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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hemingway's Birthday~ We Remember You, Always...

Guest blogger Paula McLain, the author of The Paris Wife reminisces about Ernest Hemingway on today, his birthday.

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in a wrought-iron bed on the second floor of a Queen Anne house in Oak Park, Illinois. The house still stands, as does the bed--but what’s even more a marvel is that 112 years after his birth, Hemingway himself is still going strong. His life and work are as interesting and relevant as ever, and, well, the man seems to be everywhere. This year alone he’s the subject of my novel, The Paris Wife; an HBO biopic in production, Hemingway and Gelhorn, about his fiery third marriage (Clive Owen will play Hemingway opposite Nicole Kidman, James Gandolfini produces); and Midnight in Paris, a feature film by Woody Allen, which opened the Cannes Film Festival in April and is currently enchanting audiences nationwide.

What Hemingway would have thought about all the hubbub, I wouldn’t try to guess. Though he spent most of his adult life cutting a very public figure, he placed a high value on solitude, and had an abiding fondness for the deep privacy of nature. He spent nearly every summer of his boyhood in Michigan’s north woods, and made his first trip there when he was just seven weeks old. The journey north was by no means easy at the turn-of-the-century. First there was the train from Oak Park into Chicago, then a horse-drawn cab to the pier on Lake Michigan where the Hemingways boarded a steamer to Petoskey. Once there, they took two different rail lines, and finally climbed into a rowboat that deposited them at a lovely piece of lakefront property Ernest’s doctor father had purchased the summer before. A cottage was eventually built on the site, dubbed Windemere by Ernest’s romantically-inclined mother, and the growing family returned there summer after summer, creating memories that later fed Hemingway’s imagination (see the Nick Adams stories in particular), and his soul.

Unlike the author’s Oak Park birthplace, Windemere isn’t open to the public. Hemingway’s nephew Ernie Mainland still spends summers there, and privileges privacy as much as his famous uncle. This past spring, I was lucky enough to be invited to the cottage for a brief personal tour. I was asked not to take any photographs, but stood for a long time by the hearth, where Ernest and his first wife Hadley dragged mattresses to make a cozy honeymoon nest in 1921. Opposite the hearth is a doorjamb with pencil tics recording the heights of the six Hemingway children. There was Ernest at age 14, standing 5’4 inches. And there he was at 17, having “sprung up,” as they say, to 5’11.’’ I confess I got goose bumps at this simple but profound sign of his coming of age. Scores of years later, I stand to salute Hemingway in his manifold complexity--the boy he was, the man he became, the author we still have much to learn from, and the myth we may never pierce through, no matter how we peer and scrutinize.

Happy birthday, Ernest.

The Dame Says:
Happy birthday, indeed, dear Ernest.  You were a comet in the literary night, but one who's left an everlasting trail for us to enjoy.
There are a series of new non-fiction books written about Hemingway, his life, his wives, and his close association with F. Scott Fitzgerald, recently.  A couple of weeks ago BookTV sponsored an indepth, riviting interview with professors and writers on Hemingway, as well as a brief tour of Key West and his home there.

On another pleasant front, the movie, "In Love and War" detailed below is one of the most beautifully romantic movies of recent years. 

Netflix WriteUp:
This romantic historical drama is based on the diaries of Agnes Von Kurowsky, who while serving as a nurse during World War I had a love affair with a young man who would later become one of the great literary figures of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway. In 1918, 18-year-old Hemingway has volunteered to fight in the great war; while he goes into battle imagining it to be a lark, he soon discovers that the realities of warfare are far more grim, and during a shelling attack in Italy, his leg is severely wounded. Hemingway has taken a great deal of shrapnel, and the doctors at the field hospital decide that amputation would be the quickest and most effective way to deal with the injury. However, the idea of losing a leg horrifies Hemingway, and he pleads with Agnes (Sandra Bullock), the Austrian nurse looking after him, not to let the doctors cut off his limb. Moved by Hemingway's concern, Agnes convinces the doctors to pursue other treatments, and she looks after him during his long and difficult convalescence. Love and passion bloom between the young and naive soldier and the 26-year-old nurse, but while he's eager for her to return home with him as he follows his muse as a writer, she regards him not as the love of her life but as a passing fling and thinks that he's too young to marry. Agnes eventually sends Hemingway a "Dear John" letter; later Hemingway would use her as the basis for several characters in his novels and short stories, not always flatteringly. In Love and War was directed by Richard Attenborough, previously an Academy Award winner for Gandhi. - Mark Deming, Rovi

Dame's Final Word :
Please join me in celebrating Hemingway's birthday today by indulging in a reading of one of his short stories, or a start of one of his beautiful books...or even viewing this beautiful movie, above. 



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