Hemingway and “The Lost Generation”

“In those days we did not trust anyone who had not been in the war, but we did not completely trust anyone.”

– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


The term “The Lost Generation” was used to describe a group of literary figures of the 1920’s living in Paris. It was used to describe writers who came of age after World War I and before for the Great Depression.

Hemingway made the term popular in his novel, “The Sun Also Rises.” Gertrude Stein gave him the term when describing the displaced generation of World War I veterans who lost their innocence in the war. She acted as a literary godmother to many of the writers of this generation.

The Sun Also Rises

The group rejected the post-World War I values of America. They believed due to the carnage of World War I there was a loss of morals. The phrase “do good unto others and have good done unto you” was no longer true. The idea of hope was lost.

World War I

The Industrial Revolution would change warfare in World War I (WWI). Death was caused killing on a massive scale- tens of thousands of men killed in a single day.

At the Battle of the Somme, one of the largest of the war, 1 July and 18 November 1916 more than a million men were wounded or killed. J.R.R. Tolkien was wounded in this battle, and it greatly influenced his writing of the “The Lord of the Rings.”  Nothing like this killing was seen on this scale before.

On the first morning of the battle, more than 20,000 British Soldiers were killed, and 37,000 were wounded. In the end, it gained the allies only 8 miles of land.

Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme

There was a thought at the start of the industrial age that machines should serve humanity. The idea of machines to slaughter people was never possible before. Tanks, gas, submarines, planes, machine guns- overwhelming massacre of humanity by the very machines that would be used to serve it.

WWI was a turning point in history because technology was used for mass violence on an almost industrial scale. Many veterans, including Hemingway, Tolkien, Fitzgerald and C.S. Lewis were changed forever by the violence of what they saw.

The Movement

Hemingway said, “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.”

The artistic energy in Paris in the1920’s was immemorial for its time and unsurpassed in its creativity. The decade exploded with life full of experimentation and promise.

Genius thrived, classics were created, and careers were made. The men and women who made this possible left their nation behind. Yet, in their writing captured its spirits. In self-imposed exile, they wrote some of the most acclaimed and influential literature of all time.

Poets and writers worked to recreate the literary form. Hemingway worked to create a single, simple style of prose. This is how it began.

Before World War I

On the eve WWI, American students immersed themselves in the works of European literature. All of them were descended from the “old country.” They hoped to discover their own artistic voice.

Young American writers found little in their homeland to influence their writing. They read about epic events in the books of the French writer Émile Zola and Russian writer Leonard Tolstoy.

They were educated in the values of old-world Europe. They learned from European books the ideals of courage, valor, and hope. As WWI started and got worse, they felt compelled to save that culture. The culture of their fathers and grandfathers.

The Ambulance Service

Archibald MacLeish was an American poet, writer, and future Librarian of the US Congress. He joined the ambulance service in France. A fresh out of high school Hemingway followed to escape his Midwest upbringing.

Archibald MacLeish

The Red Cross Ambulance service in France and Italy almost served as a college extension courses for romantic Americans wanted to take part in the great adventure. The ambulance service gave them great food, congenial experiences, furloughs to Paris and uniforms to meet girls.

John Dos Passos went to the famed prep school, Choate Rosemary Hall. After graduating from Harvard University in 1916, he served as an ambulance driver in the war.

John Dos Passos

As a modernist writer, and most overlooked, he became connected with the Lost Generation. He was drinking buddies with F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Harvard classmate was E. E. Cummings. He was a longtime friend of Ernest Hemingway.

It was on Dos Passos recommendation that Hemingway would move to Key West, FL.

The Aftermath of War

Europe was lost in the carnage of WWI and destroyed. Amid the destruction of Victorian Europe, Dos Passos and the other writers developed left-leaning politics that left them against war and in support of workers’ rights.

As ambulance drivers, these young Americans saw war at its worst. They served in the trenches, they saw disfigured soldiers, and watched the flower of European society die in mass slaughter.

Dos Passos was at the battle of Verdun. MacLeish lost his brother. Three months after the war he found him lying in a ditch in Belgium in his full uniform. It destroyed him.

These aspiring poets and writers watched the destruction of their beloved Europe. Gone was the world they had read about. In 1919 they returned home.

Back Home

America came into the war only in the last 18 months. Over 100,000 Americans were killed and twice that number wounded. But due to America’s geographical isolation and rich mineral resources, the country prospered while Europe was in shambles.

The casualties for the British was 900,000 killed and more than 2 million wounded. France lost 1.3 million men and 4 million wounded. Germany had similar numbers with double wounded. America had largely been untouched by the war.

We start to see the first glimpse of the superpower that America would become. America refused to join the League of Nations.

While they had been gone, the country had changed. The Industrial Revolution is in full swing in American, and the idea of Prohibition starts. The stock market was booming. A time similar to the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Many American veterans felt they had sacrificed for nothing. The American WWI vets felt disenchanted. Their values changed by their experience. They felt lost in a haze of aimlessness.

They felt that no one understood what they had experienced. No one knew who they were. This is decades before we understood such psychological trauma. Many of them had several jobs and felt restless.

The Return to Paris

Writing was a time-honored impossibility in America. Very few writers managed to make a living enough to support their families. Rumors of cheap living overseas got back to the veterans because Europe was in shambles. The American dollar was very strong due to the booming US economy.

Graduates of Ivy League schools were once again influenced by the books they had read in college. The chance to return to Paris and to experience the stuff they had read about was too much of a temptation to resist.

Many of the WWI vets had fond memories of Paris from the war. The first writers of the Lost Generation went forward to their future in Paris.

The Changing Values

After the destruction of Europe, there was a relief of being alive. Everyone wanted to celebrate. It was the reverse of survival guilt- it was a Survivor Celebration.

The American writers walked into a city that had a wild desire to dance, drink, to squander what little they had and to have sex. A gasp of relief to feast on life.

