sure whether I had ever read it before or not, but as I got into it I knew I had not.

This is a combination war story/love story and I’m not sure which is the stronger part. I think, perhaps, the war story part because it is something that I have never experienced personally, while the love story part was more familiar, though not the circumstances. I was about half way through the book in the war story section when I finally got to the point where I didn’t want to put the book down.

You knew from almost the beginning of the book that things were not going to end well. You kept reading wondering where things were going to fall apart, expecting the worst, but being surprised when it didn’t happen. Indeed – spoiler alert, if you need one – the worst event in the book doesn’t happen until the very end and by that time was so expected that it came as no surprise.

This book served as my diversion during my wife’s recent surgery. I was glad that I had it with me and that it held my attention as well as it did. I would recommend it as part of your Hemingway library.

(Finished 4/27/14)

Sherwood Anderson: Collected Stories: Winesburg, Ohio / The Triumph of the Egg / Horses and Men / Death in the Woods / Uncollected Stories – Sherwood Anderson

This is quite the volume of stories. I regret that I had to return it to the library before I could finish the entire book, even with having renewed it once. The reason is that this book is a very complete collection of Sherwood Anderson’s short stories, encompassing not only his four books of collected stories – Winesburg, Ohio, The Triumph of the Egg, Horses and Men, and Death in the Woods, but also a section of uncollected stories. I have previously read Winesburg, Ohio, so I did not re-read that. I ran out of library loan time half way through the uncollected stories but plan on checking the book out again at a later date to finish them.

Having read Winesburg, Ohio, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read any more of Sherwood Anderson. However, after reading Hemingway and learning more about the writers of the era, I found that Anderson fit within that group, though as an older writer at the time. Though the stories are similar to those in Winesburg, Ohio, I didn’t feel that these stories were quite as “dark,” though on reconsideration it may be that I have just grown familiar with Anderson’s style and have come to appreciate it more.

Sherwood Anderson’s stories are all about people. They are not adventure stories, science fiction, fantasy, or action stories; they are pretty much all character studies. He was obviously interested in the psychological makeup of people. The background of the stories are all in midwest America, with many of them based in the area in which I live, as well as Chicago. This lends a little extra interest to his stories to me.

Not all the stories are top shelf in my opinion, but many of them were excellent and there were a few to which I could strongly relate. I suspect that different readers would find different stories interesting. A bit of something for everyone, if you can accept the style of writing for that era. There were a couple of stories that I will be recommending to my son as great examples of short stories.

If life weren’t getting so short and I had time to re-read more books, I might like to have a copy of this book for that purpose. As it is, there are too many other books that I still want to read, but if you like looking into peoples’ lives and thoughts, I can recommend this book to you.

(Finished 4/21/14)

alternative reality

Generally speaking, I love dreaming. It amazes me how creative my mind can be when I put it on auto-control. My dreams may be influenced by things I have heard or seen during the day, but that seems to be the exception. Usually my dreams begin at some strange, arbitrary jumping off point and head into who knows what direction.

It is a rare occasion that I have a nightmare. Over the years I have somehow learned how to affect a modicum of control over the direction of my dreams and am able to guide nightmares into safer territory. At other times my unconscious seems to recognize my dream as a nightmare and backs the camera up, letting me be more of an observer than a participant, lessening any impact the dream might have on me.

When I was young, I had one recurrent dream where I was falling down the stairs to the basement. It certainly qualified as a nightmare. One night I was drifting into that dream once again, but as I started to fall down the stairs, I started to fly. That experience killed that nightmare and turned it into a dream I would seek out. It’s been a very, very long time since I had a flying dream. I miss them.

To be sure, I have had dreams where I am in some situation where I am trying to shout out some warning and wake myself up when I finally blurt out the words in real life. Or I am struggling to move my arm to grab something and wake up when my arm finally breaks free of sleep-induced paralysis and strikes out. Those are rare.

The dreams that affect me the most are those which have guest stars – people in my life who have passed on. They are also infrequent, as far as I can recall, but when I have one I am always deeply moved. It is no wonder that primitive people felt that they were communicating with the dead in such circumstances. Such a presence in a dream can be so amazingly lifelike that it does feel as though the person was actually there. I suppose it is that kind of dream that can truly keep a person alive in your mind.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer and given a three month death sentence, he eventually began to slip into a sort of reverie. We were given pamphlets by support people which explained what a dying person in my father’s condition may go through and he seemed to follow the script. I often wonder if he was revisiting old friends and relatives, or reliving old times, and if they were in the nature of a dream. I cannot imagine being in the state he was in and not having my mind taken over by these kinds of dreams.

I wonder if this is how we go in the end; we literally slip into our dreams, never to wake from them again. If so, I hope they are good dreams.