I haven’t read every word Ernest Hemingway wrote, but I’ve read enough to know that he was the real deal. A king among knaves, on the page at least.
In my flippant teens and twenties, I fatuously waved him aside as Fitzgerald’s lesser rival. But I was an idiot. I reconsidered after revisiting his work in advance of our visit to Hemingway House in Key West and again when we tracked him down to his boyhood haunt of Petoskey, Michigan. There, we peered longingly into the windows of the Hemingway museum which, unfortunately, was shuttered on a Sunday afternoon.
He was what some called “complex”. Or maybe he was just brutish, pompous, boorish, narcissistic…pick one or all of the above.
But the writing!
One of my favorite Hemingway quotes: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. And this he did, over and over again. If, like me, you’re not enamored of A Farewell to Arms, move on to The Sun Also Rises or discover To Have and Have Not. Still unimpressed? Listen to Donald Sutherland reading The Old Man and the Sea. And, should you remain unmoved by that, go directly to For Whom the Bell Tolls. It is, unquestionably, a masterpiece of American literature.
Perhaps he bled too much at that typewriter. Or had one too many concussions (CTE?) along with far too much booze and oh so many personal demons. After 1960 he found he could no longer write, and in July of 1961, he blew his brains out with a shotgun.
I wasn’t sure I felt his presence in Key West, or in Petoskey, but I felt it this week in Sun Valley where we visited his memorial next to Trail Creek. As literary pilgrimages go, this one is an A+.
Looks like many others have celebrated communion with Papa at his Ketchum Cemetery gravesite:
When we arrived at the Hemingway Memorial we encountered one other pilgrim, a young man lost in thought in this lovely, silent place. I asked him if he was a fan and he nodded, affirmatively. “What’s your favorite?”, I asked. He didn’t miss a beat. “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Definitely the right answer.