Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ernest Hemingway, 50 years later

Maybe this 50th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's suicide would be a good time for me to get back to reading the author I most admired as a teenager and young adult. I had veered away from my youthful fascination with Hemingway, the hard-driving, macho writer who could turn the simplest of sentences into lines of beauty. Far more than his illustrious contemporaries, I thought Hemingway's work was the epitome of good writing, and I devoured all of his major novels and particularly loved his memoir of Paris, "A Moveable Feast."

Only after I received a hardback copy of the memoir to replace my dog-eared paperback, did I re-read the book once more and find it wanting. The story of Ernest and Hadley and baby "Bumby" and F. Puss the cat, which had seemed so alluring the first time around, now seemed a bit juvenile and self-indulgent.

Nevertheless, Hemingway's terse, simple prose style has had a greater influence than any other author's on my own writing style. Hemingway honed his writing as a newspaper reporter, and I pursued a newspaper career with that thought in mind. I frequently advised young writers with Hemingway's maxim: "Write one true sentence" and then another and another.

Hemingway biographer A.E. Hotchner reminded me this week of Hemingway's untimely death (at my current age) and brought back my admiration and wonder of this man who, in his day, was even bigger than his fictional characters. I faintly remember the television news announcement of Hemingway's death, initially reported as an accidental shooting. At the time, I had never read any of his work. A few years later, a television viewing of the movie "A Farewell to Arms" turned me to the novel, and I was hooked.

I've not read much of Hemingway's short stories, and a volume on my bookshelf of his short fiction is now luring me. It's an appropriate way to remember him on this 50th anniversary of his death.

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