All the rules were broken both social and taboo. It was an atmosphere where anything went. There was no judgment because there was a sense of doom because they all realized life is short. It was an environment of changing ideas.

Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach

Picasso was redefining art. Gertrude Stein was reimaging prose. French saloons are the central point of conversation and gossip in Franco society.

Stein’s saloon at Rue des Fleurs was constantly busy with people coming and going. It was a mandatory stop for culture and talks of avant-garde art.

Stein with her life partner Alice Toklas loved to entertain. Her guest list reads like a who’s who of literary and art greatness in the early 20th century.

Gertrude Stein and Alice Tolkas

Pablo Picasso was a central character early on in Stein’s saloon. His Cubism would go on influence an entire generation of painters. He painted a famous portrait of Stein.

Sylvia Beach’s bookstore “Shakespeare and Company” was a literary crossroads. A Princeton grad in WWI she had been a nurse. She had a soft spot for WWI veterans.

Her store was a central hub for the growing number of returning veterans. They used her store mail, money, and inspiration.


The Seine River divides Paris into two parts- the left bank and the right bank. May of the lost generation artists were drawn to the left bank of the Seine in Paris due to the cheap apartments and cafes. The right bank was the decadent part of the city where all the hotels were.

As they arrived many of the writers began to write. MacLeish observed that the youth of Europe had been slaughtered. Paris was the reaction to this carnage.

Death of a generation implied the death of tradition. It was the start of the Modernist movement. Modernism is characterized by a self-conscious break with traditional styles of poetry and art. Modernist writers experimented with literary form and expression, adhering to Ezra Pound’s maxim to “Make it new.”

Liberated from the tradition artists and writers in Paris sought to make art new. They weren’t sure how to do it. Ezra Pound was a poet of immense talent. He translated French, Chinese and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics into modern prose.

Ezra Pound

A restless and energetic man he edited T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” into a tight, sharp poem. The haunting poem invokes images of a generation living in the aftermath of war.

The poem was the first successful product of a Midwestern American living in Paris in the 1920’s. It would not be the last.

Learning the Craft

James Joyce was an Irishman living in Paris. His book “Ulysses” was published by Sylvia Beach on February 1922, in Paris. It is considered to be one of the most important works of modernist literature.

Ulysses’ stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose changed the writers thought of the craft. The book is full of puns, parodies, and allusions, as well as its rich characterizations. It is a funny story the chronicles the appointments and encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in the course of an ordinary day, 16 June 1904.

James Joyce

The book is a highly regarded novel. It is no small fact that the book changed the course of modern fiction. Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1921. He immediately starts honing his writing talent. He borrowed books from Shakespeare and Company.

He read D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence was an English novelist and playwright who wrote about emotional health, vitality, spontaneity, and instinct. His work represents an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity. He loved the themes running through the work.

He read the titans of the Russian literary canon, such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. He felt changed and moved by his experiences.

Under Pound, he found an editor and publisher. He learned to distrust adjectives and to tell a tight story with short, simple sentences. In return, Hemingway taught Pound how to box.

Partying Like Rock Stars

Stein acted as a mentor to Hemingway. She told him a writer see things while a reporter merely sees words.

Stein could not understand the excess of the young writers. She thought that between the ages of 18 to 25 a person becomes civilized. Men who went to war at that age could not be civilized. She continued to play host and teacher in her saloon.

Paris cafés were well lit. You could stay there all day as long as you ordered coffee. Due to the shattered French economy, foreigners were forbidden to take jobs. They milled around sharing ideas.

The Lost Generation drank in excess. They didn’t go home to eat or sleep. They went from café to café to live public lives. Prohibition had started in America.

The two favorite bars frequented by the expatriate Americans was “The Dingo” and “The Jockey.”

MacLeish became acquainted with the silence his poetry required. He spent days in the Paris library reading everything he could. Pound’s advice to his friend was to read and to get to the European classics inside and out.

All of them felt if they immersed themselves in ancient literature while living this extravagant lifestyle they felt they could somewhere with it. Another poet who followed this advice was E.E. Cummings.

In 1917, with the First World War ongoing in Europe, Cummings enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, along with his college friend John Dos Passos.

Due to an administrative mix-up, Cummings was not assigned to an ambulance unit for five weeks, during which time he stayed in Paris. He fell in love with the city, to which he would return throughout his life.

Cummings returned to Paris in 1921 and remained there for two years before returning to New York. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays. He was an artist with numerous drawings and paintings.

Cummings is remembered as an eminent voice of 20th century English literature.

John Dos Passos traveled all over Europe and Asia using Paris as a stopover to rest and plan. He captured all of it in his novel “Manhattan Transfer.” It was all about the tactile experience that could be used to fuel writing.

Manhattan Transfer

The Outcome

American writers living in Paris were writing about their native land. Paris allowed for a deepening of their ideas. It strengthened their concept of what they were doing and what they wanted.

In time they become a collective grouping of the way forward for writing. Even as their writing became more widely read they were not popular with big publishing companies. The long-established publishers saw them as brash and arrogant.

As in James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” small presses allowed a lot of younger writers to get the word out. The best part was with no censorship.

James Joyce

Hemingway’s first set of short stories was published this way. America immediately took notice of the lean, muscular prose and vernacular writing filled dialogue. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who introduced Hemingway to Scribner and Sons publishing.

Scott had already published “This Side of Paradise.” The novel turned the Princeton grad into the chronicler of the Jazz Age. He was an overnight American success story. Along with his wife Zelda, he embodied the excess of the Jazz Age.

Upon arriving in Paris as a successful writer had the opposite effect. He was not seen as a serious writer because he had not suffered for his art. Being poor and scrounging had a certain nobility to it.

Scott was more Right Bank Paris. A place filled with deluxe hotels and gold, white lobbies. This is the image of all that was wrong with America for the Left Bank writers.

