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Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Hemingway’

The Hemingways in Pamplona with friends during the trip that inspired The Sun Also Rises.

As the Hemingway Turns …

When I last left you all, I was in the middle of reading The Paris Wife (see previous posts for reference). I’ve since finished that, read The Sun Also Rises in about two days and am at this writing about 125 pages into Hemingway by Kenneth Lynn, a 600-plus page biography that got pretty good reviews on Amazon.

First I want to amend my thoughts on The Paris Wife. While I stand by what I said, that last maybe quarter of the book was incredible. It should have been the majority of the story instead of such a small part. The emotional pain Hadley experiences at the end of her marriage, facing the fact that Ernest chose his mistress over his family, all of it was heartbreaking. I bawled like a baby over it. It’s one of those literary moments that haunts people for life. It made up for the other 75 percent of the book, which was only so-so and I probably wouldn’t have continued reading if I wasn’t a writer fascinated by Hemingway’s processes. Based on that last 25 percent, I recommend the book. Plus, it was a best-seller so I’m probably in the minority in my disappointment. I generally am.

I moved on from there to Sun. I chose it for my foray into the world of Ernest Hemingway because it fit with Paris. During his time in Paris, while married to Hadley, they went annually to the Pamplona running of the bulls festival and attended bull fights (I won’t get into my thoughts on that cruel barbarity). During one of those trips, several friends joined them. There is a photograph from that trip that I come across often when doing my google searches to help educate myself about the history of this man that comes up often of the small group sitting in a cafe in Pamplona.

Sun is about that trip. He changed some names and a few details and left his wife entirely out of the story, but otherwise, it’s about those people and that trip. And it is not flattering! I think maybe he left Hadley out because he loved her and the characters in that book are just … awful. In the end, he gave all the royalties from the book to Hadley so I guess in the end, she got to be part of the story.

Sun isn’t considered Hemingway’s greatest work and it was a strange book in that there really was no plot. Or maybe a very weak plot that the reader has to kind of search out. It was just a story about a series of events that happened to this group of people. But I still enjoyed it on a certain level. Almost like a course in creative writing without having to sit in a classroom.

I’m discovering how very much I have in common with this man. It’s all very strange. I’ve always said that my time as a journalist was the best thing that ever happened to my creative writing style. The quick, active, short way one must write newspaper articles — getting to the point quickly and using limited space to convey a vast amount of information — translates excellently into short story and novel-writing. One learns to not waste words or over-describe. Turns out, Hemingway learned the exact same lesson in the exact same way I did. He began his writing career in journalism and he learned to write fiction by emulating the journalistic style.

I hate to compare myself to him because he’s considered so widely to be one of the best writers in history and especially of the twentieth century and I haven’t even published a short story. Maybe I’m arrogant in my comparison, but I see so much of my style in his. I see the writer I maybe am not yet but want to be some day. There is a reason he keeps popping up in my life lately. I firmly believe that.

Hemingway was born and spent his early childhood in this house in Oak Park, Illinois.

But the similarities don’t end with the writing style. His biography goes into descriptions of the home in which he was born (his maternal grandparents’ home) and the one his parents built after his grandfather’s death. I had to look them both up and found that his birth home, aside from the color, is exactly the house I picture in my head that features prominently in one of the novels I’m writing. It’s a Victorian with a cupola and a wrap-around porch.

But I’m not mean enough to write as he did. In his early days he didn’t even bother changing people’s names in the stories he wrote about them. At one point in the biography, Lynn says that Hemingway’s favorite nickname in high school was “Hemingstein” because he was “enough of an anti-Semite” to find it funny to make fun of Jewish names.

That made me pretty angry. I started thinking that I should stop reading his work. It made me wonder why he’s so beloved. But then I pulled back and remembered that Gertrude Stein was his very close friend and mentor and also godmother to his first child. And later in the book, it turns out he dated a Jewish girl when he returned from World War I. And then I started thinking about how he wrote about people who were supposed to be his friends and how he treated people who went out of their way to help him (who were not Jewish) and I realized that Hemingway just didn’t like anyone.

This post has been kind of rambling and it’s really just becoming a commentary of my thoughts as I read and learn, so there’s no good way to end it. I will just say … Until next time. Hopefully by then I’ll have finished the biography and read a couple more Hemingway books. The Old Man and the Sea is up next, but that’s only 125 pages, so I’ll probably finish it in a day.

