A visit to the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, inspired me to think again about the writer I long ago dismissed as too macho for my tastes. The bullfighting put me over the edge.
On the other hand, I do recall emulating his spare style while I studied fiction writing in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. And I do mention Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” in my forthcoming novel, “Only Wild Plums.”
And his house and garden: Oh, my! That veranda! Those cats with their abundance of toes. I looked at a black-and-white photograph of a series of headstones, and read a caption below noting that Ernest Hemingway buried all his cats and dogs. I knew he couldn’t be as macho as I once imagined. He had a heart for his pets.
And his wives, I trust. His many marriages also turned me off the writer, but I listened as the tour guide introduced the three Hemingway women whose portraits hung together in the museum house. The name Hadley Hemingway stuck in my imagination.
Then one of my fellow Book Babes picked “The Paris Wife” as our club’s read-of-the-month. I’m almost finished with the book, and I’m understanding Papa in new light. The author, Paula McClain, presents readers with a fully drawn character in her novel, and my sympathies lie both with Hadley and with Hem.
With about 30 pages to go, I can’t help but think ahead to what I know about Ernest Hemingway’s life and death. And what sticks in my craw is that maybe Hadley would have reigned as Mrs. Hemingway had she not lost those manuscripts so early in the marriage, so early in the novel.
Maybe only another writer would fully understand the depth of despair that unfortunate incident must have caused the poor writer.
With deepened sympathy for Hemingway, I now appreciate him more knowing that he was not only a hunter and a fisherman, but also an alpine skier.
Once I finish “The Paris Wife,” I’d like to pick up a copy of “The Old Man and the Sea” or “A Moveable Feast.”
Hemingway seems new again, thanks to a peek into Hemingway’s home and studio and Paula McClain’s page-turning novel of which I cannot help but think Papa would approve.