Forty-ninth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
I love to read. It started out just as a pastime and it turned into something absolutely essential to my professional life, whether as a writer or a translator. However, the fact that I read a lot doesn’t qualify me as a literature scholar. I just know if I like the stories I read or not.
With that simple premise in mind, I’m inducting a guy that to me is maybe the greatest American writer of all time, although he’s not my favorite (Anne Rice and Stephen King got that “honor”).
But to me, Ernest Hemingway is the one who got all the qualities which literary scholars (which, again, I’m not) search for: innovation in storytelling, language and new ways of building characters. And he too, was heavily criticized in his days, which just goes to show that there isn’t an absolute truth in the arts world.
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. His father was a physician and his mother was a musician and they lived in a seven bedroom home in a respectable neighborhood in town.
In high school Hemingway attended Oak Park and River Forest High School and took part in a lot of sports like boxing (which would greatly influence his writing later), track and field, water polo and football. But he exceled on English classes and contributed to the school newspaper called The Trapeze.
This experience led him to work as a journalist at the Kansas City Star as a cub reporter where he stayed only for six months. It was a brief period but the influence in his style would be eternal. He followed the paper’s style guide of “use short sentences, use short first paragraphs and use vigorous English” for the rest of his life and hence developed his innovative style.
In 1920 after a fishing and camping trip with high-school friends he wrote “Big Two- Hearted River” in which he created the semi-autobiographical character of Nick Adams that would fill many of his stories later.
He went to live in Paris in 1921 among artists like Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, among others. They became known as the “Lost Generation”, a term Hemingway popularized in The Sun Also Rises. This time on his life can be perfectly seen as a background to the delicious story of Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen.
Hemingway’s stories are direct and to the point. There’s not much plotting involved. And that’s one of his biggest draws to me. I like that because it seems like you’re hearing the story been told to you by a friend.
That’s why I read all his short-stories and it’s hard to choose one I like the most, but I’m partial to “The Killers”. Not only the story is great, but it was seen as groundbreaking in its form. It was written as if it was a screenplay and no one had done that until that moment.
I’m actually lagging when it comes to his novels though (shame on me!) but I have read For Whom the Bell Tolls and absolutely loved it. Especially the descriptions about the torture of some Spanish government officials by the rebels are pretty graphic, and much better for it. His experiences in the Spanish Civil War are wonderfully portrayed in the mini-series Hemingway and Gellhorn.
Hemingway had a drinking problem and at the end of his life he became paranoid, which lead him to a nervous breakdown and sadly committing suicide with a shotgun in the very same day of his birthday in 1961, in Ketchum, Idaho.
Therefore, Mr. Hemingway you’re one for whom the Hall of Idols is opened. Welcome!
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell
Blackmore’s Night – Shadow of the Moon
Avengers: The Age of Ultron
Breaking Bad – Season III
Tales from the New Orleans Saints Sideline – Jeff Duncan
Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.
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