18 Books Ernest Hemingway Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time.
September 23, 2013 4:45 PM   Subscribe

18 Books Ernest Hemingway Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time. "I would rather read again for the first time Anna Karenina, Far Away and Long Ago, Buddenbrooks, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, War and Peace, A Sportsman's Sketches, The Brothers Karamazov, Hail and Farewell, Huckleberry Finn, Winesburg, Ohio, La Reine Margot, La Maison Tellier, Le Rouge et le Noire, La Chartreuse de Parme, Dubliners, Yeat's Autobiographies and a few others than have an assured income of a million dollars a year."
posted by paleyellowwithorange (24 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, such a sentimental soul. Thought I sort of agree about Anna Karenina.
posted by clockzero at 5:16 PM on September 23, 2013

Nice to see he had a better taste in books than he did in sports.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:18 PM on September 23, 2013

Actually, I find the first time tense and not as good*. Because I have been burned by Shitty/Disappointing/Mediocre/Impenetrable books many times, so the first time I read something, I'm a little tense, hoping it won't be one of those.

Once I get to the end (or near the end, depending) and realize HOT DAMN I LOVE THIS BOOK, then I know I will read it again, probably within a few days, because HOT DAMN. Or else it's MY MIND IS BLOWN in which case I may wait a month or so before I read it again, to let it soak in.

*That sentence more suggestive than intended. Though a sex parallel may be apt.
posted by emjaybee at 5:30 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mostly a greatest hits. "La Maison Tellier" by Guy de Maupassant is sort of different. La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas instead of the usual The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers. Hail and Farewell most obscure; and the spelling of Noir.
posted by stbalbach at 5:31 PM on September 23, 2013

Had no idea he was a big Stendhal fan.
posted by telstar at 5:33 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Posthumous listicle!
posted by RogerB at 5:50 PM on September 23, 2013

I've actually never read any Hemingway, but I'm aware of his reputation. What interested me most about this was the perceived value of an initial exposure to consciousness-changing art. Would I prefer to read again for the first time a bunch of books that had had such a great effect on my life? Or would I prefer an annual income of a million bucks?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:51 PM on September 23, 2013

Kinda struck by how boring and staid this list is.
posted by naju at 6:09 PM on September 23, 2013

Gotta know the rules before you can break 'em. And damn, did those early Hemingway short stories break 'em. In Our Time (1925) and Men Without Women (1927) are complete classics by any measure - powerful, spare, elliptical writing that redefined the form of the short story (or at least used the modernist inventions of Woolf and Joyce in new, surprisingly accessible ways). It's absurd that so many people have a firm opinion of Hemingway without reading those collections. Anyway, there's so much to say about his career, but that he'd know and love classic lit is not surprising in the slightest.
posted by mediareport at 6:25 PM on September 23, 2013

"Kinda struck by how boring and staid this list is."

Well, considering the list is more than 50 years old...
posted by dobie at 6:26 PM on September 23, 2013

> "Kinda struck by how boring and staid this list is."

Well, considering the list is more than 50 years old...

I have this problem with Orwell's book reviews. I greatly respect his opinions, so when he recommends something as worth reading, I get it and try reading it. But so often I find that what was 'highly recommended' in the mid-thirties just drags now, eighty years later.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:31 PM on September 23, 2013

I've actually never read any Hemingway

At all? Not even the short stories? Not even "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" seventeen times for various high school and college classes?
posted by pracowity at 8:07 PM on September 23, 2013

No, never. Perhaps he loomed larger in the US than he did in my part of the world?
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:17 PM on September 23, 2013

Even in Canada, I was never assigned even a line of Hemingway for anything. But, if you speak English and haven't read at least "A Farewell to Arms," "The Old Man and the Sea," and a handful of his short stories, you are doing yourself a disservice.
posted by 256 at 8:39 PM on September 23, 2013

Again, the early short stories are often amazing. Anyone who can appreciate the history of literature will almost certainly enjoy the oddly warm experimentation of "Big Two-Hearted River," for just one widely-praised example from his first collection In Our Time.
posted by mediareport at 9:33 PM on September 23, 2013

I somehow missed To Kill a Mockingbird in school and read it for the first time as an adult. As I was reading it, I simultaneously felt rage that nobody made me read it before, and profound gratitude that I got to experience it for the first time as an adult more capable of absorbing its beauty. There is something precious about the first discovery of a work of art, no matter how beloved it becomes upon repeats. I think about my favorite books and I wouldn't give up having read them as a child or teenager for anything ... They influenced who I am, helped me learn to appreciate art. But all the same, getting to read a perfect story for the first time is a gift, and one that gets more rare as you age.

(Also, A Farewell to Arms should be shot, stabbed, shot again, flung across the room with great force, and left to die. In the rain.) (Or maybe I was too young to appreciate it. But I'm certainly not reading it again to find out.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:10 PM on September 23, 2013

I've been reading the Russian classics as an adult, and I recognize your feeling, EMcG. Damn, they're good, and boy would that have been lost on me when I was a teenager.

On the other hand, I read Catcher in the Rye at precisely the right impressionable age, judging from what others have told me.
posted by Harald74 at 10:37 PM on September 23, 2013

Perhaps he loomed larger in the US than he did in my part of the world?

Ah. It's a Hemingway post, so I guessed you were in Hemingway-canonizing America.
posted by pracowity at 11:35 PM on September 23, 2013

I'm more of a Second Time reader. For better or worse, I read books quickly the first time though, mostly absorbing plot and story. Once that's been established, I let myself linger over beautiful sentences and descriptions upon rereading. Characterization reveals more nuances. I just finished We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson about an hour ago, and I'm really excited to reread it in a few days once my brain has settled down from initial HOLY SHIT impressions.
posted by book 'em dano at 3:04 AM on September 24, 2013

Man, I misread the list...


As Boondocks, and was like, "Me too, Papa. Me too."
posted by DigDoug at 4:26 AM on September 24, 2013

“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader.”

― Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature

(I don't think Hem & Vivian Darkbloom have much in common.)
posted by chavenet at 10:25 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would compromise: be able to reread half of these books for the first time and receive $500K/year, adjusted for inflation. I'm heartened by Stendhal's prominence in that list though; he sure knew how to write.

I've actually never read any Hemingway

That's his shortest:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn
posted by ersatz at 10:58 AM on September 24, 2013

With "Wuthering Heights", I really did get to read it again for the first time. I read it as a teenager and thought I knew it. I recently re-read it, and could not believe how different it was than I remembered. The value of that list is that it consists of a lot of things you read as a teenager and probably *should* read again now.
posted by acrasis at 4:43 PM on September 24, 2013

I have always loved the IDEA of rereading. Unfortunately my TBR pile is so large that I don't get much of a chance to. Sure, I will occasionally grab Blood Meridian and read some of my favorite dogeared passages, but that is about it. A book like Infinite Jest is so difficult to get through once that I doubt that I will ever reread it.

I was just talking to my Girlfriend about how funny it is that you are assigned to read books in school and you couldn't care less. Fast forward 20 years and you wish you had more free time to devote to reading these same books for *gasp* fun!

I did just start The Brothers Karamazov. I can't imagine appreciating or understanding it when I was younger.
I do rewatch certain movies and listen to a ton of music over and over again. I get the same amount of enjoyment - more even - watching GoodFellas or listening to OK Computer for the hundredth time. Unfortunately books require much more time, focus and commitment. It is unreal to me that some people are able to read these Russian doorstops multiple times and still find time to read a dozen other books a year.
posted by kbbbo at 7:20 AM on September 25, 2013

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