Hemingway was the darling of the Left Bank. The real difference between Fitzgerald and Hemingway was the discipline they brought to writing.

South of France

Fitzgerald went to the South of France to finish his book, “The Great Gatsby.” Here he met Sara Murphy. She had dated Picasso and was now married to Gerald Murphy.

Gerald and Sara were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century. With their generous hospitality, they threw legendary parties.

They created a vibrant social circle that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. They made an art out of eating and drinking.

For Scott and Zelda to in the orbit of Gerald and Sara was an exciting thing. This experience would become the basis for “The Great Gatsby.”

Scott and Zelda

Learning a Craft

Hemingway would agonize over his manuscripts. He would make corrections and scribble things out and rewrite. Over and over until he got it just right with the right words.

Hemingway felt that writing was something to be done to perfection. Hemingway felt that writers like Fitzgerald, who changed their writing for slick magazines like Esquire hoarded their talent. Too much could destroy the talent of the telling the truth.

When Hemingway read a rough draft of the “The Great Gatsby” he knew it was a masterpiece.

The Great Gatsby

Hemingway went to Pamplona, Spain for the bullfights. It gave him the material for “The Sun Also Rises.”

His landmark novel of wild years spent in Paris and Spain popularized the expression of “The Lost Generation.” In the work, there are clear, sad overtones of an unhappy ending.

In The End

The phrase along with Hemingway’s book depicted this generation as characterized by doomed youth, hedonism, and uncompromising creativity. The wounding of their generation, both literally and metaphorically, by the experience of war.

To varying degrees, these virtues and vices were to be found in the life-story of nearly every member of the Lost Generation. It was their way of finding sanity in a world gone mad.

Aside from their wild lifestyles, though, what is most striking is the astonishing range, depth, and the influence of the work produced by this community of American expatriates in Paris.

This outburst of creativity was supported by an explosion of small-scale entrepreneurialism in the creative arts. Much of the literature produced by the American Modernists was published by small presses, also run by expatriates, including Shakespeare & Company, Contact Editions, Black Sun Press, Three Mountains Press, Plain Editions, and Obelisk Press.

A list of the canonical works of inter-war American literature produced in Paris, following the landmark publication of Joyce’s Ulysses by Shakespeare & Co. provides a key to the literary future of the United States.

Fitzgerald described the generation as finding, “All Gods dead, all wars fought, all faith in man shaken.”

The Now

I believe we have stumbled on such a unique in time again in the here and now. The new “Lost Generation” are the two million American men and women who have fought for the last decade-plus in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Winston Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Churchill was referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force pilots fighting the Battle of Britain. This pivotal air battle was with the German Luftwaffe with Britain expecting a German invasion.

But the same can be said of the many young Americans who have fought this same war in continuous back-to-back tours. Along the way losing loved ones both “over there” and “back home.” The excess of the “The Lost Generation” can be seen in today’s veterans.

Hemingway at War and In Love- 1917-1924

Hemingway’s life was soon to change with the assassination of an Archduke across the Atlantic. In 1917, the fervor of war called to America’s youth and Hemingway was no exception. The United States Army rejected Hemingway for defective vision. He volunteered for the Red Cross Ambulance Division in Italy.

Hemingway the soldier

Ernest’s first induction to the foreign world was during World War I when he went to Italy. There was a war on. So Ernest didn’t have a chance to absorb all the cultural aspects of what was going on around him. He did make some friendships that were very important later on his life.

In Italy, he experienced his first taste of freedom, drinking and carousing with his fellow drivers. Hemingway soon grew anxious for action. He wrote a friend, “I’m fed up. There is nothing here but scenery and too damn much of that. I’m going to get out of this ambulance section and see if I can’t find out where the war is.”

He was about to get his chance. On the night of July 8th, 1918, the Italians were being bombarded by the Austrians from across the Piave River.

Hemingway was delivering cigarettes and chocolate rations to Italian soldiers when a deadly mortar explosion hit near where he was standing. One man was killed, and Hemingway’s knee and leg were riddled with shrapnel.  He said his life floated out of him like a silk handkerchief being pulled out of a breast pocket.

“I tried to breathe but my breath would not come and I felt myself rush bodily out of myself and out and out and out and all the time bodily in the wind. I went out swiftly, all of myself, and I knew I was dead and that it had all been a mistake to think you just died. Then I floated, and instead of going on I felt myself slide back. I breathed and I was back,” From A Farewell To Arms.

According to legend, Hemingway carried a wounded soldier to safety before he collapsed and lost consciousness. He had only been on the front for six days.

Hemingway’s Wounds and Writing

Hemingway had come close to death and almost had his leg amputated. This experience had a profound impact on his work. His father committed suicide when Hemingway was 29 years-old. Some critics believe that Hemingway’s writing is an attempt to make sense out of the trauma of the wounding. Hemingway was obsessed with death. Death was a theme in much of his work.

Hemingway heroes always struggle with death. A Hemingway hero is often a restless man. Hemingway heroes stay awake at night and sleep during the day. Sleep is an elimination of consciousness. Darkness is the night. The night is like death. A Hemingway hero avoids the dark of night so he doesn’t dream or have to face death in the darkness. Hemingway heroes will leave a light on. Avoiding sleep is avoiding the final sleep of death. This is called the concept of the “nada” or nothingness.

The Hemingway hero alone in the darkness the hero will have to face his demons. The hero wants to escape this by visiting a clean, well-lighted place. Alone, with his nothingness the hero will found that he lived a life unfulfilled. That nothingness is a total denial, a failure to make choices about the trauma that the hero has seen and endured.

Life is emptied of meaning and purpose. The hero’s life, his relationship with God, his relationships with friends and family all don’t matter. All the hero has are monotony, routine and the insomnia of sleepless nights.

