Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011.

Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Papa

Happy birthday, Ernest Hemingway. You've gone a bit out of fashion right now, what with your rampant huntin', shootin', drinkin' masculinity. When I put all that aside, though, and just read what you wrote, you never fail to engage and amaze me. Lucid is the first word that comes to mind. No extra words, every piece polished until it shines.

A couple of months ago I bought a collection of your complete short stories for my Kindle. It was only $2.99, and if there was only one story worth reading, it would be worth it. It's been much more than worth it.

I tend to associate Hemingway with high-school reading assignments. I don't know whether he is still used in schools today. In my time, I suppose it was because he was considered and 'easy' read. His sentences are short; he doesn't strain the vocabulary of a high-school student; and the plots are easy to follow.

Coming back as an adult, I wonder why anyone would think that an adolescent would understand what is going on between the lines. So much is implied rather than openly stated that it takes an adult understanding of the tensions of life and relationships to pick up on the subtleties of what is actually happening.

There's a contemporary writer who reminds me of you. Not in his lifestyle or image, but in his writing. Stewart O'Nan has that same lucidity. When I read his work I imagine him revising and rewriting, examining every word and demanding that it justify its inclusion in the work. His Last Night at the Lobster would sit on my bookshelf cheek by jowl with Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and feel right at home.  Nothing extra, no padding, just polished, glowing words that communicate so much more than what is read.

I'm sorry your life had so many sad parts, particularly the ending, but I thank you, Papa, for what you left us in your writing.

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