Farewell to Arms


farewell to armsby Ernest Hemingway
Scribner; Reprint edition, June 1, 1995
336 pages

For those who, like me, are new to the audiobook world, I have a tip to share: skip the classics. If you are going to read classic literature, pick it up and read it. Listening to it is no good.

At least that was the case with me and Farewell to Arms. I like Ernest Hemingway a lot, perhaps more as a character than as a writer, but as a writer as well. I've read most of his other work, and am a particular fan of The Sun Also Rises. So I was happy when, upon finding myself with several hours alone in a car over my Christmas break, I thought of taking along the old CDs of Farewell to Arms I've been hanging on to since we made the Portland-Austin trip.

And it started off well enough, with the somewhat baudry (in that early 20th century way) tales of a muddled displaced American man, working as an ambulance driver for the Italian army during World War I. But then the love story came in. Ug, ug, ug. I really, really disliked Catherine Barkley. The outcome of the story was clear from the point of her pregnancy announcement on, but still, I couldn't wait for it to just happen and get over with so I wouldn't have to listen to her stupid, stilted dialogue one more time. Every other word was "darling." Every other word! And Henry, who was minorly interesting in the non-Catherine elements of the story, turned into a simpering idiot when she was part of the scene, replying with a similarly unnecessary barage of "darlings." It was enough to make one puke.

It occured to me, towards the end of the final disc, that I would probably be having a lot less harsh reaction to the bad dialogue if I were reading the book, rather than listening to it. I probably still wouldn't like Catherine Barkley, but she wouldn't make me want to claw my ears out. So no more classic lit on CD for me. Some things are definitely best left on the page.

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