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Although a work of historical fiction, my understanding of The Paris Wife is that it’s pretty historically accurate. It’s supposed to be about Hadley Richardson, but to be honest, I’m not finding her to be all that interesting and I haven’t really been loving the book.

Still, I keep reading.

I keep reading not because the story of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway is compelling or interesting or exciting — it’s not. I keep reading not because author Paula McLain paints a beautiful, compelling picture of the places and people she writes about — she doesn’t. I keep reading because of the details about Hemingway’s writing process.

I’m learning from this book that I’m normal. I’m learning that maybe my inability to produce a great work of literature is not a lack of talent but a lack of the proper life circumstances.

Ernest Hemingway could not produce fiction while holding a job. He could not concentrate and write in his own home. He needed to be free of obligations and free of reminders of responsibility in order to produce the work for which he is famous. I see myself so much in the portrait McLain paints of Hemingway and while it could be disheartening (since there’s no way that any time soon I will be able to quit my job and move to Europe to do nothing but write) it makes me feel better. It makes me feel as though I’m maybe not alone in this solitary endeavor. It makes me feel like it will happen someday.

I can’t do what he did. But knowing the problem is half the battle. Now I need to devise a plan and fix it.

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Hadley and Ernest

He just keeps coming up, over and over. I’ve given in.

I edited a children’s story a friend wrote and as a thank you she sent me a gift card to Barnes and Noble. Then another friend gave me the same thing as a birthday gift. I finally made my trip there on Sunday because I knew exactly what I wanted.

Renee over at Motherhood, Music and Beer recommended I read The Paris Wife — she loved it and, well, it’s an historical novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage from his wife’s, Hadley Richardson Hemingway’s, point of view. So I got that and two Hemingway books: The Old Man and the Sea because it’s really short and The Sun Also Rises because it’s about his marriage to Hadley* and thought it would be a good follow-up to The Paris Wife.

Also on Renee’s advice, I rented Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris. In that movie, Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, is a screenplay writer on vacation in Paris with his fiancée and her parents. A lot of the movie is classic Woody. But the main plot is what made the movie for me: Gil goes for a walk through the city and sits down on some steps just as the clock strikes midnight. An old-fashioned car pulls up and several men beckon Gil to get in and ride with them. He does and the vehicle transports him to the 1920s where he meets, well, everyone who was anyone in the literary world in Paris in the 1920s, including of course Ernest Hemingway.

And so it goes and so it goes. I’m about sixty pages into The Paris Wife. So far, I’m not loving it. But reading Hemingway’s words about writing — about his writing — is eye-opening for me. I think I’m starting to understand why this man, this writer, this legend is haunting me.

*The book jacket for Paris made me think this, but turns out this is not the case. The book is about something that happened while Ernest and Hadley were married, but he left her character out altogether.

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In December 2008, I was at a very low point in my life. I went for a walk at a local park and pinned on the bulletin board was a flyer for a one-day New Year’s Day retreat for women. Included were a guided meditation and “vision-boarding.” I’d never heard of it, but decided it sounded like something that would do me some good.

That board still hangs above my desk at work, though I think it’s time to take it down. I attended the same retreat the next year, though a different person led and it wasn’t the same. I never hung that board. The following year, my friend Leslee hosted one of her own since the price had gone up and the quality of that original retreat (where I met Leslee) had gone down. I was out of town and didn’t attend either event.

This year, Leslee hosted again — as I wrote about on Wednesday. It was a renewal. I felt as energized as I did the first time, four years ago. I actually cut out so many images that I ended up with two boards and I’ve spent the last several days analyzing them.

I’ve already discussed the Ernest Hemingway phenomenon, so I won’t get into that again. But there were other interesting things about this year’s board.

The very first board I did contains, in the lower left not quite corner the question, “Where do YOU want to be?” If I remember correctly, it came from an article about travel. This year, I found exactly that question in an advertisement. I didn’t remember right away that I’d included it on my first board, but this time it went in the upper left corner, kind of a title and lead-in to everything else.

I found a lot of references to England, which is, really, exactly where I want to be. I’m very strongly drawn to that country, though I’ve never set foot in it. British accents to me just sound like the way people are supposed to talk. I adore British television shows, British books, every photograph I’ve ever seen of the British Isles causes my stomach to do flip-flops. I can’t explain it. I don’t feel that way about any other part of the world, whether I’ve been there or not. And it found its way to my board this year.

My first board has Tuscany and a lot of outer space imagery. Tuscany is beautiful (from what I can tell), but there are no stomach flip-flops.

