I frequently confess in these pages my bypassing of the great works of Western literature, of which A Farewell to Arms is undoubtedly one. In this case I think I have a good reason: my best friend in high school became a Hemingway fanatic, quoting from Carlos Baker’s collection of Hemingway letters , insisting that we couldn’t use straws to drink our Coke because that isn’t what a “Hemingway man” would do, pulling non sequiturs from the stories into our ordinary conversations. I dutifully read The Sun Also Rises for English class and completely didn’t get it, but I also knew I’d have to come back to Hemingway eventually. Then Stephen Colbert’s Book Club “did” A Farewell to Arms (satirically making the most of the same Hemingway cliches my friend was guilty of misunderstanding) and it reminded me of my long-standing obligation.
The book is set during the endless stalemate along the…
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