Some critics believe that Hemingway’s severe wounding in World War I so traumatized the novelist that his fiction was to a great degree unwitting self-psychoanalysis. Much of Hemingway’s fiction is biography. His writing is both an external and internal passage.

Hemingway falls in love

While recuperating at the Red Cross Hospital in Milan, love found Hemingway. Hemingway was captivated by Agnes Von Kurosky, the volunteer American nurse who inspired his most famous love story.

Hemingway wounded

“She had wonderfully beautiful hair and I would lie sometimes and watch her twisting it up in the light that came in the open door and it shone even in the night as water shines sometimes just before it is really daylight,” from A Farewell To Arms.

The intensity of war heightened his feelings for Agnes, who took a liking to the handsome hero. Hemingway told a friend that it was worth getting wounded so he could meet her. They explored the splendors of Milan together.

Ernest and Agnes

During the months of his recuperation, nineteen-year-old Hemingway became increasing enamored with Agnes. Twenty-seven-year-old Agnes was less sure of her love. Agnes’ letters only hinted at a life together.

Hemingway on crutches

Hemingway took this as a sure sign that she wanted to marry him. He hoped their relationship would continue even though his time in Italy was coming to an end.

On New Year’s Eve, he was discharged from the Red Cross and returned to America. Hemingway returned to Oak Park, a war hero in 1919. He had ample opportunity to work on his storytelling. With little regard for the truth, he told hometown papers that he was actually a soldier in the Italian Army and that he had been personally decorated for bravery by the King of Italy.

Hemingway became a local celebrity. But after experiencing life, love, and death in Italy, he felt stifled in small town Oak Park. His state of mind grew worse in a letter from Agnes.

“I am writing this late at night after a long think by myself and I am afraid this is going to hurt you. I was trying to convince myself that it was a real love affair, because we always seem to disagree and our arguments always wore me out that I finally gave in to you to keep you from doing something desperate. But I am now and always be too old, and that’s the truth, and I can’t get away from the fact that you are just a boy- a kid,” said Agnes in a letter to Ernest.

Grace was troubled by her son’s lack of direction. She kicked Ernest out of the house in an effort in what she considered to be the right path.

Hemingway with cane in Oak Park

“Unless you, my son Ernest, cease your lazy loafing and trading on your handsome face to fool gullible little girls, and neglecting your duties to God and your Savior, Jesus Christ; unless, you come into your manhood there is nothing before but bankruptcy- you have overdrawn,” wrote Grace.

Belittled by his love and his family, a depressed Hemingway still had to face his future. Hemingway wrote to a friend, “My family, God bless them, are wolfing at me to go to college. Frankly, I don’t know where the hell to go.”

Ernest decided to go to Chicago, and with his background as a newspaperman, he wrote articles for the Toronto Star and worked odd jobs.

At a party, he met Hadley Richardson, who was visiting Chicago from St. Louis. Hadley had lived a sheltered life under a protective mother. At 29, many predicted that she would be a spinster.

She gained confidence from the more worldly Hemingway. And unlike Agnes loved him despite their eight-year age difference. Five visits and nine months later they were married in 1921.

Ernest and Hadley

Hemingway was encouraged by author Sherwood Anderson to move to Paris. Anderson gave Hemingway letters of introduction to his literary friends on the Left Bank. Lured by the idea of Paris, Hemingway worked a job as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. In 1922, with Hadley’s trust fund, the couple left for a new life in Europe. Ernest was 23 years old.

A Hemingway Fan

Why am I such a big Hemingway Fan?

That’s a great question. I will try and answer it.

I am a closet Hemingway junkie. His books seem to talk about every part of the human condition- action, sex, lies, deceit, love, lust, bravery and passion. I love them all.

A good book in the hands of an admiring reader is a personal relationship, it’s a love affair. Hemingway gave me ways to think deeply about myself and how I viewed the world, especially war.

In his books, I saw the battlefields of Europe, bullfights in Spain, hunted big game in Africa and fished the palm-fringed paradise of the pristine waters of the Gulf Coast of Cuba. Reading an author you love, you can learn a lot.

Hemingway as an old man

This is what I learned from reading Hemingway.

American Literature

American literature is one of the world’s youngest literary art forms. In many ways, it is an offshoot of English literature, over time it has achieved its own independence and vigor.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the United States produced only a small number of notable writers. In the 19th century, as the country expanded westward and grew, the number increased greatly. By the early 20th century the number of outstanding writers almost became a flood.

Ernest Hemingway may be America’s most famous writer of fiction. His characters and stories made him the most influential writer English prose in the 20th century.

For nearly 40 years he cast a shadow over the American literary scene. His work was imitated, reworked, or assimilated by almost three generations of writers and fans.

The Distinct Hemingway style

Hemingway introduced me to the richness and purpose of spare language. Saying something in simple and succinct prose rather than in an elaborate or, God forbid, boring style.

Hemingway in his prime was de-furnishing, stripping away the English-American writing language of the early 20th Century. He was leaving things out to pull people in. His style soon became the dominant one. We tend to forget that in his time he was an experimental, avant-garde writer.

Hemingway used that style on the oldest American story of them all: the boy who sets out his grand adventure. He made that subject go with his new style of writing. Hemingway is sometimes described as being simple. You will never run to get a dictionary when reading a Hemingway novel.

Hemingway is far from simple. In his writing, he uses pure colors to describe something. The effects are not simple. His simplicity was used to evoke an emotion.

He loved to take sentences and boil them down to their bare bones. His terse, minimalist style of writing stripped away adjectives and, like his heroes got straight to the point.

His clear, simple sentences strike some readers as “hard-boiled” and “tight-lipped.” The opposite is true. His simplicity camouflages deep, hard-to-control passion. A Hemingway scene in short, sharp, with no adjectives text, is a camera “shot” of what the character is doing, seeing, smelling and most important-feeling. Hemingway would describe a scene so you would feel it as if you were really there.

