Smitten: Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway The Sun Also Rises

The motivating factor of my visiting Key West was seeing Hemingway’s house (and cats – don’t forget the cats). I could babble on for eternity about the man and his writings, even though I’ve still not read all of his stories.

Hemingway The Sun Also Rises
My first encounter with Ernest Hemingway was a bit late in life; sure, I had been forced to read “The Old Man and the Sea” in middle school, but closed its cover rather unimpressed. It was a story about an old man on a fishing trip. Fishing was about as interesting and exciting to me as golf: it was neither interesting nor exciting, not in the least bit. It was boring. And so I didn’t think twice about that short story by the textbook-summarized man named Hemingway.

I caught glimpses of his name on “100 Books You Should Read” list for the next few years, but it wasn’t until I was studying literature in university that I met Hemingway again, and even then, it was not in the way that you would think.

I had been trying to convince a friend at the time that The Great Gatsby was indeed not a horrid book, but rather lovely and one worthy of reading. After getting sucked in completely, there was a time where I had to get my hands on everything related to The Lost Generation. Enter Hemingway, retake two. By the time I sat down and gave my first novel – The Sun Also Rises – a read, I was completely hooked by his short, terse prose and the tenderness that those simple statements could evoke.

Hemingway is one of those authors you either love or hate. His straightforward prose is not for everyone (and yet the teacher in me is adamant that, love or hate, everyone should be able to identify a Hemingway quote after a single sentence by style alone – it’s not as hard as it sounds), but I found myself completely willing to open up my heart to a man who loved fishing and big game and who was an overall early 1900s bro who I probably wouldn’t have much in common with. I have no idea how he makes me feel so deeply when his stories are framed in ways that I don’t particularly understand (bullfighting? war? Did I mention fishing?).

Just last month I reread “The Old Man and the Sea”. I wasn’t overly excited going into it as, yes, it is still a story about fishing and, yes, I still find fishing boring; but this time something clicked. Frankly, I don’t think any 13-year old can really grasp the complexities of emotion represented in “The Old Man and the Sea”, that kind of perseverance and pride; it takes a certain level of worldliness and experience, if you will, to be able to appreciate the short story on more than an “it has themes of perseverance”-level.

I guarantee you, there is no other author who could make me cry over an old man’s struggle with adversity, no author who could make something so personally out of touch feel palpable and relevant to a 20-something year old girl in the year 2014.

Hemingway 101: short, simple sentences; lots of ‘and’s; war/bullfighting/sport; still makes you cry. Want to write like Hemingway? Or perhaps you’re living in a Hemingway novel?

Smitten is a biweekly feature where Kristin shares her latest obsessions, be they television shows, a new webseries, intriguing persons, internet memes, or artisanal cheeses. Nothing is off limits. Get your geek on.