At the broken places

Art, books, illustration, literature

Untitled-3How does a man live well?  That is the question that I think Ernest Hemingway considered, and it is his tragedy that he never lived up to his vision of what makes a man good.  Hemingway’s father committed suicide, as he would do himself after suffering ill health and depression.  The legacy of suicide is a cruel one, and Ernest’s son Gregory would take his own life too, continuing the impression that life is not always worth living or struggling through.

After much reading, and there is plenty out there, I come away feeling a pathos toward the writer, a sort of kinship in the confusion of what being human means.  He is a glorious mixture of different impetuses, just as we all are.  He wrote about it and he wanted you to read that.  He loved Shakespeare and Tolstoy, admiring their acuity in reading human motivations  and characteristics. Shakespeare was his ‘undisputed champion’ and in the New Yorker’s profile of Hemingway, he is reported to have said I started out very quiet and I beat Mr. Turgenev. Then I trained hard and I beat Mr. de Maupassant. I’ve fought two draws with Mr. Stendhal, and I think I had an edge in the last one. But nobody’s going to get me in any ring with Mr. Tolstoy unless I’m crazy or I keep getting better.

The man was complex and although he lived a brash life in many ways, hunting, fighting, fishing – in actual fact his impulse was to write, and his personality was far more introverted than may appear to the casual reader.  I believe this tension in living differently to his nature provoked much of his later problems with alcohol and depression.  He wrote with intensity and authenticity, and it is these that promote his work into the ‘greats’.  I get the feeling that he despised much about himself, having a self awareness without that accompanying level of delusion that saves most of us.  

For a more thorough life story , look to the biographers, of which there have been plenty, but for the man, look to his writing.  You will find him there, not always in the obvious, but in the characters he draws there are pointers.  

I leave you with some excerpts – pages from the latest hand made book I am making to commission, but if you are interested, please get in touch.  page four reverse page five (2) page five reverse page six

2 thoughts on “At the broken places

  1. Interesting thoughts, Anne, on Mr. Hemingway. He certainly had a gift, but his contemporary, William Faulkner, seems to me the greater writer. Of course I’m from Faulkner’s deep south, not from the lakes and fields of Michigan. Faulkner wrote extravagantly, wildly, compared to Hemingway, who seemed to chisel his narratives out of a few bits of stony prose. Sometimes that did the job, and there’s more than one way, of course, to tell a story.
    Faulkner said about Hemingway, I recall, that he didn’t take enough chances, was content to do what he did best over and over again. I don’t know . . . I do enjoy some of his short stories very much. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” i. e., is a careful, cleanly written tale that is moving to me in its rather haunting simplicity, as many readers, I’m sure, would agree.


    1. It is interesting how Hemingway got so much adulation – I can see some of his writing was transcendent, and he pared the words down in order to add complexity rather than remove it – nevertheless he didn’t grab me in the same way as other authors have – William Golding for example. Researching the man unearthed something for me – his writing became more interesting as I understood the tension in his inner life between the macho character he had drawn as himself, and the introverted much more sensitive poetic soul he somehow wanted to bury. Fascinating. Tragic too of course, and how much I want to know of his early story growing up! He was clearly influence by his mother and father, but in different ways to how I would have expected looking at the externals of his story. He really did not have much good to say about his mother. I want to meet her now!!
      Strange – I was thinking about you a few days ago and meant to link to your blog – got distracted as usual and forgot!! Just been to two sons graduations – both firsts – so very pleased for them. They clearly love what they chose to do , which is always reassuring! Take care Martha, lovely to hear from you. Will investigate William Faulkner when I get the chance!!!


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