Hemingway as a writer

Hemingway the Writer

Hemingway’s public image as a war correspondent, big-game hunter, and deep sea fisherman competes with his own image as a writer. He is a master of the short story.

To Hemingway, every other pursuit, including drinking, fighting, chasing women, took second place to write. He was almost superstitious about writing. That by talking about it might inhibit his muse. Putting together ideas on paper can be a demanding task.

There are suggestions and tricks of the trade that we can learn by looking at his working habits and advice he gives to aspiring writers. Like in most professions, those who can’t, teach. Writing is something I teach well, lol. By looking at Hemingway’s career as a writer, we can learn a little about the craft.

Man of Letters

First and foremost Hemingway is a literary man- a writer who loved to read books. Sometimes that’s forgotten in all the talk about safaris, deep sea fishing tales and war stories.

Most folks think of Hemingway as a romantic soldier-of-fortune wandering from the bars to the bedrooms of beautiful ladies to watching bullfights. He was a very serious writer, with a self-discipline approaching severe.

The Hemingway Hero Code

There is a cult of manhood around Hemingway. He constantly wrote about the “virility” and “manhood” of his protagonists. He uses action as a way of not having to confront the complexities of the human soul. His heroes deal with their problems by acting, not thinking.

He addresses the way a man should act with personal courage and integrity in the face of inevitable defeat. His heroes are sometimes defeated. Yet, they return to battle and certain death.

Shaping of the Man

Two episodes of Hemingway’s life take shape in his writing. First, a German mortar shell wounded him in World War I. The explosion and wound both nearly kill him.

First, he suffered for months a painful and terrible wound to his right leg. His wounded leg was almost amputated.

Second, his father committed suicide when he was 28 years old. Hemingway was close to his dad, who taught him how to hunt and fish.

The two themes play out again and again in his work.

Dom’s Theory

I am writing a biography of Hemingway based on the provoking theory that Hemingway’s severe wounding in World War I, and the suicide of his dad, so traumatized the novelist that his fiction was to a significant degree unwitting self-psychoanalysis.

As a wounded veteran who lost a beloved father at a young age, these are themes I relate too. The passivity of your emotions due to the chaos of war and overwhelming loss are things avoided at all costs in Hemingway’s stories. His work, I believe, is about him resolving these two issues. Writing about him is my way of resolving my own issues.

His heroes run out- shooting something or getting into a fight. It’s the ultimate act of evasion. I just read and write about Hemingway, lol. Okay, time to move on and finish this one out- stay curious and work hard!

Viking Quest- Fight Club for Wimps

LAFAYETTE, INDIANA- September 17, 2017

I am crawling through nasty, grimy mud. It has a greenish tint and smells like a sewer. I am up to my elbows with 12 other “trainees.” It is 6am and I am having the worst and best time of my life.

“Faces in the mud,” yells our instructor.

The scene is a boot camp called “Viking Quest” (VQ).  It is a workout system that adheres to a simple philosophy: commit to a goal, put in the work and get it done.

From this simple philosophy are three sadistic brothers from Norway teaching us to be Vikings. It is a mind and body-bending experience that teaches you to overcome obstacles through discipline and persistence. It has helped me to reach my fullest potential.

Viking Workout


I am a non-macho broken down fortysomething who was unprepared and out-of-shape when I started VQ. My first workout was a “Welcome to Hell” moment that was a marathon of pain and misery.

We did over 200 squats, 100 push-ups, and 100 sit-ups in the first ten minutes. I learned to keep going, no matter what. It was a gruesome workout on a quiet autumn morning. After the first torture session, I was hooked and have been coming almost every morning for the past month.

“It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it does need to get done,” screamed our lead instructor Olaf. Olaf looks like he walked off the set of the movie “Thor” as a stunt double.

“It’s best to go ugly early, just keep going,” says Olaf.

A tall, blonde muscle man with single digit body fat Olaf, is an excellent instructor who I love to hate. I am his opposite in every way- short, fat, and bald.  Olaf and his two brothers are experts in dishing out pain, but he has a softer side. He encourages and cajoles us through our morning torture sessions. Mud and misery play a big part in teaching some great lessons.

In the Beginning

In a large room on the first floor of a nondescript building in a rundown part of Lafayette, Indiana, a beatdown is about to happen. The space is dark and cavernous, and the overhead lights flicker in the pre-dawn morning, the air is thick with sweat and fear.

A Poster at VQ

Three brothers, all blond, muscle men walk in front of us. On my left is a guy with a shaved head, to my right is a tatted-up lean guy with a mane of wild brown, long-hair. They are smiling. The shaved guy is Mike and tats is Chris.

Chris asks, “You’ve been here before?” I smile nervously and say, “No.” Chris smiles back and says, “Then welcome to ‘the suck’!”

On a makeshift plywood box Olaf, the oldest of the Gunderson brothers, starts yelling out instructions. He walks over to a dry erase board points to some exercise and roars, “Get it done!”

“Welcome to the suck,” I think.

Mike and Chris pick up shields, slap hands, flex muscles then collide in a burst of concentrated fury. Sven and Ragnor, Olaf’s younger siblings, get on either side to give encouragement and criticism of technique.

Things get ugly quick. The other guys around me are veterans of VQ, and they know how to rumble. The violence is a little shocking and lots of fun. This is a not-for-wimps workout. Over the last month, I’ve seen a lot.

I watched a woman howl in agony when she pulled a muscle, tough men cry, and a group of us collapsed in a pool of sweat after a tough run in the “shield wall.” I’ve limped away from a few workouts vowing never to go back, but I always do. VQ is a no-frills extreme workout that caters to the slightly insane masochists.

VQ taught me to ditch my old mindset and embrace the suck. Using a mix of powerlifting, old school military-style calisthenics and practice shields and wooden swords VQ teaches a philosophy. VQ is as much about psychology as it on physicality. It’s not about muscles or looking fabulous in a t-shirt. VQ is about finding yourself.

