OK. everyone who had to read Hemingway in school raise your hands…

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Fidel Castro and Ernest Hemingway

That’s about what I thought. Most of us had to read at least one or two of his books during high school or college or both. I would wager, however, that few of us have ever read much of his writing outside of the classroom. I may be an exception as I know the first Hemingway I ever read was The Old Man and the Sea which I picked up from the local library when I was eleven or twelve.

Here’s the wiki intro for Hemingway:

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works. Additional works, including three novels, four short story collections, and three non-fiction works, were published posthumously. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

So that’s a total of ten novels, ten short story collections, and five non-fiction works. Yet, Goodreads.com lists fourteen pages of Hemingway works. That’s a lot of collections and groupings as most Goodreads.com “pages” list about thirty books per page.

I know that I read The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls during my high school English classes – at least the first time. I read The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories and Islands in the Stream while I was in college. I also have read a few of the Nick Adams Stories, usually excerpted in anthology series with other writers.

After Hemingway’s death in 1961, the New York Times had a short paragraph on Hemingway from many of the world’s then top writers as a part of his obituary. In 1999, The Atlantic did a “flashback” to reviews of some of Hemingway’s works from over his full career and after death as part of the centennial of his birth.

Hemingway’s IMDB shows 71 different films and TV shows based on his work. There have been a lot of short films from his short stories that have been produced in this century. A Farewell to Arms starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes was the very first production of Hemingway’s work in 1932. Cooper also starred in For Whom the Bell Tolls with Ingrid Bergman. Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, and Ava Gardner were in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. To Have and Have Not starring Bogie and Bacall got its title and many characters from a Hemingway book but according to wiki, was otherwise quite a bit different than the original storyline.

Wiki covers Hemingway’s Writing Style:

The New York Times wrote in 1926 of Hemingway’s first novel, “No amount of analysis can convey the quality of The Sun Also Rises. It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.”[154] The Sun Also Rises is written in spare, tight prose that influenced countless crime and pulp fiction novels and made Hemingway famous.[155] In 1954, when Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was for “his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.”[156] Paul Smith writes that Hemingway’s first stories, collected as In Our Time, showed he was still experimenting with his writing style.[157] He avoided complicated syntax. About 70 percent of the sentences are simple sentences—a childlike syntax without subordination.[158]

Whatever his style, whatever his writing faults, Hemingway is undeniably one of the literary giants of the last century. And he really should not have needed all of the high school English teachers around the country to explain that to us. He told his tales well.


Photo from Bruce Tuten licensed under Creative Commons