Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. Hemingway

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." ~Ernest Hemingway

When I was a youth in elementary school, no older than second or third grade, a magician came to our school once and did a little show. Like my peers, I was amazed. I remember none of the specific tricks he did so much as the joy on his face as he amazed us, and as an adult I understand what made him smile so as he lit up the eyes of a hundred kids who leaned forward with eagerness and awe.

Near the climax of the show he was taking playing cards one at a time and fanning them into fives and sixes. Then he'd take one of these and make five more out it. It was incdredible to see all these cards flying all over, the entire floor littered with them as he took his bow.

At the end of the show kids rushed up to the front. Most went to the magician, I went to the cards. Picking one up, I pressed it between my finger and thumb. Voila! It split apart into three. These cards were so super thin that five cards were less than the thickness of a regular playing card. It was an aha moment for me.

I mention all this because a similar experience occurred for me as a young man reading Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time. As I read this collection of stories for the first time I couldn't help but be gripped by the power of Hemingway's prose. Upon completion, I immediately set about reading the stories again. During my third time through, during the tension-filled confrontation in The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife, I stopped and rushed the stage. I re-read that page a half dozen more times, trying to understand. How did he do that? The tension was so palpable yet there were no words designed to manipulate the reader into feeling that tension. (You know, the way Hollywood puts a music score in there to make you feel the appropriate emotion as a viewer.) The writing just showed the reader what was unfolding.

This experience of reading In Our Time was a critical experience in my development as a writer. For this alone I am indebted to the man.

Today Papa Hemingway would be 112. He was part of that Lost Generation of writers who returned from the Great War, back before it was WWI. And as that war changed the shape of the world, so his writing changed the shape of literature. Love him or hate him, he was possibly the single most influential writer of the past two centuries.

Here are some links to other pages about Hemingway for those who wish to read more.

1. Hemingway's Paris
M Denise C is a blogger who has read more by and about Hemingway than anyone I know. I am certain that if you visit her blog today she will be giving a tribute to Papa. This is a link to a review she wrote January 1 of a book titled Hemingway's Paris. It was no surprise to see Woody Allen attempt to take us there in his current film Midnight in Paris. (I commend that to you as well.)

2. Top 5 Tips for Writing Well
A blog entry with some tips for writers from the master.

3. Five Minutes with a Hemingway Fan
This is a blog entry in which I interview M. Denise C. It yields some good insights for people who appreciate Hemingway's importance.

4. The Red Scorpion Fan Page
O.K., this has nothing to do with Mr. Hemingway, other than the fact that yours truly is preparing his first novel for publication and I was greatly influenced to excel as a writer as a result of Hemingway's stories and novels. The Red Scorpion will in September be available on Kindle and Nook, the first 12 chapters free.

Enjoy your day, and read on.


M. Denise C. said...

Thanks for the mention and links, E!!

Also, congratulations on your book. How exciting!!

The great writing of EMH is more popular than ever, I believe. And the short stories are absolutely the best of his work, in my opinion.

Pedro H. Albuquerque said...

EMH, truly extraordinary writer and a man of his time.