To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway

At some point this year, I decided in a slow-motion kind of way, to write a blog post after finishing each book I read. Previously, I’d done this in fits and starts. I find it hard because, in Chico Chica, I have a band which is the sole vehicle of my artistic expression and so, that takes priority. So why am I writing this? I’m not recommending books, neither am I trying to become a tastemaker. This is an account of me, muddling my way through life, trying my absolute utmost to write and perform great songs and reading in the hope it might give me a handle on this mysterious thing called life.

I had a look around the net to see if there was anyone else doing something similar. It just seems to be English literature students whose writing smells of the lecture halls of academia and who indulge in activities like ‘sentence diagramming’. Look it up. Second thoughts, don’t. 

Barbara Snow spent fifteen years with the Roberto Pla Latin Jazz Ensemble. The band rode the crest of the big latin craze which swept London in the late eighties and nineties. Barbara brought this salsa sensibility to Chico Chica. We all knew from the very beginning it was going to be a latin band. On  Mélangerie, the first album, Barbara’s salsa expertise and sensibility found expression most notably in Isla Soñada. You can hear it here:

You could say that in Chico Chica’s music, there is ‘the glow of Havana’. This is a phrase which occurs in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and then again in To Have and Have Not. I can’t get that phrase out of my head. 

When I first started reading To Have and Have Not, the dialogue seemed a bit wooden, and too much like a 1940s Hollywood movie. I should state here, that I have never been much of a cinephile. I average about one movie a year. As I read on I enjoyed the novel more as I suspected it was Hollywood which was copying Hemingway rather than the other way round. That’s how influential Hemingway was. I noticed this especially when I used to read Raymond Chandler. 

You can never say a man is great until he’s dead and I only realised To Have and Have Not was a great book when I read the last sentence. Its greatness crept up on me. Some time this year, I will read Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana to keep this Cuba theme going. Maybe I’ll buy a bottle of Bacardi and try to acquire a taste for it. 

Chico Chica will be appearing at Forty Hall Farm on Saturday 17th May, to celebrate the work of the Pioneer Health Centre:


We’re on at 1.00pm.



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