You learn to thrive on tough love. The workout are done in an old garage with no heat and no air conditioning. Everything about the workout space screams hardcore.

There is a great quote from “Fight Club.” It reads: “Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive.”

Once you’re past all that, the mood in the gym is warm and inviting. Misery loves company, so we all suffer and grow together. Viking Quest has changed my life.


I want to share with you some recent lessons I re-learned from VQ. I can relate to feeling depressed, working a horrible job to making ends meet and being broke. I know how hard it can be to just to go through life on a day-by-day basis. Feeling overwhelmed and wishing for a more comfortable life.

I decided to pray for the ability to endure a hard life. I knew I needed to work and hone my discipline. VQ’s philosophy is aggressive and sounds like a bad infomercial. To create discipline you have to practice it every day.  A positive mindset builds your mind and creates discipline.


Hemingway and My Dad

Writing Class

I am taking a writing class. One of the books we are using is “On Writing Well” by Williams Zinsser. This is a great book to learn how to write. Zinsser gives the following advice: Writing is hard work. A clear, concise sentence is no accident. Clutter is the disease of writing.

We got an exercise to cut 50% of the last thing we wrote. I did that with yesterday’s email. It took me a long time, but it is much better.

I rewrote some sentences over and over again. I fiddled with it until I came as close to 50% as I could. I cut the piece I sent you from 1742 words down to 982. I promise to do this with all future pieces. Your time is valuable.

I did my best to strip away every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that served no function was erased. I think it’s much cleaner without losing any of the original intent. I am learning that good writing is a craft. Clear writing is clear thinking. I hope you like it. Thank you for taking this journey with me as I learn to become a writer.


I love to write. Learning to write well is the hardest thing. I aim for spare and simple prose like in a children’s book for easy reading. I am happy when I do it well. I try to boil down my sentences without spreading them too thin. I throw out adjectives and adverbs.


I imagine each paragraph like the sound a machine gun or a typewriter- tack-tack-tack, then silence. I begin the next paragraph- tack-tack-tack, period. I want the boat to be steady and deliberate.

I am a historian, but I want to write like a novelist. Good writing is telepathy. I want my readers to “experience” my writing in a mental picture they can see, feel and taste.


Few sentences come out right the first time or the fifth time. Good writing gets great through exhaustive editing. I stick to a daily schedule. Writing is a craft, not an art. The more you practice, the better you get.

A Job

I am not a deep thinker. My work has no symbolism or deep meaning. I use my own experience to give credibility to my work. Trying to get names, dates, locations, smells and tastes right is tough. The trick is to pile up items, like bricks, to give a physical effect on the reader with a complexity of emotion.

I want the reader to see my picture in their mind. This is the real magic trick, and it will take a lifetime to master.

The Why

I write about two things: death and my dad. He died when I was twenty-one years old. Freud and Dr. Phil couldn’t unsnarl my relationship with my dad. I felt I was never “man enough” for him.

Father and Son

Vince Oto was born poor and hungry in the Great Depression. His parents were immigrants from Italy. His first memories were about work. He woke up at 4am to deliver newspapers with his older brother, he was four years old.

Hunger and poverty-plagued him throughout his childhood. His family never had enough to eat. There were too many kids (11 brothers and sisters) and not enough food or love. He was no intellectual, but he had uncommon common sense. His instinct was what was important. His family was the most important thing.

My dad was not an emotional man, but he felt deeply about the things he thought worthy of his feelings. He cut straight to the core of things. He was charming and generous, but private and distant. My dad only had a few close friends. He loved them for what they were, not who they were.

My dad had an undiagnosed learning disability. He read words and numbers backwards. Later in life, he discovered he had dyslexia. He felt dumb and slow but was a quick learner. He could watch something physical and do it. He could build engines and fix things in one lesson.

He’d watch it, and learn it. He was smart about people. He said, “People are like books. All you have to do is listen.” His disability made prove himself physically. He was an extraordinary athlete.

His experiences made him tough. He fought for everything he ever had. Physical achievement gave him dignity and self-respect. He went to war and came home a hero.

My dad was a real life, Hemingway hero. He was forty-three years old when I was born. Short and stocky, he was a powerful man. He had thick shoulders, arms, and chest from hard, manual labor. I see his eyes looking back at me in the mirror.

My dad had a patchwork of scars from war and construction accidents. His injuries left him crippled and in constant pain. He never complained. Despite the pain, he lifted weights every day.

He was all hard work and manhood.  When I asked him about his war experiences, he said, “I did my job.” He didn’t talk about what he did. He was a warrior without a war.

A Gentle Father

My dad was gruff, blue-collar man with calloused hands, but he knew how to love a son. He taught me how to box and shoot. As a boy, we talked girls and lifted weights.

Baby boy and dad

Later, our relationship got complicated. We argued. I loved books more than sports. He tried to nurture my inner athlete. I was a wimpy bookworm. He wanted a buddy to hang out with. My world was books, his was hard work and physical courage.

He loved me and told me so many times, but it never seemed enough. He was not a tough-love dad. He shared his hyper-masculine love by teaching me how to impress women, how to tip waiters, and how to fight. I wanted to win his approval. I copied his mannerisms. I ate what he ate and walked like he walked.

His shadow grew after he died. He defined my manhood.


I joined the Army for him. I spent the next fifteen years trying to be the man I thought he wanted me to be. I became an infantry officer. I did tough stuff because I thought, “This is what he would do.” I was terrible at all of it.

Father and Son holding hands

My father was a natural leader of men, not me. I am better at reading history than making it. I was too young when he died. I never knew him as a man. Now, older and wiser, I know he only wanted me to be happy.

I was a terrible soldier, but I loved the amazing people I met in the army. It gave me miles of writing material. I know he would be proud. Writing is a way to visit him, if only in words.



