Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Literary Anniversary, of sorts...

Ernest Hemingway has been the topic of much blogger buzz lately. Several of us have recently read A Moveable Feast (I promise my thoughts will be posted soon) and quite a few more have talked about the movie Midnight in Paris.

According to The Writer's Almanac:

Ernest Hemingway committed suicide 50 years ago today. He had found writing increasingly difficult after World War II, and he was also in pain from injuries he'd suffered during a safari in Africa. He had left his home in Cuba in 1960, after Fidel Castro's regime forced him out, and had settled in Ketchum, Idaho. He was increasingly anxious and depressed. He entered the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, twice in the eight months before to undergo electro-convulsive therapy, but he hated it and found it ineffective. He shot himself in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun; his widow, Mary, insisted at first that his death was accidental, and that he'd just been cleaning the weapon, but later she admitted it had been a suicide.

His granddaughter Lorian wrote in her memoir, Walk on Water (1998):
"I had visited my grandfather's grave in Ketchum the summer I had caught the marlin, arriving at the small hillside cemetery on a scalding July day, a half-finished fifth of vodka in one hand, a filter-tip cigar in the other. I'd made my way to the simple marble slab marked by a white cross, and stood swaying over the marker for a long time, expecting epiphany, resolution, a crashing, blinding flash of insight. ... I wanted to say something of value to the old man, perhaps that I had met a dare he had set forth by example, but nothing came. The neck of the bottle grew hot in my hand. I tipped it to my mouth, taking a long swig, then poured the rest, a stream of booze, clear as Caribbean waters, at the head of the marker. 'Here,' I said, 'have this,' and walked away."


  1. I love the Writer's Almanac! Looking forward to your thoughts on A Moveable Feast (and I just found out that Midnight in Paris is playing at the vintage cinema in my neighborhood. Joy!)

  2. There was a big obituary on him yesterday in the newspaper! I wonder what he would think to know he was still missed?

  3. The Nick Adams stories have always been the Hemingway that's spoken most clearly to me, the work that I can read for its own merits without having to continually push away the stereotype of Hemingway the misogynist. However, my son did his year-long author study in AP English of Papa and came away appreciating fiction for the first time since all the dead dog books in elementary school ruined his enjoyment of story.

  4. I loved A Moveable Feast and the insight it provided into Hemingway's early years in Paris. I recently read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, a fictional account of those early years from the perspective of Hadley, Ernest's first wife. I really enjoyed it. I hope to see Paris at Midnight soon.

  5. Sad anniversary. Thanks for sharing the passage from his granddaughter's memoir. Seems so appropriate. Hemingway was truly a gifted writer and a troubled soul - the two go together far too often to be coincidence.

  6. I'm sure he appreciated that vodka that his granddaughter poured for him. Hemingway always makes me think of guns and booze.

  7. JoAnn, thanks for posting more about Ernest Hemingway. I've so loved reading A Moveable Feast this week, and this post added greatly to my knowledge of him. How tragic that both he and F. Scott Fitzgerald were unable to write after such great success, and that they both became entrenched in depression. So often a person who's 'great' truly suffers inside, and that makes me sad. Actually, I'm sad for all depressed people as my first husband suffered from that disease before he, too, died.

  8. I always thought I didn't like Hemingway. I had prejudices towards his novels after reading The Old Man and The Sea in school. How can you understand Hemingway with 10? But then came The Sun Also Rises and changed my mind.
    Need to read that memoir.

  9. You know how I feel about A Moveable Feast. My MIL is the true Hemingway fan; we have all of her copies of the novels, which I must give another shot. The stories take my breath away, however. He had a particular knack for the form (suited his terse style, I guess).

    Love the anecdote by the granddaughter. It seems the perfect tribute...

  10. I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on the latest one you read and now I must check out the Almanac link you posted!

  11. I've always wanted to visit the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West.....especially interested in seeing all the cats...LOL

    I have several more of his novels to read on my shelves.

  12. Audrey - The Writer's Almamac is the best! Hope you get to see Midnight in Paris - I'm sure you'd love it.

    Rhapsodyinbooks - I saw quite a few other articles after I posted this yesterday. A very noteworthy day.

    Lynne - Love the idea of a yearlong author study in AP! Two of my 3 took AP lit and lang, but never had a choice like that as part of the happy it had such a positive impact on your son.

    GirlsWannaRead - With A Moveable Feast so fresh in my mind, this is the perfect time to read A PAris Wife. Hope you get to see Midnight in Paris soon. It's a wonderful movie.

    Julie - Definitely more than coincidence when it comes to great writers/troubled souls. The more I read about author's lives, the more of a connection I see (thinking of the Richard Yates bio most recently).

    Softdrink - Guns and booze for me, too. Loved how he was portrayed in Midnight in Paris!

    Bellezza - I think depression is often taken too lightly... people fail to realize how serious and debilitating it can be. There also seems to be such a strong association between the disease and creativity. (Hugs to you)

    Ivana - My appreciation for Hemingway has definitely grown since I was a student.

    DS - I think Hemingway's style is especially well-suited to short stories, too, and really should make a point of reading more. A Moveable Feast was an exceptional reading experience!

    Staci - From the website, you can sign up for a daily email. I love it!

    Diane - We had a chance to visit Hemingway's home many years ago (I'm thinking 20!). Haven't had the opportunity to return to Key West, but I'd love to see it again.

  13. We were at his place in Idaho many years ago. The spot where he committed suicide is marked and we found his grave. It's sad that there were so few options then for pain management and for depression.

  14. Just reading about Hemingway's drink of choice but what a bad choice all of the alcohol was for someone suffering from depression.

  15. I am looking forward to reading your thoughts. I also finished reading it while I was in Paris---at a cafe on the sidewalk! I visited Closerie and had a great time. This is a great companion for anyone who considers going to Paris.

  16. Beth F - Definitely a sad situation then...more treatment options now, but still not perfect.

    Lisa - I loved the link you posted!

    Matt - What a perfect reading experience that must have been!!


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