Full disclaimer: If you love the literary canon, you’re probably not going to be a big fan of this post. I don’t read dead white guys all that often, and these reviews prove why it’s probably for the best that I tend to keep my distance.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Published by Arrow Books, 2004 (first published in 1952)
My rating: ⭐
Consider me shook by how much of this book is actually about fishing. From the way people talk about it, I expected rich allegory, thematic depth, and philosophical musings. But no, the only time the old man ever stops talking about fishing is to talk about baseball, or to club a dolphin over the head. Not my jam.
In all seriousness, I know some people adore this, and I get that it’s considered a fable about pride, perseverance, and whatnot. But honestly? I think that’s a generous stretch. The plot is so dull and repetitive, the characters so nondescript, and the prose so lifeless, that I just never cared enough to bother trying to decipher any deeper meaning.
I usually reserve a one-star rating for books I find outright offensive, but I truly can’t think of anything positive to say about this. I mean, it won the author a Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize for Literature, so needless to say I expected a lot more. At least I’ve ticked Hemingway off my very unofficial list of classic authors to try at some point. Sadly, he and I aren’t going to be friends.
If you think you’ll have better luck with it than I did, you can pick up a copy of The Old Man and the Sea from Book Depository by clicking here.
Oh, and if you do read it, here’s a fun drinking game: Take a shot every time he uses the word phosphorescence. You’ll be hammered by the half-way point, which should make it seem at least somewhat entertaining.
Tyger, Tyger by William Blake
Published by Penguin, 2016 (first published in 1789)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
Blake’s poetry is the kind of thing most people think of when they hear the word ‘poetry’. By this, I mean it’s full of archaic language, strict rhyming schemes, and a lot of religious imagery. As such, it’s also the kind of poetry that sadly puts a lot of people off. This kind of work has its place, of course, but it does little to spark excitement in me as a reader. There are some nice lines, especially those that draw on nature, but there’s just not enough variation in themes or ideas to make the collection feel fresh, engaging, or relevant to the modern reader.
You can pick up a copy of Blake’s selected poems from Book Depository by clicking here.