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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Hemingway Years (1)

Being an Ernest Hemingway follower is a rite of passage for many writers. It was for me.

My first contact with Hemingway's writing was when I was about twelve years old. My grandmother Hughes, who lived in North Carolina, was an avid reader. When she came to visit us in Florida that year, she brought with her a stack of books. Among them was "The Sun Also Rises." I'd heard the writer's name before and started reading the book. After a few pages, I put it down. I couldn't imagine why anyone would think he was a good writer.

My next experience with Hemingway was when I was a sophomore in high school. My English teacher announced that day that Ernest Hemingway, her favorite writer, was dead, and that he had killed himself. She speculated on why he had done so. She felt sure it was because of his old age, that he had been a great adventurer all his life, and he had grown too old and frail to do what he loved, so he killed himself. It sounded logical, yet, I felt there had to be more to it than that.

My next encounter with Hemingway was in college when I started reading "The Sun Also Rises" again. I realized that I appreciated the book. It was the same book I had tried to read years before and didn't like. So, obviously, something had changed, and it wasn't the book. I then read everything I could get my hands on that Hemingway had written. I became very much under the spell of his life and style of writing. The summer of 1966, between my sophomore year and junior year in college, I wrote my first novel--"Hurled In the Dust"--which was very much influenced by Hemingway. I began revising the novel after I graduated from college. But I joined the navy shortly thereafer, and I never looked at the manuscript again.
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