Tag Archives: Ernest Hemingway

The Problem with Ernest Hemingway

21 Dec
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Great Hemingway writing quotes here.

Young girls around the world adore Marilyn Monroe. They wear her image on their shirts, on purses. They quote what she said about beauty and self-confidence, only to find out later that she never actually said those things. The problem is that huge swathes of these girls have never even seen a Marilyn Monroe film, some of her fans can’t even name one. I’m friends with a couple of people like this. I try not to judge them, though, because in my world (the world of writers and readers), we do the same thing to Ernest Hemingway.

I love Ernest Hemingway, but he is the Marilyn Monroe of writers. Most anyone who reads or writes will profess a deep, holy love toward him, often citing him as their hero. My journals are full of his quotes. I’ve watched “Midnight in Paris” more times than I can count. I’ve read every fictional and non-fictional thing written about him. I even once had a beta fish that I named Ernest. But my big confession is that I don’t actually like the majority of his books.

I’ve read the major ones and could give a brief summary of the plot lines. I know why he is one of the most important writers of the 20th century: his razor-sharp, journalistic prose. But it’s not my thing. I like descriptions. I like being pulled into a scene with imagery and metaphors. And I’m not a fan of war, which is a huge part of most of his books. The one book by him that I adore is “A Moveable Feast” which was published posthumously. I see it as a departure from his iconic prose. He indulges metaphor and description. He gushes about Paris without much restraint. Or maybe his prose was easier to stomach when he wasn’t talking about battlefields and soldiers. Maybe I need to reread “A Farewell to Arms”?

You see, I carry so much guilt at not loving Hemingway’s books as much as I think I should. I carry a lot of his advice on writing and life around with me as comfort. And I wish I had the grace of his prose, which he admittedly attributed to being able to revise and discard. He reminds me of that perfect guy that you just don’t fall in love with. He’s handsome, smart, loves animals, loves you, but something in the chemistry is amiss and you can’t, despite your most valiant attempts, feel love for this person. I want to love Hemingway. I sorta love Hemingway. Just not in the way he deserves to be read and loved.

I think he’s an easy person to idealize as a writer. He traveled the world, transformed literature, had wild love affairs, wrote important pieces about things that he cared about. But another parallel can be drawn between his fan base and Marilyn Monroe’s. When people idolize Marilyn Monroe, they conveniently forget that she had crushing insecurities, that she suffered through an abusive relationship, that she was addicted to sleeping pills and might have even taken her own life with them. Hemingway, likewise, struggled with depression and took his own life. One of his oft-quoted lines is one that I downright hate.

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

I can’t abide that. I think it is a harmful and mean thing to say. I don’t think happiness is a reflection of intelligence as much as it is a reflection of a mindset. I think people are really and truly happy when they turn their mind to it. Some of the most beautiful pieces of art, music, literature have come out of dark times and sad people, but I think some of it has come from happy individuals. I think about this quote a lot when I am happy and worry that my writing will suffer for it. He’s bullying me into choosing either happiness or intelligence, when I think that it is possible to choose both. And maybe that’s what pushes me away from his novels. This overarching gloom of war and death and failure doesn’t inspire me as much as his love and excitement and happiness in Paris. That’s the part of his writing that means something to me.

So instead of ending this on a criticism of the patriarch of modern writing, I’ll end it on one of my favorite quotes from “A Moveable Feast.” A quote that makes me want to quit my job and move to Montmartre. To find my own mustachioed Hemingway and while away the hours debating back and forth about politics, love, happiness, writing. No matter how I feel about some of his books, the man could craft an elegant sentence.

“You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

Am I alone in this? How do other people really, honestly feel about Hemingway? Love him, but don’t like him? Are there other authors out there that have that type of relationship with their readers?

Costa Del Sol, Spain

19 May

To celebrate my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary, my parents, sister, and I all went to the South of Spain. I had traveled to Spain back in 2007, spending a couple of days in Barcelona and a couple in Madrid. This was a very different piece of Spain. The Costa Del Sol is used by Northern Europeans much the same way Florida is used by New Englanders here in the US. Pasty white people trying to escape their own brutal climate and get a bit of sun far away from home. I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a “sun holiday” before, and I found it to be almost a challenging experience. What do you mean relax? Like I’m just supposed to lay in this beach chair, sip Piña Coladas, and enjoy my book? Somehow I managed to adapt. We did try to get out of our resort life though at least once a day and explore Southern Spain. These are some of the highlights.

