Thoughts on Ending Books, Leaving Fiction World

Olivia Walters

Yesterday evening I powered through the last 50 pages of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It’s been some time since completing a book, start to finish. I felt accomplished, well-read, and introspective as I entered the post-operative reading phase in which readers bemoan the return to reality.  

Reaching the last page, we dread looking back up, turning our attention away from the yellow pages which held our imaginations for however many days and weeks. As readers find themselves back where they’ve always been-home, work, pretty much rejoining human existence, or pets, should a cat or dog keep one company-we draw in a breath, release, and greet the anticlimactic tide, Now what?

It mimes what carnival and amusement park attendees endure at the end of the day, after experiencing grandeur, flashing lights, and roller coaster rides into the clouds. I’d like to coin the phrase Leaving Fiction World to describe the act of finishing a book. So long, thanks for visiting, and be sure to tell your friends about it!

Yet there are so many lingering questions! Reading as a writer, I reflect on Hemingway’s choice to introduce the story through character exposition. Robert Cohn, writer, tennis player, and former Princeton graduate, is, to the narrator, a hapless chump. He forges a forgettable namesake in school and fails out of marriage. His ambitions stem from literature, what fictional characters do and the adventures they embark on. Hemingway casts Cohn as a pathetic dog, yet this character becomes the narrator’s enemy and competitor as it is later revealed that the characters pine after the same love interest.

I’d like to make a correction from my earlier blog post about this book, when I wrote “Ce n’est que de la littérature pure” (It’s merely literature). Online research led me to understand that Hemingway inspired his first novel from his involvement in World War I. Critics adore lumping authors together, purposefully for publishing reasons, thus Hemingway belongs to the “Lost Generation,” disillusioned novelists, poets, and journalists who fled the United States to Europe at the end of the war.

“Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that” (11, SAR).  

Jake, the narrator, chides Cohn in chapter two as they discuss Cohn packing up and jetting off to Spain, a thought which comes to him after finishing a book featuring a traveler.

As someone who is tied up between two languages, the line impacted me because I tell myself that settling elsewhere would resolve the irritation brewing inside me. Moving away would erase the fractured stories I’ve written and lived out in Greenville, SC. Granted, I don’t base my decisions on books written after wartime, but I do take to heart the sentiment that it’s not going to be any easier in other places.

Wrapping up this bit, I’d just like to impart that seeing more is valuable, deciding that one place is draining happiness from the heart is not a fixed condition, and holding steadfast to the idea that displacement is but a temporary feeling-are all valid reminders to keep moving.

My notes on Brett’s character still stand, in case anyone is wondering why I so vehemently dislike women of this nature. Now that I know the story is autofiction, I feel less ridiculous for getting so heated about what I thought was only fiction writing.

Leaving Fiction World is a cruel taste to swallow. Outrage, unrestrained fascination, and enthrallment for the intrigue and characters driving readers to live in a world other than their own. I’m lonely without Jake rattling on and on about sipping wine by Spanish rivers. Back to my own story. ■

Image Credit: Olivia Walters (taken in Bordeaux, FR) 

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