School was busy feeding me a diet of politically correct kitchen sink novels that I was supposed to “identify” with. Poor kids growing up in rough neighbourhoods, against a backdrop of bad weather and alcoholic parents. I hated all them all.
Hemingway was a revelation. He wrote about things I knew about, like boxing and fishing. He wrote about them with a concise grace, describing their essential beauty. He wrote in short, stripped down sentences, rythmic, trying to isolate the truth of every sentence. Love, sport and manliness dignified in literature.
Hemingway was my introduction to manly style. His worldly, grizzled men, equally at ease in Paris and Pamplona, had a style that I wanted to emulate. His women were beautiful and unsettling, often the equal of the men they were in love with, yet compromised by that love, compelled to act against their own best interests.
Hemingway’s men are a combination of action and reflection. Hemingway’s men are stoic yet I am always amazed at how much they feel. The sensitivity of Nick Adams, the hero of The first 49 Stories, the compassion of Harry Morgan in To Have and Have Not.
Hemingway had a style that was complex and lived out both in real life and his books. Read the books first, then delve into his life. He contributed to my style, to both good and bad effect.
I have his picture on my blog and I have more to write about him and his books.
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