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Hemingway- An Introduction

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.

“A Moveable Feast”- Trying to write Like Hemingway-

Intro

The writing is coming along. I am reading two to three books a week. I hope you enjoy these book reviews. They are my attempts to talk about and understand what I read. In high school and college, I trudged through English class, but I never paid attention. I am trying to make up for that now. I am rereading all the books I passed over.

After eighteen years of schooling, I found out I had a deficient vocabulary. I knew to be a good writer I had to steep myself in great writers.  I am not just reading for entertainment (although it is great fun!). I am reading to find the key to open the door to make me a better writer.

Good writers are disciplined readers. After I read, I write. I follow a schedule of reading for two hours and writing for two to four hours every day. Writing is a craft. I must be a craftsman who hones that skill every day. There is an adage that to write well, you have to write badly for a long time. I still write badly, but I am trying desperately to get better. Here is how Hemingway started.

Background

“A Moveable Feast” is a memoir by Ernest Hemingway. It was published after he died in 1961.

Plot

The book is about Hemingway living in Paris with his first wife Hadley and their young son in the 1920s. “A Moveable Feast” is twenty-eight essays about Hemingway’s life in Paris with the “Lost Generation.” After World War I, Paris became a mecca for American artists and intellectuals.

The book is full of nostalgic detail of what it’s like to be poor, happy and learning the craft of being a writer. Hemingway has daily conversations with literary greats like Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. All these famous writers forever changed the topography of literature.

Literary Revenge

“A Moveable Feast” is a “payback” book. Hemingway stabs many dead friends in the back throughout the book. He has no qualms with saying what he really thinks of other artists. Hemingway punishes those who loved him.

Gertrude Stein gave him invaluable support, affection, and advice. She taught him how to revise and rework his stories. Stein was a Jewish lesbian who lived openly with her wife, Alice Toklas. Hemingway goes out of his way to paint Stein as a vindictive woman who looked like a peasant. A cruel picture of a woman he made the godmother of his oldest son.

Hemingway writes nasty things about his dead friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald wrote “The Great Gatsby,” a book considered to by many literary critics to be “The Great American Novel.” Fitzgerald edited Hemingway’s manuscripts, encouraged him and got his publisher at Scribner’s to take on the unknown young writer. Hemingway repays Fitzgerald by writing about him as a weak, alcoholic. Hemingway says Fitzgerald was dominated by his wife Zelda, who ruined him.

Looking Back

Hemingway wrote the book when he was a successful and famous writer. He is writing about a young man, who is not yet successful, who was a struggling writer, who is happy and in love with his wife.  Hemingway was blown up as an ambulance driver in World War I. Hemingway was a big game hunter in Africa, a deep sea fisherman in Cuba and a war correspondent in World War II.

Hemingway lived with intensity. He did everything at double or triple speed. He prematurely aged. Hemingway went from a movie star handsome young writer to an old man with a white beard in only a few years. In all those adventures he was never as happy as he was in Paris with Hadley learning how to be a writer.

Assessment

“A Moveable Feast” is a beautiful read and a marvelous fable. Hemingway’s preface to the book states it may be read as fiction if the reader wants to. Hemingway says fiction sometimes sheds light on the truth.

Hemingway reinvents his past with him as the hero. He writes that he and Hadley were penniless. They lived in a squalid room over a sawmill at the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. He leaves out the fact that they lived off Hadley’s trust fund.

Ernest and Hadley

Hemingway wrote “A Moveable Feast” in the 1950s.  Hemingway’s journals from the 1920s provided the material. The final draft of the memoir was written when he was sick. Hemingway was paranoid and at times delusional.

Hemingway reconstructs his youth in Paris from 1921 to 1925. The book centers on his first marriage to Hadley Richardson and his development as a writer. Each of the twenty plus chapters are stand-alone works. The stories are from different periods in Hemingway’s life in Paris. They are not a linear approach to his experiences.

At the end of the memoir, Hemingway has an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, who becomes his second wife. When Hemingway begins the affair, it marks a new era in his life in Paris. It is the end of the happy period in his life and an end to the book.

The book is written in a simple style. Hemingway talks about the weather, the boulevards and the different places he lived.

“A Moveable Feast” really is about writing. There are great lessons into the insight of Hemingway’s writer’s brain.  He understands the fragility of the balance of writing simply with honesty. Hemingway writes about writing and life. The joy of doing it right and the sadness of getting it wrong, both in life and in writing.

Hemingway Writing
Source: Robert Capa 937

Hemingway is a man looking back on the past with sorrow, anger, and regret. Throughout the book, he has the discipline to never mention the present. “A Moveable Feast” is a dazzling portrait of 1920s Paris. It offers firsthand insight into Hemingway’s development as a writer.