Monday, June 12, 2006

review: A Fairwell to Arms

We were at the library a few weeks ago, and I asked Shira to help me pick out a book on CD to listen to. She scanned the shelves for a few moments and then pointed to one particular book. A Fairwell to Arms by Earnest Hemingway, she explained to me, was one of her favorite required books in high school.

I hadn't read it, or anything else by Hemingway, and it seemed like the intelligent thing to do, so I rented it. Besides, Shira explained to me that it was a war story. And how can you go wrong with a war story?

Well, I'll tell you how. You go wrong when it's actually a *love* story taking place during war. Ugh. Shira let me in on this little secret, that this was indeed a love story, only after we were in the car headed home from the library.

So, that's the back story. And how did I enjoy this impressive and world aclaimed novel?

Well, the first 5 disks (and there are 7 in total) were what I can only describe as painful. I mean, change channels and listen to something else kind of painful. On more than one occassion, I almost gave up.

I think the key problem is that the dialog in the text came across really poorly. I felt like the story consisted of some characters babbeling on about things I just didn't care about.

In all fairness, this may not be all Hemingway's fault - as I've had this same sensation before. I tried listening to Catch 22 on tape once, and it was a disaster. The book itself had me laughing outloud, while the tape had me wishing that it would just end.

Then, at disk 5, track 13, something truly remarkable happened - the story got exciting! And I actually began to like it. The main character who I didn't care much about, suddenly became someone I was pulling for.

After a full disk later, a lot of the excitement has gone away, and I was back to feeling blah about the book. But it was good while it lasted.

One element that I noticed in the book is that the main charater is nice to lots and lots of people. He's simply friendly and treats people well. And the result is that the people he treats well consistently save his butt. I must admit, I really did like this message. And while one can talk about the value of being nice to others, it's much more interesting to illustrate it with a story.

Overall - do yourself a favor and skip the audio version of this CD and read the text version. You've been warned.


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