Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Movable Feast

The fellow above is one Ernest Hemingway, born this day 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. He is quite simply, for me at least, the greatest American author that I have ever had the pleasure to read. And I read for pleasure a lot. The details of his life are much too large for this humble page, and I repeat I am a lazy slob. I could not do him justice, and if I tried I would show you how badly I need a lesson in Hemingway.
His style was his trademark. Short, declarative, sentences that told you exactly what you needed to know, and then move onto the next sentence. I am his polar opposite in the world of sentence writing, and I recognize this as a personal failing. I write sentences that are paragraphs, and then I don't even bother writing in paragraphs. But, let's allow Hemingway to speak for himself as his iceberg theory of writing.
"A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit."
That quote is from his "The Art of a Short Story", and there are theories that his sparse, tightly woven prose comes from the fact that he began as a writer of short stories. A great deal of what he wrote, he lived. "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "A Farewell to Arms", and "A Movable Feast." Are the books that are among my favourite of his, Paris is "a movable feast" to Hemingway, and to others of the "lost" generation that knocked about in Paris in the 1920's. It remains that in my imagination, and the thought of chucking it all overboard, moving to Paris, and starving to death (not the best ending, but the most likely), has been one of my "big" ideas for over a decade. Unlike, Hemingway, I lack the intestinal fortitude to try that little adventure, so I console myself with reading "A Movable Feast" again once in a while.
I still remember the first Hemingway I ever read, I was probably about 10 years old, and it was the short story "Hills like White Elephants" the meaning of it all sailed gently over my 10 year old head, but the impression was permanent. He came to a bad end, as several members in his family did as well, by committing suicide with a shotgun, but for that lovely, lean, explosive prose, and books that are just stunning to read, Ernest Hemingway (July 21st, 1899-July 2nd, 1961, at the age of 61), you are my (331st) hero of the day.

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