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For those of you who might be interested in Hemingway, the materials available here are pretty darned interesting. I was particularly interested in the Audiovisual Materials (see left column links) Five scrapbooks worth of images from Hemingway's early life and a fairly large sampling of photographs from his entire life are available.
I was in Junior High School i when Hemingway killed himself. Hemingway's suicide only months after having lost my own "Papa" in a plane crash, rattled me. It wasn't the connection between the tragedies so much as it was the question of how someone whom I had known little more than that he was a famous writer, could decide to kill himself.
Later on after I'd read A Farewell to Arms and had heard a few lectures about what a great writer he was because he wrote simple sentences or something like that. I found his machisimo-attitudes uninteresting. I never wanted to be him. I thought my niche (a word I wouldn't even learn until years later) in humor. I was a pretty funny guy and as unsophisicated as my sense of humor was, I got plenty of attention because of my daring silliness. And, that was "plenty good enough" for me.
And as the sixties came along, right about the time that I was beginning to suspect that there was more to growing up than than height and body hair, the social attention was turning towards questioning sexist attitudes, race-based jokes, and bravado-based egomania. Hemingway, the man "didn't seem to fit," in the version of the grown up man that I found pretty interesting.
But, in spite of it all, long before my realizations about what kind of man Hemingway was began to mix my feelings about Hemingway the author,I still remember the first time I saw the film "The Old Man and the Sea." Spencer Tracy was absolutely mesmerizing. Memories do fade, but it may have been connected to my having recently read Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki.
I'd always liked reading. But, mostly it was for the "real reasons" non-bibliophiles like reading. I just liked stories. I'm sure that I had not yet developed even the slightest interest in literary analysis. I probably wasn't yet even aware of that arena of deeper appreciation for a well-told story.
In Hemingway's case, it was the movie that drove me to the book. As it happened it was the reverse in the case of Heyerdahl's book. I wasn't sophisticated enough to be upset with any discrepancies there might have been between the paper and the film versions of the stories. That sort of concern came much later. In those early days, it was just the story; the plot, the action, the thrill "watching" those guys taking on the world successful or not. I wouldn't have had much to say about theme in an academic sort of way. Yet, I have no doubt that in retrospect, the man vs. nature element of each story and its metaphorical "truthes" had at some subconcious level been at the heart of my enjoyment of both stories.
It was a time before concerns about gender expectations, gender stereotypes and sexism became of wide-spread interest, at least in the part of the world where my level of understanding of such things lived. I made little, if any distinction between the Old Man, Heyerdahl and James Bond. They were just stories about guys who "took on the challenges of being alive on a pretty grand scale.
I don't really know how much Hemingway is taught anymore. His personal life and the heavy lean on machisimo in his stories may have taken their toll on his reputation as a writer worthy of a place in the canon of "taught in school" literature. I don't really know.
But, I remember The Old Man and the Sea. And, I remember rooting for the guy who was destined to be defeated. And I remember the deep empathy and admiration I felt for the old guy who gave it a shot in a hard world and lost the battle.
And in retrospect, there is a sort of empathy and admiration for Hemingway himself as I contemplate the degree that The Old Man and the Sea, might be more autobiographical than I'd ever realized.
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