Ernest Hemingway- His Early Life 1899-1917


I first read Hemingway in high school. Hemingway was a war veteran, a big game hunter, a deep-sea fisherman, and most important one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

Hemingway always fills me with a great pride and a little sadness. On July 21, 1962, he ended his own life. It was a tragic way to end a journey packed with adventure, travel, awards and more than its share of tragedy.

Ernest Hemingway’s words have touched millions of lives around the world. His tales of adventures allowed his readers to share the excitement in locations they otherwise could not have experienced.

In 1950, the New York Times declared that Ernest Hemingway was the most important writer since the death of Shakespeare. By dedicating his life to the ideal of writing one true sentence, Hemingway revolutionized the face of literature.

Hemingway is the quintessential American writer. Yet, public schools have threatened to ban his books. His macho attitude towards love, death, and war have come under fire by the politically correct.

His life mirrored his writing. His adventures made him an icon of super masculinity. Hemingway was a war hero in Italy, a white hunter in Africa, and an expert deep sea fisherman in Cuba.

Beyond the macho image lay a man touched by tragedy and haunted by death. His genius illuminated the “Lost Generation.” His depression led him into despair and darkness.

“Everyman’s life ends the same way,” wrote Hemingway. “It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.”

Early Life

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, the oldest son of Clarence “Ed” Hemingway, a physician, and his wife, Grace Hall Hemingway, a music teacher. Ernest’s parents were both strict Christians.

Hemingway Family

Ernest was raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, a place he described as having big lawns and small minds. Like many Victorian children, Ernest was dressed in girl’s clothing as an early age. Until he was six, his mother raised him as a twin to his older sister Marcelline.

baby Ernest

His mother dreamed of being an opera singer. She had a rich voice, and she performed at Madison Square Garden in her youth. Grace couldn’t continue in her career because her eyes were too sensitive to the stage lights.

Grace never let her family forget that she could have been a star. “But I have you, children,” she would say. Settling for life as a music teacher, Grace married Ed Hemingway, a physician in Oak Park, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.

Ed was an avid outdoorsman, and Ernest followed his example. For two months every summer, they would go to a camp in Northern Michigan on a lake. There Ernest was allowed to dress and act like a boy. His father gave him a gun and took him hunting and fishing.

Ed was a rugged man, but it was Grace who had the upper hand. She bullied her husband into developing his hopeless music ability and put him in charge of all their domestic chores.

Hemingway one day wrote of a character like his father, “He was married to a woman with whom he had no more common than a coyote has with a white female poodle. For he was no wolf, my father, he was sentimental. And like all sentimental people, he was cruel.”

Ed was often harsh to his children if they misbehaved. He would often make them pray to God after he whipped them with a razor strap. Sometimes after receiving punishment, Ernest would go out to the shed and take his shotgun and take his dad’s head in his sights.

Sometimes after receiving punishment, Ernest would go out to the shed and take his shotgun and take his dad’s head in his sights.

Yet, Ernest tried to please his parents especially his mother. He would feel a deep guilt over any wrongdoing. Grace remembered Ernest would whip himself, “so, mama won’t have to punish.”

Young Ernest

In high school, Ernest strove to be the center of attention. He would take any dare and laugh it off when he hurt himself. With girls, he was well-liked but very shy.

In high school, Ernest would play football, but he was a poor athlete. So he would make up stories of his heroics on the field. It was in those stories that Hemingway found his true talent.

He began writing for the school newspaper. His short story about a hunter who ends his life in suicide was published in his high school’s literary magazine He also had his first published piece of work in the school newspaper The Trapeze. Hemingway had found a career for life. Ernest attended Oak Park and River Forest High School, graduating in 1917.

Ernest in high school

Ernest decided not to go to college. Instead, he decided to get a job. His uncle was a close friend of the editor of the Kansas City Star. Ernest used his uncle’s contacts to get a job as a cub reporter for the newspaper where he handled the crime beat.

Although he was initially shy about interviewing people about their lives, Hemingway went after reporting with great energy and diligence. The Kansas City Star had its own style book that emphasized short sentences and vigorous English. Hemingway said they were the best rules he ever learned for the business of writing.

Hemingway’s life was soon to change with the assassination of an Archduke across the Atlantic. In 1917 the fervor of war called to America’s youth and Hemingway was no exception.

Hemingway- An Introduction


Ernest Hemingway was one of the top novelists of his day. His unique “hard-boiled” writing style profoundly influenced generations of writers.

Most readers are familiar with Hemingway. He is almost required reading in most high school English classes. His novels feature stoic heroes facing death. He wrote seven novels and six collections of short stories that have sold millions of copies around the world. His fiction incorporated a level of realism, violence, and sex that was previously unknown. Although by today’s standards, it’s relatively tame.

Ernest Hemingway

Like some other successful authors, Hemingway started as a reporter, writing for the Kansas City Star. He left the paper to be an ambulance driver in Italy. On July 8, 1918, just before his nineteenth birthday, he was severely wounded. He endured twelve surgeries to remove hundreds of fragments of a mortar shell in his right leg. His experiences in World War I form the basis of two of his novels The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell To Arms.

Later Hemingway and his first wife Hadley moved to Paris in 1921. Hemingway worked as a foreign correspondent from 1921 to 1924. With the publication of his first novel in 1924, Hemingway became a novelist. He settled in Paris to devote himself to writing.

Hemingway began writing during a time when World War I had just ended and Americans and the world were coping with the aftermath. The Industrial Revolution changed warfare in World War I. Tens of thousands of men were killed in a single day.

WWI was a turning point in history. For the first time technology was used for mass violence on an almost industrial scale. Many veterans, including Hemingway, were changed forever by what they saw and did.

The survivors would later call it the worst catastrophe that the world has ever seen. It gave away a sense of doom that gave birth to “Lost Generation,” the generation that came of age during World War I. The term became popular when Hemingway used it in his novel, The Sun Also Rises.

