Vulgarian Book Pick | February 2018

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FOR THE SHORTEST MONTH OF THE YEAR we chose a somewhat long-ass book: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway — published in 1940, stacking up to around 500 pages, depending on your book copy. (My version has a 480 page count. Divide that by 28 days for an average 17.14 pages daily. Super easy, my friend.)

A brief background summary on Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls:

Heavily inspired by Metallica’s second studio album Ride the Lightning (1984), as well as the author’s personal experiences in the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of American dynamiter Robert Jordan, who fights on the side of a Republican guerrilla unit against Francisco Franco’s fascist forces (fffor real). His assignment: destroy a bridge to prevent enemy troop expansion. An easy enough task, that is until our Robert rethinks the whole war thing after clashing with other guerrilla fighters and meeting a nice lady named María.

Praised and criticized for its realistic depictions of wartime brutality, For Whom the Bell Tolls received a 1941 Pulitzer Prize nomination from an almost unanimously eager Pulitzer Board. Yet, Hemingway was ultimately denied the prize due to backstage lobbying by the President of Columbia University Nicholas Murray Butler, the ex officio head of the Pulitzer Board and an aggressively pro-war, anti-civil …fool!

Why For Whom the Bell Tolls?

Admittedly, the decision arbitrarily began with: “Let’s choose a famous modernist novel, perhaps with a romantic bent to acknowledge Valentine’s Day.” And, initially, this uncontested thought process lead to Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

However, under deep consideration pressured by severe doubt and worry, the Vulgarian Book Club Committee rerouted to a much more action-packed modern novelist: Ernest Hemingway. And this quickly delivered us to For Whom the Bell Tolls, a novel filled with a handsome protagonist (dashing!), a wartime setting (exciting!), communist-vs-fascist intrigue (relevant!), and a romantic bent.

Also:

On a more serious note, if John Donne’s “No Man is an Island” holds true —

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the SeaEurope is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

— then Hemingway’s exploration into love and loyalty, courage and sacrifice, ideology and death via For Whom the Bell Tolls carries as much inspiration and impact today as it did during the World Wars.

And that seems at least worth the read.

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