Is Hemingway boring?
Hemingway , the writer
Ernest Hemingway has been considered one of the best writers of the twentieth century. He won both the pulitzer and Nobel prizes and produced several novels and short stories, some of which were made into films. However, in today's world, it is likely you will hear many readers characterize his stories as boring. One reviewer has said: " [I find Hemingway boring because] I’ve decided that ...his books are about nothing. I suppose that was why he was such a “genius”. Evidentially, people in the middle of the 20th century wanted to read about nothing."
A writer friend of mine said to me, "I also wonder about a writer like Hemingway in this day and age. I mean most of my friends have not, would not, read anything by Hemingway, much less enjoy it. Stephen King, yes. Tom Robbins, yes. Hemingway, blegh"
And another writer friend of mine, when asked why he might be considered boring replied, "People today go for the story, not the writing. Look at the Da Vinci Code, it was one hell of a story, but as writing goes, it was [not]. [On the other hand], Stephen King writes great stories. He engages the reader and you can easily read a chapter each night before going to sleep, pick it up the next day and still follow the story"
An American writer and journalist, Hemingway was part of the 1920s expatriate community in Paris, and one of the veterans of World War I later known as “the Lost Generation.” He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He was without religious persuasion (atheist). His distinctive writing style is characterized by economy and understatement, and had a significant influence on the development of twentieth-century fiction writing. His protagonists are typically stoical men who exhibit an ideal described as “grace under pressure.”
Many of his works are now considered classics of American literature. I've always been a fan of Hemingway's but, in today's world, I can see where some might consider him boring. He spends a lot of time, in his novels and stories, talking about ordinary, mundane things. I guess at the time he was writing that's what people wanted to read about. But now, many people would find that boring. Part of what was so compelling about his writing then was his "style", which today is no longer new. At the time, writing in short, terse declarative sentences was unique. This is one reason why he won the Nobel Prize in 1954.
Hemingway, the man
One thing I've always been attracted to was the man himself. I found him very interesting. If you haven't read "Selected letters 1917-1961" you should. They were captivating.
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Depressed most of his life, he committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho in 1961. Other members of his immediate family also committed suicide, including his father, Clarence Hemingway, his siblings Ursula and Leicester, and later his granddaughter Margaux Hemingway.
Hemingway was the first son and the second child born to Clarence Edmonds “Doc Ed” Hemingway – a country doctor, and Grace Hall Hemingway. Hemingway’s father attended the birth of Ernest and blew a horn on his front porch to announce to the neighbors that his wife had given birth to a boy. The Hemingways lived in a six-bedroom Victorian house built by Ernest’s widowed maternal grandfather, Ernest Miller Hall, an English immigrant and Civil War veteran who lived with the family. Hemingway was his namesake.
Hemingway’s mother once aspired to an opera career and earned money giving voice and music lessons. She was domineering and narrowly religious, mirroring the strict Protestant ethic of Oak Park, which Hemingway later said had “wide lawns and narrow minds”. While his mother hoped that her son would develop an interest in music, Hemingway adopted his father’s outdoorsman hobbies of hunting, fishing and camping in the woods and lakes of Northern Michigan.
The family owned a summer home called Windemere on Walloon Lake, near Petoskey, Michigan and often spent summers vacationing there. These early experiences in close contact with nature instilled in Hemingway a lifelong passion for outdoor adventure and for living in remote or isolated areas
After high school, he began his writing career as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star. After six months, he quit his reporting job against his father’s wishes. He tried to join the United States Army to see action in World War I but he failed the medical examination due to poor vision. Instead, he joined the Red Cross Ambulance Corps.
On his route to the Italian front, he stopped in Paris, where, instead of staying in the relative safety of the Hotel Florida, he tried to get as close to combat as possible. Soon after arriving on the Italian Front he witnessed the brutalities of war. On his first day on duty he was assigned to pick up the mostly female human remains of the dead, the result of a bombing close by. He wrote about it in his short story “A Natural History of the Dead”. This first encounter with death left him shaken.
Hemingway was quite a drinker. It's said that he drank more in one night than some people did in a lifetime. He drank in-between hunting wild game, running with the bulls, and churning out some of the finest literature of the 20th century, in which the characters also drink, heavily and constantly. No sober man would have done what Hemingway did, and no one else could have written such prose without having experienced life so incessantly on booze. Like other great drunkards, he has a drink named for him: Cuba's famous El Floridita makes the "Papa Doble," which is a extra-rum-soaked double frozen daiquiri.
"When I was young, Ernest Hemingway was king of the hill. During the 30's and 40's aspiring writers all over the world were mimicking his voice, struggling to pare their sentences and sentiments to a lean precision. His best work, perhaps a dozen stories and one or two novels, declared a new style, which meant a new way of looking at the world. These stories and novels would have been inconceivable before the First World War, improbable after the Second." (Irving Howe)
During his lifetime Hemingway had seven novels, six collections of short stories, and two works of non-fiction published, with a further three novels, four collections of short stories, and three non-fiction autobiographical works published after his death. Hemingway's distinctive writing style characterized by economy and understatement had an enormous influence on 20th-century fiction, as did his apparent life of adventure and the public image he cultivated.
He produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, culminating in his1954 Nobel Prize in Literature. Hemingway's protagonists are typically stoical men who exhibit an ideal described as "grace under pressure"; many of his works are considered classics of American literature. (wikipedia)
Novels and stories: The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, To Have and Have Not, The Torrents of Spring, Death in the Afternoon, Green Hills of Africa, Across the River and Into the Trees, The Dangerous Summer, Island in the Stream and A Moveable Feast