Friday, May 31, 2013

My Own Marlin Fight - Finally Writing This Blog Post

Currently Reading: The Once and Future King by T. H. White

It absolutely figures that I would write a post bragging about my blogging consistency and then go radio silent for over a month.

I don’t even have a good excuse. I just haven’t been motivated to write, especially not about The Old Man and the Sea. So I apologize that this may not be one of my best posts.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike The Old Man and the Sea. I just didn’t have any strong opinion of it or lasting impression. I attribute this to two facts: First, the book I read before this was Madame Bovary, of which you may know I had a very strong opinion, thus making any impression from the next book instantly wane in comparison. Second, I zipped through The Old Man in the Sea in one day. In the same way that one can devour a meal, finish, and then realize he didn’t really taste a single bite he ate so quickly, I finished this book and realized I didn’t really digest it.

Add to this the fact that Ernest Hemingway and I have had a fairly rocky relationship. He’s famously concise, able to strip the English language down to its core and let its raw power shine through. However, in my past experiences with him, I’ve found that he’s often too concise, expecting his readers to make crazy leaps to get to the conclusions he wants them to make. Thus, I often miss the main point.

It’s created quite a challenge when it comes to writing a blog post about it.

It feels fitting, though, that writing a post about this old man’s days-long struggle with a giant marlin has become an equally lengthy challenge for me.

While this quick book is chock full of symbolism and metaphors about religion and life, I’m taking a cue from Hemingway and opting for brevity, focusing on the most impressive part of the story from my perspective: the old man’s strength.

Despite the 85-day streak without a single fish, the old man still makes the solitary trek out into the water to make another attempt. Then when he does manage to catch a fish that’s bigger than his own boat, he’s not discouraged by its size or strength or determination. Instead, he fights with equal determination. For days. He has incredible resolve and keeps battling for this prize, even when he realizes he won’t be able to bring it back to shore to be of any use.

But to me, what’s even more impressive is his physical strength because damn! This man is supposed to very elderly and I know some older men who are still fit, but I can’t imagine one that could do what Hemingway’s old man does. He’s literally dragged by an 18-foot marlin for days, never able to let up on his grip or relax his pull without the loss of the fish, not to mention the rope digging into his back and hands. And he still hangs on! To me, who can barely manage a push-up, this old man has super-human strength!

Who cares about the message about life and religion – that’s what I find most fascinating about The Old Man and the Sea.

Again, it’s a quick read and the story hasn’t really stuck with me. It didn’t enrage me like Madame Bovary nor did it rock me like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But I’ve got to hand it to Hemingway. He really manages to squeeze an awful lot into his very short sentences.