MÁLAGA

View of Málaga from the top of the Castillo de Gibralfaro.

View of Málaga from the top of the Castillo de Gibralfaro.

Málaga is the main port of the Costa Del Sol. We spent the day in the Old Town area which boasts the remains of the Castillo de Gibralfaro which was an Islamic castle built in the 8th century. We walked up the Paseo Don Juan de Temboury which is a steep, winding path up the hill to the remains. It was something of a hike, but the views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea became more and more impressive as we ascended. The path itself is lined with beautiful flowers and trees. As we walked down the footpath to the other half of the ruins, the Alcazaba, I could hear Spanish music drifting up from the city center. About an hour later, we found the source. A small festival called Semana de Mayor celebrating the elderly. I sat and watched little old ladies perform flamenco routines and sing old Flamenco songs.

ANDALUSIAN HORSES AND FLAMENCO DANCERS

Riders on Andalusian horses showing off the high school riding.

Riders on Andalusian horses showing off the high school riding.

We signed up for a package deal at this little horse stable/restaurant in Mijas. Before the meal, we sat in an arena while they brought out gorgeous Andalusian-bred horses who are trained in Spanish equestrian style to prance a certain way and to buck on their hind legs on command. It was strange and beautiful. My favorite were the four white horses that came out with bells around their necks, roped together and galloping in circles in complete synchronicity. Afterwards we headed inside to a dinner and Flamenco show.

IMG_2689Oh Flamenco is just the best. The passion of the music, the rapid fire of the dancers feet on the floor, the graceful arching of their hands and backs. So beautiful, so emotional.

RONDA

View of Ronda from the bottom of the Gorge.

View of Ronda from the bottom of the Gorge.

Easily my favorite part of the entire Spain trip. We drove high up into the mountains to visit this little town which was unreasonably picturesque. Even the roads surrounding the town were dotted with a rainbow of wildflowers. Ronda is perched atop a gorge with two sections of town connected by an ancient bridge that offers stunning views of the gorge below and the rolling hills in the distance.

View from the Bridge

View from the Bridge

Even though Ronda is a popular tourist destination, it was the place where I felt the least like a tourist. It was also the only place I got to really use my semi-decent Spanish as I chatted with shop-keepers and ice cream vendors. I always find that when I travel I’m assessing the place I’m visiting as a place where I could move and become an ex-pat. Ronda fit the bill, especially when I took into  account that it was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”

Always have love for Papa.

Always have love for Papa.

NERJA

A poorly-lit picture of the caves.

A poorly-lit picture of the caves.

We didn’t spend time in the actual town. We just went straight for the caves. Walking out of the sunny Spanish day and into the cold, damp caves was refreshing. The caves are millions of years old and sheltered some of the earliest humans during the Stone Age. The stalactites and stalagmites that jut from the ceiling and the floor cast eerie shadows and put creationists to shame.

GIBRALTAR

The Rock

The Rock

I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about the history of Gibraltar before we went. I knew it was an important naval post, but I didn’t know that it was still owned by the British and functions as a British city with pounds as the currency and fish and chips stands. We hired a taxi driver to take us around for the day and drive us up the Rock to see the tunnels where the British installed cannons. Gibraltar also has caves similar to the ones we saw in Nerja, except the British light theirs with purple, blue, and pink lights while playing a variety of disco music. It was a sharp contrast to the solemnity of the day before.

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The highlight, of course, were the Barbary apes that are native to the island and wander around, grabbing food out of tourists hand and jumping on cars as they drive by.

HORSEBACK RIDING IN MIJAS

Overlooking the Costa del Sol.

Overlooking the Costa del Sol on my horse, Universal.

Spain is now the third country other than my own in which I’ve ridden a horse. As soon as I heard about the famous Andalusian riding, I had to find a way. I found a place called Rancho La Paz which interestingly enough is run by German people and full of German tourists. It was nose to tail riding, but the views at the top of the hills were spectacular. We also got to do a fair amount of galloping which is the whole reason to get on a horse in the first place. Spanish riding was a bit different than what I’m used to with longer stirrups and loose reins held in one hand. Galloping was a bit more difficult this way as I think I was supposed to be standing in the saddle as opposed to “riding like an American cowgirl” which is what the German leader of the group kept warning me against. I am what I am, lady.

I wasn’t able to bring my camera along, but I made a German friend, Reiner, who spoke enough English to offer to take my picture and email it to me when he returned to Germany. Nothing better than making new friends abroad.