|Ernest & Pauline Hemingway|
But here's the odd part: I'm doing the reading at the same time of year when I used to teach those writers. Last fall, I read some things about Shakespeare and the Elizabethans; in the winter, I read about Hawthorne and Melville and Poe; and now I've been reading books about Hemingway.
As I said, this has been a long habit from my teaching years. Throughout the year I would buy relevant books, then read them in the weeks leading up to the time when I would actually be teaching Hamlet or The Scarlet Letter or "Benito Cereno" or The Awakening or The Great Gatsby. Or Hemingway.
(BTW: Fitzgerald slightly altered some of the titles of these things.)
And now, as I said, it's Hemingway. As I did with Fitzgerald, I read everything I could by and about him--and there is a lot. And every time I read something new, I found other things I ought to read as well ...
I first read Hemingway in college--A Farewell to Arms was on a list of "suggested reading" that new freshmen received after acceptance. (I loved it; wept copiously; wondered why most of the other titles on the list weren't nearly so interesting.) I then read some Hemingway stories in an American literature survey. And then my welcome-to-being-an-English-major moment: In an American Thought course, taught by Prof. Ravitz (whom I've mentioned fondly so many times in these posts), the syllabus listed The Sun Also Rises. I was happy about that: I liked Hemingway.
And then in class, Dr. Ravitz announced: "For tomorrow, read The Sun Also Rises ...."
I didn't hear the rest of it because I had heard the two words I needed to hear: For tomorrow ...
Is this man SERIOUS? Read a book OVERNIGHT?
He was. And I did. (It's not all that long ...) If I hadn't liked the book so much, I might have switched my major (to what, I don't know).
I ended up teaching a handful of Hemingway stories over and over: "Hills Like White Elephants," "The Killers," "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." The students generally liked them--the stories seemed so ... refreshing ... after those months with Irving and Hawthorne and Melville, who could write sentences longer than Theuses' trail of thread ...
We did a lot of Hemingway-related travel, too: Oak Park (birthplace, young manhood), the lakes of northern Michigan (where he spent many summers--where he set some of his great stories), Key West, Ketchum (site of his final home and his grave). I've not yet made it to Cuba, though a former WRA student--Roberto Sorghi--went there and sent me pictures of the house--and of Pilar, which now rots there in dry dock. Oh, and I once spent an afternoon in Summit, Illinois, setting for "The Killers," a small town (no more: now part of Chicagoland) only a handful of miles from Oak Park.