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Old 03-14-2018, 02:16 PM   #16
CRussel
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No, Jon. It's all about the struggle of an old man to survive. And a young boy's love of that old man. And about a village's support of that old man, and about the role old people play in the health and vitality of a community, and lots and lots of other things. But it is NOT about not having to hold the line. If you want to write a novel about how to fish, please do so. But that's not this book.
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Old 03-14-2018, 02:17 PM   #17
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I unlocked the thread (because I feared a power outage) and gave Charlie a heads up (because of his timing), so he could get first crack at it.
For which my thanks. And my hope that you avoid that power outage and the worst of the storm.
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Old 03-14-2018, 02:21 PM   #18
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I'm going to wait until tomorrow to post some of my thoughts, but I thought I'd comment on this:

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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
To me, it's way he fished that blew the story. There was no real tension. There was no real struggle. It was just not well written.
I have to think we need to give Hemingway (who loved deep sea fishing and spent a lot of time in Cuba and Key West) the credit for knowing the means and methods of deep sea fishing by rich and poor in the Caribbean in the early 50s. He was there; he didn't just make it up. And he was very specific about how Santiago fished that marlin which adds to the verisimilitude.

And, the story is all tension, all struggle. A specious objection to how the protagonist fished doesn't negate that. And, seriously? I'm not saying that a Nobel is a guarantee of good writing, but Hemingway is one of the major prose stylists of the 20th century. Not liking his style is a different matter.
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Old 03-14-2018, 02:22 PM   #19
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I agree, it is a love story.

I liked that Santiago has a zen-like relationship with the sea: he fights, bleeds to bring in this fish, his brother whom he loves, and though he hates the sharks that rob him of his prize, at the same time he concedes that they too deserve to live and eat (he'd just rather they did so on somebody else's fish).

Yes, yes, he kills many of the sharks, just as an avowed pacifist may fight, even kill when mortally threatened. This is a law of nature, this life-and-death struggle. He does not see the sharks as killing (eating) machines that do not deserve to live, but rather beings with the same right to struggle for survival as himself or the marlin. They just happened to pick an adversary that was more powerful than they and were defeated, often as not fatally.

As for the method of fishing: that is a very valid and oft-used way of catching a meal. I myself have fished for crab using a similar method: tie a line around a piece of chicken, toss it into the bayou, and wait for the tell-tale tugs of a crab eating. It is not just a matter of reeling it in-- one must gently bring them close to shore without them realizing that you are doing so. Getting control of the animal before it realizes that there is danger. It is not easy, and it requires patience and concentration and even recklessness (and a mistake can not only cost you your lunch, but also some blood, LOL).
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Old 03-14-2018, 02:26 PM   #20
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No, Jon. It's all about the struggle of an old man to survive. And a young boy's love of that old man. And about a village's support of that old man, and about the role old people play in the health and vitality of a community, and lots and lots of other things. But it is NOT about not having to hold the line. If you want to write a novel about how to fish, please do so. But that's not this book.
I know of the parts outside of the fishing, but the main part is the fishing and that was not done well. That was rather poorly done. So for me, that spoils the book.
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Old 03-14-2018, 03:32 PM   #21
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I'm going to have to stop reading this thread for now because my plan was (and still is) to read the book tonight.
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Old 03-14-2018, 03:54 PM   #22
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I agree with issybird. Hemingway was very passionate about and experienced in fishing. I expected that the details about fishing might be described by some as boring, but I am surprised to see the authenticity questioned.

Many believe that Santiago was modeled on Gregorio Fuentes. I thought this article was fascinating.
https://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/29/b...-and-papa.html
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Old 03-14-2018, 05:17 PM   #23
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An interesting article, thanks for linking to it, Bookworm_Girl.

Personally, I'm not a fisherman, but I did not find the details boring. And certainly didn't question their authenticity!

Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird
I have to think we need to give Hemingway (who loved deep sea fishing and spent a lot of time in Cuba and Key West) the credit for knowing the means and methods of deep sea fishing by rich and poor in the Caribbean in the early 50s. He was there; he didn't just make it up. And he was very specific about how Santiago fished that marlin which adds to the verisimilitude.

And, the story is all tension, all struggle. A specious objection to how the protagonist fished doesn't negate that. And, seriously? I'm not saying that a Nobel is a guarantee of good writing, but Hemingway is one of the major prose stylists of the 20th century. Not liking his style is a different matter.
Yes, this is a story of tension and struggle. And love, of course. It was interesting to me, re-reading it while the story was still fairly fresh in my mind. I found it just as compelling and detailed as the first time, as I discovered new things I'd missed (or forgotten) from the first time.

