This morning I began rereading “Death in the Afternoon,” Hemingway’s studied look at all aspects of the bloody sport of bullfighting. This time I am reading it as a travelogue. The book is set in Spain, a country we plan to visit in the fall.
Travelogue, yes. But there will be no escaping the deaths of matadors, fighting bulls and innocent horses. I will get through it somehow, putting aside my evolved sensitivity to the art of killing innocent animals for human pleasure.
I was in my 20s the first time I read “Death,” inspired by news the charismatic actor James Dean, with his alleged fascination of death, literally devoured the book.
Not only did Dean read the book, he marked passages in colored ink: Red for death, yellow for degradation, blue for disfigurement and green for disability. So the story went.
Like star, like star-struck, I purchased “Death” through the mail, an unused hardback, the one with the exotic dust jacket of a matador passing a bull under his cape. And, though never fascinated with death, I marked it just as Dean supposedly had. And I managed to learn much about bullfighting, though to this day I have never witnessed one in person.
To read “Death” is not simply to read of the bull fight. In passing Hemingway offers advice to writers and expresses his philosophy of how things work in this world. So, in addition to my reading, I will post my own thoughts.
I hope to rediscover how reading a book when you’re young is never quite like reading it when you’re older.