What Ernest Hemingway did... and why you should care
Between the battlefields and the plane crashes, the hunting and the bullfighting, the fishing and the boxing, the drinking and the boasting, wherever did Ernest Hemingway find time to write? But write he did. Hemingway produced ten novels, five books of non-fiction, and scores of short stories, essays, and poems before taking his life at the age of 61. An American original, he was born in the comfortable Midwestern suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, a place he described as full of "wide lawns and narrow minds." He spent the rest of his life throwing himself outside that comfort zone, constantly seeking new challenges, testing himself and the people around him. In doing so, he took American prose to a place it had never been—not just to the bullrings of Pamplona and the safari camps of Kenya, but to a pared-down, elegant style that condensed paragraphs of unspoken knowledge into a single sentence that said it all. The most common description of his writing style has been "hard-boiled"; Hemingway preferred to call it "true."
Hemingway was not big on self-analysis; he said upon receiving his Nobel Prize that "a writer should write what he has to say and not speak it." But the facts of his life are important, for Papa (the nickname he gave himself) believed that a good writer ought to draw always upon personal experience for his material. He wrecked his body in pursuit of a macho ideal. He wrecked his relationships in pursuit of… well, who knows what exactly he was after. After a lifetime of celebrating striving and stoicism, Hemingway ended his life wracked in mental and physical pain. Whatever his personal challenges, Hemingway's professional legacy is clear. American prose is different because of him, and his unique style has influenced art, film and countless other writers. We can only imagine that Papa would be proud.