Part of the genius of this story is its brevity. There's no wasted words, no need to belabour a point. Hemingway tells with only a few words that the boy and the old man have a deep relationship without having to beat us over the head with it. The details around the battle with the marlin, and the sharks, is only enough to build the fabric of the struggle.

This was one of my top 10 reads of 2012, and will be one of my top 10 again this year. I'm really glad we chose it, as I doubt I would have revisited it else.
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Old 03-14-2018, 05:35 PM   #24
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An interesting article, thanks for linking to it, Bookworm_Girl.

Personally, I'm not a fisherman, but I did not find the details boring. And certainly didn't question their authenticity!
I didn't find it boring, I just found the way he was fishing to be a bit off.
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Old 03-14-2018, 09:32 PM   #25
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I found it quite difficult to read this with a dispassionate eye. It's been years since I tried any Hemingway, and the small taste back then is why it has been years. Strike one. And I know this story. How can anyone not know this story? Strike two. In the lead up to reading this I thought I really should give Hemingway a chance and read an earlier of this famous books, I chose: The Sun Also Rises. That was a mistake, it was awful. Strike Three.

But I read it anyway, and thankfully it is a better book than The Sun Also Rises. I don't see how it earned classic status - I don't like Hemingway's style much at all - but it's a reasonable little story. Or half a story. To me it felt as if the real story lay between the boy, Manolin, the boy's family and this old man. There's some tantalising history there that might have made for something a bit more personal than a stubborn old man beating a fish to death for no purpose.

It seems to me that, mostly, Hemingway is not a subtle writer. (In that respect, at least, he makes a substantial departure from last month with Nella Larsen and Passing.) I will admit that I am not certain of the baseball and DeMaggio thing. Was there a subtle reason for this that I am missing? Or is it really just - as it seems - to keep us focused on how hard this guy is working compared to the easy life of baseball players?

I saw some study notes (linked by Bookworm_Girl on another thread, I think) that asked how this story confirms the presence of two themes prevalent in Hemingway's fiction "the undefeated" and "winner take nothing". But the thing is, I don't think it does confirm either of these. A fisherman that comes back without his catch has been defeated by something (and he's still alive and not crippled so he wasn't destroyed). In this case he may have won against the marlin, but he was defeated by the sharks. And as winner of the battle with the marlin he does indeed take something, see my next paragraph.

Why did Hemingway leave the skeleton of the fish there to be found? If he really wanted the old man to have nothing there should have been only the empty loops, or maybe a tantalising but inconclusive rib or something. By leaving the whole skeleton in place the old man receives a redemption of sorts: people feeling bad for treating him as unlucky*. So Santiago may not make money, but he gains respect and reputation; and a memory he will cherish along with the memories of lions that keep him company at night.


* Of course he was unlucky. What else can you call it? He gets hold of the biggest fish ever when he has no help; it is a fish he - a very experienced fisherman - must know he cannot get home with without help; and he captures it anyway only to lose it to sharks (as he must know will happen). If that's not bad luck then it is bad management on his part.
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Old 03-15-2018, 12:04 AM   #26
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I found this book very powerful, but almost unbearable to read. While I had sympathy for Santiago's situation, I disliked the whole premise of the heroic man battling and trying to overcome nature.

There was the epic struggle with the huge fish and its long fight against death. Then there were the sharks which came for the dead fish tied to the side of the boat, which in turn were killed or injured by Santiago in his desperation to keep at least some of the fish from them.

(And I just have to ask: if only the skeleton was left, how come it stayed attached to the boat? Surely it would have fallen through the ropes. But that's just nitpicking on my part.)

The real problem for me is that I just don't buy into the whole idea of its being noble to go into the wild to kill animals, especially for sport. Yes, I know that for Santiago this was his livelihood rather than a "sport", but for Hemingway, it was something he chose to do, and so something which he upholds as a virtue. So even though Santiago knew the fish was far too big for him to be able to bring it into the boat, he persisted in continuing the battle.

So much death and destruction, and for what? Why am I reminded of the stubborn butchery of the Great War? Maybe because it might be seen as unmanly to take a step back from the precipice and acknowledge that the battle is pointless.