I’ve been thinking a lot of New York City, as well. My second novel (assuming I ever write the first) is set there and I would like to live there while writing it. I found the name of that city in a magazine. It’s interesting because I like New York City, but have always said I could never live there.

I tried very hard this year to let my spirit lead me rather than just choosing images and words I liked or felt should be there. That’s difficult to do while conscious. I tried my best, though. And it seems like it worked well. I found a lot of images and words about really living life. I feel like both my boards are talking to me in a way the previous two didn’t. Still, some of the repeating themes are difficult to ignore.

Nature is a trend I see from year to year and of course books and writing and even dance appears on more than one of my vision boards. Those things are pretty obvious. Then there are the waterfalls, which are on all three of my boards and a major theme on my Pinterest page.

I find it funny, though, that I wrote a blog post last week about saying no more often in order to concentrate on achieving goals that have eluded me for too long and in one of the magazines, I found the admonishment to “just say no.”

“Whirling through the centuries” popped out at me, as the plot of my first novel (if it ever gets finished) ties strongly to that idea.

But of all the empowering and inspiring words and images I found, the most profound thing that jumped off the page and onto my board was something else, something that expressed perfectly my biggest fear, the thing that holds me back, the thought that’s always mulling around the back of my mind:

Somewhere deep inside, you think it’s a matter of time before you stumble and ‘they’ discover the truth: ‘You’re not supposed to be here.’

I write. I’m pretty good at it, I think. Sometimes I stumble across something I wrote years or months or weeks ago and it takes my breath away that it’s so good, because I know that at the time I wrote it, I didn’t think so. But deep down, I think that my first impulse was correct.

I write. But I am not a writer.

I have to fight against that.

This second collage is a little more vague and I’m not sure what I think of it, except I like how it looks. I cut out that blue couch in the lower right because the color blue seemed to be hovering around me for a few days. It wasn’t a sad blue. It was just blue.

The rest mostly symbolizes my wanderlust and love of books and cooking and general creativity. The photo in the upper left is the now famous “Hemingway Collection.”

I suppose only time will reveal if this collage is more than just a pretty picture.

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Ernest Hemingway 1957 by Yousuf Karsh

He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!

I never got much into Ernest Hemingway’s writing. He was never one to interest me. I’ve been to his house. Well, outside of his house. The line was long and I had limited time, so the tour did not happen. I was not disappointed.

Now I think  I should have gone in. Mr. Hemingway is stalking me this week. I’m sure it must mean something. It started on Sunday, New Year’s Day. My friend Leslee, to raise money for her church youth group and to share in a yearly ritual, hosted a vision-boarding and meditation retreat. I’d done this twice before, though not with Leslee leading. I’ll write more about that later this week, but this part could not wait.

A vision board, in short, is a collage. The one done on New Years Day is supposed to intuitively inform the year to come. One begins by flipping through magazines and finding photos and words that jump out and ask to be included on the board. I went through probably twenty magazines. Out of one, I pulled a furniture advertisement in which the featured room looked like a place I would be very happy. From another, I pulled a photograph of a grey tabby cat. As most of my readers know, I do love cats. There’s something spiritual about them.

I set these images aside as I continued searching magazines and finally, when I was ready to start putting my collage together, I went back to my images to trim them up pretty and arrange them on the board.

Hemingway with one of his famous six-toed cats.

That’s when I noticed.

At first, it was just that in the upper right corner of the furniture ad, it said, “The Earnest Hemingway Collection.” I thought nothing of it as I snipped that off. It wasn’t the part of the photo that I wanted for my board. I didn’t throw it away right away because I wasn’t near a trash can. Good thing.

I came to the photo of the cat, which was attached to a photo of a butterfly that I’d also liked. The caption for both photos was in the corner of the butterfly photo. I was about to snip that off, but then I read it. The cat was one of the famous six-toed cats that live on the Hemingway Estate in Key West.

I decided to cut his name out of both photos and glue them onto my vision board. Then I decided to just wait and see what the following year holds and what the significance is of coming across his name twice like that without even realizing in the moment that I had.

And then yesterday he struck again. I went to Pinterest and began looking through the varied and really cool things the people I follow posted since I’d last looked. About halfway down the main page, I found that someone had pinned a 1957 photographic portrait of … Ernest Hemingway.

I repinned it to my own board. I didn’t even have a category under which it fit properly, but I knew I had to have it. I pinned it under “Book Ideas.” I couldn’t think of anywhere else even remotely close.

It was sign number three. And I still don’t know what it means.

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