I was very near to finishing Mr. Midshipman Hornblower when we were on our way to the hospital the other night, and I knew I was going to need something else at some point over the next few days. I was passing by the computer on the way to the door, and I decided to grab The Old Man and the Sea. I'd been using it as a mouse pad because the Scribner trade paperback edition is a perfect size with a slick, matte-laminated cover that the mouse glides across with no fuss. So the book was handy, I needed something, and I'd been meaning to read it again for months.
I've read The Old Man and the Sea numerous times, and I've always loved it, but this time through it became much more than it has ever been before. This time I am reading it out loud, and it is a completely different book.
I have heard complaints about Hemingway's lack of commas, his sparing punctuation and his repetition in The Old Man and the Sea, but let me assure all detractors that this is intentional and to a purpose. Hemingway wants us to read this book out loud, and the way he's structured the punctuation (so too his use of repetition) dictates the voice we are meant to use while we're reading.
We are not meant to inject the story with emotional ejaculations; we are meant to read this in a low monotone, embracing the steady, quiet, imperturbable voice of Santiago, the titular Old Man, while he struggles against the marlin, the sharks, the sea and himself.
And when we embrace Santiago's voice and breathe it into the world, The Old Man and the Sea undergoes a startling change. I think it is a beautiful novel even when lying dormant on the page, but spoken, it is a lush, sensuous, poetic masterpiece.
Read this one out loud if you can. To yourself or to someone you love, even if that someone is a naked little two day old baby sleeping on your chest. You'll be glad you did.