So for me the story is compelling, but I am not tempted to read anything more by Hemingway because of those underlying themes.

Thanks for the link to the article, Bookworm_Girl. It was interesting to read.
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Old 03-15-2018, 02:00 AM   #27
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The cartilage between the vertebrae is quite strong while the skeleton is fresh, it does not easily fall apart - although I would have thought the shark attacks may have managed it. After the skeleton has a chance to dry the cartilage will shrink and pull away from the bone, and also becomes brittle and easier to break. (This from a man who, as a boy, had a slightly morbid fascination with bones; I used to leave them on ant mounds to get cleaned etc. In primary school I took a steer's skull for "show and tell", but got into trouble because there were Red-back spiders living in it. I knew how to win friends and influence people even then. )

It seems to me that the story says much about Hemingway the man. There is the "big white hunter" thing that revels in the struggle between man and beast, especially on - what they believe to be - this close to equal footing. But there is also an odd sort of disconnect in his writing style, one that leaves me not really caring all that much. CRussell mentioned love being a theme, and I can see it, but it is love held at a distance, as we might expect from a man of Hemingway's generation and disposition. We might also read into this story: better death than dishonour.

Consider that this was no novice fisherman. As soon as he realised he had hooked a very large fish he had to have known the outcome - every step should have been predictable to him. So why choose to waste this fish that he professed to loving (even as he was trying to kill it)? Because to have loosed the fish would have been to admit defeat. He knew the fish would either kill him or he would kill it (and he admits at one point to not caring which), and he must have known it would be too big to get onboard so he knew that - even if he defeated the marlin - he was going to lose it to sharks. He knew he was going to lose it, but he prefers to waste its life (but see below) and risk his own life, rather than risk returning defeated. ("destroyed but not defeated" he says, but of course the sharks defeat him, making all that struggle seem rather pointless.)

I don't think this really comes into what Hemingway was writing (I don't think he cares), but one thing I'm not certain of is at what point the marlin is as good as dead. I guess that will depend on things we are never told (where the hook bit and so what damage might have occurred if it was torn out), but the answer does potentially impact how you interpret the story. If we count the marlin as "as good as dead" from the moment it it is hooked (even if it breaks the line, I can't imagine it will lead a long life dragging hundreds of feet of line behind it), then everything Santiago does from that point can discount the fish (if not its suffering) because he has already killed it.
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Old 03-15-2018, 03:01 AM   #28
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(And I just have to ask: if only the skeleton was left, how come it stayed attached to the boat? Surely it would have fallen through the ropes. But that's just nitpicking on my part.)
I was surprised by that too, then I found pictures of that essentially happening, not picked clean but nearly 1/2 of the fish was gone and just the front half, spine and tail was remaining. He did describe going around the fish several times to tie it to the boat so some of the lines must have been avoided by the shark.

I went and looked for the picture again and on the Wikipedia page for The Old Man and the Sea there is an image of Hemingway with a fish eaten that way.

LINK GOES DIRECTLY TO IMAGE OF HALF EATEN FISH. You've been warned. LINK
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Old 03-15-2018, 08:13 AM   #29
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gmw, others may not know about Red-back spiders, but I know they really wouldn't be a good thing to take to school (even inadvertently) for show and tell!

Thanks for the link, Dazrin. Such a wonderful creature, such a pointless death.
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Old 03-15-2018, 09:53 AM   #30
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Like Charlie, I'm sure I read this in my youth, but have no recollection of it. I found it quite hard going to start with - I know Hemingway is known for his spare prose, but this was almost too spare. There was a lot of "telling" rather than "showing", which is supposedly a no-no, at least these days (I'm of the view a bit of both is okay). As a result I didn't enjoy it much, at least until the struggle with the marlin started to take shape. Then I got hooked (no pun intended). Despite my misgivings about the picture of the heroic hunter, which has been somewhat tarnished in the modern age, I was still gripped by the struggle of the old man and the huge beast that was the marlin. I've always had a bit of a "thing" about the creatures in the depths (yes, Mr Spielberg, I'm looking at you). Fundamentally, the old man was trying to make a living and his actions are understandable in that context. That he was unlucky, ultimately, when the sharks found him (perhaps inevitably) is undoubted, and I did feel sorry that he didn't manage to salvage at least some of his catch, given how desperately poor he was.

Overall I agree that it is a story about love, not just for the boy and the village, but for the marlin and the sea as well. I gave it 4 stars.
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