Hemingway’s love scenes are always absurd. Characters fall instantly and irrecoverably in love. Their love has no basis in reality or experience, but that doesn’t make them stupid. It’s just becomes another existential to the story. But isn’t that how love always is? Indescribable by anecdotes or exchanges, but just a thing that one must deal with, whether during the Spanish Civil War or WWI, or now?
February is a weird time. It’s been winter for long enough that snow and long johns have lost their novelty, but it’s not close enough to the end of the season for spring to peak through for a few days. And even though it gets dark earlier in December, it feels like winter is closing in around you all the time.
But at exactly four weeks, February is ripe for a cleanse or some sort of absurd, short lasting resolution. I once wore the same pair jeans for all of February. A few years ago, I went to a writers’ colony for the month. But my best February project was reading Moby-Dick as a freshman in college, and since then I’ve thought of this coming month as a good time to read an epic novel.
There’s been so much snow, that I sort of blew my load, and started For Whom The Bell Tolls a week ago, which is great in ways I never would have imagined after hating The Old Man and The Sea in high school and loving The Sun Also Rises in my 20s. Hemingway is incredible with language, imagery, and he can also be funny and inventive and interesting. By virtue of his iceberg writing, Hemingway makes me concentrate in a way that other writers don’t. This isn’t to say Hemingway is my favorite writer, but when I’m into a passage of his, I fall into a rhythm that no one else can lull me into. His writing creates a unique reading experience.
So for those not giving up soy protein for the month of February, I recommend For Whom the Bell Tolls. (Spoiler alert: the answer is “thee.”) Moby-Dick is also great. The only thing whiter than this winter is The Whale, and Melville has a whole chapter devoted to that whiteness.