21 July 2012

Happy Birthday, Hemingway!

Today is the birthday of Ernest Hemingway, author of many works, most notably The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms. I've recently finished a spree of reading all of his novels, and I'm now reading a biography on Hemingway by Kenneth S. Lynn. The biography further confirms the sense that one gets, while reading, that much of Hemingway's material was grounded in his own life and personal experiences--even though this action was something he strictly preached that good writers shouldnt' do.

But despite his violation of his own rule, Hemingway is--in my estimation, at least--still a very good writer. While some of his novels, like To Have and Have Not, had me hoping it would end sooner rather than later, the good ones were very good. With stark prose and a short, choppy rythm, Hemingway could describe a scene more fulfillingly than a painter could paint it. His characters are always human. His vocabulary often had me looking up words in the dictionary. His endings always left a sour taste in the mouth but a certainty in the gut that that was, in fact, the only ending, and that anything else would have been cheating the story.

I never used to like Hemingway, but after reading through all of his novels, I've changed my mind. I'd encourage everyone who scoffs at him to just give him one more chance. At the very least, his works give an insight into the mind of a writer, the writer, and in his memoir, A Moveable Feast, he gives all writers some philosophical techniques to think about and, perhaps, improve.

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