The Book of Sawce, Chapter 18 – A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book

18) The Old Man and the Sea

It’s as riveting as it sounds.

I mentioned last time that Pulitzer Prize-winners are not my forte.  As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I tend to read a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and science-fantasy.  When I read a book, I really want to be taken away.  I want to go to distant worlds and lands.  I want to see the impossible.  I want to be engrossed in a fiction with ideas I’d never considered.  There are exceptions, but I rarely choose to move outside of those bounds–which is why I started this reading challenge in the first place.  To broaden my horizons, if you will.  So, let’s go ahead and dive right on into (see what I did there?) Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Santiago is an old Cuban fisherman who’s down on his luck.  He has gone 84 days without a single catch, and this has somewhat ostracized him from the fishing community.  Even Mandolin–the young boy who always went out to fish with Santiago–no longer sails with him because his parents view Santiago as bad luck and have forbidden the boy to fish with the old man.  On the 85th day, Santiago decides to sail far out into the Gulf Stream in hopes of catching a big one and breaking his streak.  The old man soon finds himself in a fight for his life as he hooks a huge marlin, but Santiago will do everything he can to prove he’s still got it.

Even though I have a degree in English, I cannot say for certain what else by Hemingway I’ve read.  A lot of authors tend to blend together whenever I think back to what I read for school.  I’m sure I’ve read more of his stuff, but I genuinely can’t remember.  So, why did I choose to read The Old Man and the Sea instead of something else?  It’s short.  It’s really, really short.  I read it in two sittings, but I could’ve done it in one.  It’s not an easy read, though.  I mean, sure, there’s nothing hard to understand here, but it’s so slow.  I had to force myself to continue reading at certain parts because I just didn’t care.  Thankfully the book really picks up at the halfway point, and I breezed through the second half.

I also chose to read this because I love Moby-Dick, and I wanted to see if this was similar.  It’s not.  Other than the fun little metaphors scattered throughout.  Hemingway went with some religious imagery here, and I don’t know why.  Like, at one point he likens one of Santiago’s trials to “feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood,” and at another Santiago falls three times while carrying his mast up a hill.  So, Santiago’s Cuban fisherman Jesus, I guess.  Is the titular sea heaven?  I don’t know.  These are questions to be answered in an essay, and that ain’t my life anymore.

For what it’s worth, I do kinda wish I had been assigned this in high school.  You can’t help but admire Santiago’s grit and determination, and who doesn’t enjoy hunting down religious symbolism in literature?  (I don’t.)  Despite a first half that drags on for what feels like 200 pages (it was only 60-ish), I did wind up liking it well enough in the end.  Even though it has that “this is real world stuff, yo, so it can’t end happy” mentality.  Spoilers, I guess.

That’s it for this installment of The Book of Sawce.  Let’s see what the next chapter will be!…. Ah, dammit.  A book based on a true story.

What will it be?  Stay tuned to find out.

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