This is not a book report. These posts on books I read never are. Rather, this is about my three big takeaways. This time around, I took a crack at “Islands in the Stream” by Ernest Hemingway. This was Mr. Hemingway’s last novel and it was actually completed after his death and published by his then late wife. This idea of posthumously publishing the work of someone was the first thing that struck my interest.
Publishing work after someone dies is not a new concept. My music collection is filled with albums from Nirvana to Ray Charles and many more all released long after the artists’ death. While reading “Islands in the Stream,” I was confronted with the good and bad of the practice. As devoted fans, I know we want every song, movie and book we can get from those we adore. While they are alive, our heroes strive to deliver. With each completed creation, they release a little bit of themselves into the world. Now, there is probably some truth to the idea that art is never really finished. The artist is just forced to come to a stopping point, but I wonder if we should be participating in that art if that point was never realized. Should we be salivating over ideas that aren’t fully formed? Are we even allowed to be disappointed when these works don’t meet our expectations? Is art meant to be judged or is it meant to be experienced? I, of course, have my opinions on these questions, but I would never be so bold to tell you how to think. As for me, as I move forward I will question how I enjoy the creations of those I admire in an effort to remember where the artist was in the process.
To read Hemingway, is to encounter a man with a profound love of the sea. “Islands in the Stream” paints a beautiful picture of life surrounded, impacted and determined by the sea. One scene in the book paints a particularly beautiful picture of the sea, a child’s passage to manhood and a father’s introduction to the other side. Page after page, Mr. Hemingway shows us the struggle and by doing so transports us to the moment. Here, I realized small moments matter. Deep sea fishing with your father is not necessarily ripe for a monumental moment, but in the hands of a true artist it can be. As someone who strives to get better every day at expressing myself through words, I took this scene to heart. When I write and reflect, I will now be slow to discount those moments that on the surface seem inconsequential. Instead, I will work to give them the respect they deserve, because when the story is told they help to paint a much bigger, richer and deeper story.
My final take away also had to do with the craft of writing a story. When I write, I at times get into the practice of over complicating my sentences. I may be the king of the compound-complex sentence. Hemingway on the other hand is the god of short and impactful sentences. His sentences never run on and on. They give you the information you need and nothing else. They move you forward. They have the power to pause. They have the ability to speed the story along. Again, as I continue to prefect one of my favorite hobbies in the world, I will spend more time working on how I construct the story and where I take the audience. As I do, I will realize my art is never finished nor is it perfect. It is at a stopping point; a point where I am ready to share.
Be good to each other,