After World War I, a new sense of social and cultural change gripped America. Hemingway took the gritty, raw approach, creating novels that were brutally honest and direct with readers. Hemingway didn’t mince words when it came to topics like sex, violence, and death. Even though critics were often shocked by what he wrote, the public loved Hemingway’s direct, simple style, short sentences with terse prose. Hemingway was a stylistic break from the flower, descriptive language of American and British novels of the nineteen century.

Hemingway assembled his novels on an old manual Smith Corona typewriter. His novels were short by today’s standards. His simple prose is straightforward in a non-whitewashed style. Hemingway was known for his constant editing and “pruning” of words.

Some of Hemingway’s novels are perceived political incorrectness because he writes about issues like homophobia and racism. His writing is a reflection of the time he lived in. His work highlights the double standard and moral conflict of sex and love prominent in the early 20th century. Frederic Henry in A Farewell To Arms, and Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises are both cynical and disillusioned with women. Some criticize Hemingway’s attitude towards women as sadistic and dismissive.

Critics also found fault with Hemingway’s violent, punch-‘em first mentality. His lead men speak in brief sentences and avoid sentiment. They aren’t emotional, and they don’t wallow in self-pity. Most of Hemingway’s heroes are lonely and disillusioned with a restless trigger finger and a need for action.

Hemingway’s heroes foreshadowed the type of tough guy characters played by actors John Wayne and Charles Bronson. The notion of manhood in Hemingway’s novels were defined in the post-World War I era. Many fans see Hemingway’s books as an allegory for life and war.

Hemingway was an author ahead of his time. He had a significant impact on the development of fiction. His terse writing style of simple actions in short, direct sentences paved the way for generations of writers that followed. Other writers after him filled their fiction with sex and violence far beyond anything that Hemingway could have imagined.

Show Me The Money- Budget and Banking

“Balancing your money is the key to having enough.”

– Elizabeth Warren

So how can you figure out how much money is coming in and how much is going out?

Finding the right bank

Check this out. The first step is to keep track of everything you spend money on, from car payments to cappuccino. Once you’ve done this for at least two weeks, you’ll have a good idea of what your total monthly expenses are.

Then subtract the total from your monthly income. If you get a negative number, you’re spending more than you’re taking in. And you need to make some changes. You also need to distinguish between what you want- and what you can afford.

Balancing the Budget

The first thing I did with my first bookkeeping client (myself) I made an Excel Spreadsheet and I said, ‘Okay, this is the amount of money I’m getting. And these are the expenses that I’m going to anticipate.” I decided with my new business I wanted to save $10,000 in my new first year. To reach that goal, I knew I’d have to try to keep my weekly expenditures to a certain amount. But the problem is it’s tough to anticipate expenses. It’s not like you’re spending the same amount every week. I know every “penny has to have a purpose.”

I started my first civilian job, and I was buying a $4.00 cappuccino, and a $2.00 bottle of water every day. I was quickly spending $1,000 a year on water, which you can get for free, and nearly $2,300 on coffee. I switched to black coffee for $1.50 and bought a travel mug for water from the sink.

I have a budget for myself, and I just don’t go beyond what I can. Obviously, I would like to have certain things that I probably can’t have.

Some Rules for the Road

You want to spend no more than 20% of your monthly take-home pay on debt payments. Pay no more than a third of your take-home pay on housing costs. You want to save 10% of your take-home pay.

Budget Guidelines:

20% for debt payments

30% for rent

10% for savingsThat’s the goal, and if you can do more, then do more.

Choosing a Bank

To help me manage my money, I looked for a bank. There were plenty to choose from, both online and traditional, with a broad range of services… and charges.

When looking for a place that will handle my money, I look at it just like I’m looking for a wife. I looked at my banking habits and choose an institution that meets the things that were important to me, just like when I go out on a date.

What I was looking for was interest rate and maybe any kind of benefits or bonuses. The first goal was to pay off the student loans. And to do that, I wanted to take my paycheck and put it into an account where I was getting a good interest rate. I found USAA Federal Savings Bank. Their online banking was easy, they were a military-specific company, and they gave me great competitive rates. I found a good savings account and checking account that are tied together. I have banked with them for over 20 years.

A bank account is a good place to start your financial life. You want to find a bank that doesn’t charge you to keep a checking account there with a low minimum

USAA is perfect for my major financial decisions. But I also choose a local bank to handle my local business. I’m old-fashioned. I don’t want to deposit my money, my cash into a machine every time. I want to hand it to someone and get her name, so if it doesn’t enter my account, I can come back and say, “Janice, I have a problem, can you help me?”

  1. What To Look For in a Bank: ATMs near your work or home

Most checking accounts come with an ATM card or a debit card that allows you to access the cash you deposit into your account. Like a credit card, you can use a debit card to make purchases, but you’re not borrowing money from a bank or a credit card company. You’re just withdrawing it from your own bank account. But be careful not to spend more money than you have in your account. If you do, it’s like bouncing a check. And the bank is likely to charge you a big overdraft fee.

  1. What To Look For in a Bank: Pay attention to fees and compare interest rates on savings accounts.

The biggest thing that trips people up with banks is the fees. There are fees for having too low of a balance. There are fees for using too many checks.

So that’s what you want to look for: an institution that is going to charge you the least amount of money to have a relationship with them.


Even if you’ve got the best bank in the world, it’s still going to be up to you to manage your money wisely. Priorities lead to prosperity. If you put your priorities first, then you will prosper.

Source: Florida Home Mortgage Loan Company


  1. Separate needs from wants.
  2. Create a spending plan.
  3. Pick the right bank for you.

I work hard to keep my financial act together, but I know there are plenty of ways to mess up. For instance, any time you spend more than you take in, you’re probably making up the difference by going into debt.