Drinking, Writing, Editing, Hemingway, Drinking…*

Writing about Hemingway, the Hemingway way.
Writing about Hemingway, the Hemingway way.

13 June 2016

Göran R Buckhorn writes:

HTBS has very few rules on writing, and as the editor of the website, I believe in ‘light’ editing, meaning not smashing up HTBS contributors’ articles to make them sound all the same – after all, this is not The Times, The Daily Telegraph or The New York Times. Instead, I believe in variations, to let the contributors’ own voices be heard. However, I do read through the articles before posting them, but alas, sometimes a mistake slips right through, especially if I am doing the editing late in the evening or at night – I actually do have a family and a full-time job ‘on the side’, believe it or not.

But a week ago, I messed up. Greg Denieffe sent in a well-written, interesting article in his series of “Crewcial Collectables” and editing it, I did not see that a little word was not there, so I posted it with a small, but important word missing. Luckily, another HTBS writer, Tom Weil, spotted the poorly edited sentence early in the morning and pointed it out to both Greg and me. Tom wrote in an e-mail: ‘… having giving up collecting rowing memorabilia, I am now […] collecting and forwarding typos found in HTBS posts.’ I quickly thanked Tom and corrected the sentence, and probably few readers noticed my editorial mishap.

This led to a friendly e-mail exchange between the three of us. Greg joked and wrote that he may have to change his editor, whereupon I responded that maybe he should, ‘…to a sober one’. Tom added: ‘Now, lets not get all rot up over this. Anyone can make a mitsake from time to time’.

I thought that was the end of it, but later in the day, Greg forwarded a great sign, a saying by author Ernest Hemingway, which maybe should be my new motto:

Hemingway quote

While Greg and I thought it was a brilliant saying, we agreed that, while Hemingway might have said a thing like this, we both doubted that the great author followed his own advice, ‘well, the sober bit,’ as Greg wrote to me. Greg confessed that he had not read any of Hemingway’s books – they are on his list of books to read when he has retired –; while I, on the other hand, have read many of his novels and short stories during my teen-years when I was dreaming of becoming an author, famous or not so famous….

Hemingway working at the typewriter, glass in hand.
Hemingway working at the typewriter, glass in hand.

Later on, Greg sent some photographs that he had found on the internet, of Hemingway with family members in boats out rowing. Among Hemingway’s outdoor activities were fishing and hunting, sometimes from a small boat on a lake.

Hemingway rowing in front of Hotel des Iles Borromees
Hemingway rowing in front of Hotel des Iles Borromees. From stresasights.blogspot.co.uk
From left to right: Hemingway, sister “Sunny” rowing the boat, family friend Paul Haase and in the water, Ursula. The picture was taken in September 1915 at Walloon Lake. From Hemingway Family Scrapbook at the Clarke Historical Library.
From left to right: Hemingway, sister “Sunny” rowing the boat, family friend Paul Haase and in the water, Ursula. The picture was taken in September 1915 at Walloon Lake. From Hemingway Family Scrapbook at the Clarke Historical Library.
Hemingway’s son Gregory ‘Gigi’ rowing, unidentified boy sitting in canoe behind him. Back of the photograph reads: ‘Giggie gets confused when he tries to row.’ From the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, in Boston.
Hemingway’s son Gregory ‘Gigi’ rowing. Back of the photograph reads: ‘Gigi gets confused when he tries to row.’ From the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

So did Hemingway ever write about rowing?

Maybe not a lot, but the end of his short story “Indian Camp” reads:

They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. Nick felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning.

In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.

‘Nick’, Hemingway’s alter ego, is in some other short stories by the author, as a matter of fact again rowing in the short story “The End of Something” – read it here.

In Hemingway’s most famous work, The Old Man and the Sea (1952), a short novel or novella of which he himself said that it was ‘the best I can write ever for all of my life’, are a few rowing ‘scenes’. The story first ran in Life magazine on 1 September 1952, and according to the Wikipedia entry about the book five million copies of the magazine were sold in two days.

In the film The Old Man and the Sea, based on Hemingway’s novel, Spencer Tracy is playing the old Cuban fisherman Santiago, who is battling a giant marlin in his small fishing boat out in the Gulf Stream.
In the film The Old Man and the Sea, based on Hemingway’s novel, Spencer Tracy is playing the old Cuban fisherman Santiago, who is battling a giant marlin in his small fishing boat out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida.

In May the following year, the novel received the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1954 Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish Academy especially mentioned the novel in their motivation:

… for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.

La Floridita, Havana, Cuba. Roberto Herrera, Byra ‘Puck’ Whittlesey, John ‘Bumby’ Hemingway, Spencer Tracy, Ernest Hemingway and Mary Hemingway, circa 1955. From the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, in Boston.
La Floridita, Havana, Cuba. Roberto Herrera, Byra ‘Puck’ Whittlesey, John ‘Bumby’ Hemingway, Spencer Tracy, Ernest Hemingway and Mary Hemingway, circa 1955. From the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

In the morning of 2 July 1961, at his home in Ketchum, Idaho, Hemingway committed suicide with his favourite shotgun, a W. & C. Scott & Son, his so-called pigeon gun.

*Yes, while writing this article some scotch whisky was consumed.

4 comments

  1. Ernest Hemingway: A FAREWELL TO ARMS. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929. [vi], 355 pp.
    It’s not Henley, but the hero’s escape by rowing all night with his beloved to Switzerland from war-ravaged Italy justifies inclusion. Chapter XXXV includes a first outing (pp. 271-273). Chapters XXXVI and XXXVII contain the 35-kilometre odyssey from Stresa to Locarno (pp. 285-298), from which the following statements are particularly memorable: “Rowing in moderation is very good for the pregnant lady,” and (at the customs house upon landing at Locarno) “Why do you enter Switzerland this way in a boat?” “I am a sportsman,” I said. “Rowing is my great sport. I always row when I get a chance.”

  2. The quality of a man’s character is enhanced by an appreciation of Hemingway’s literature , or something like that, was said to me by my English teacher 50 odd years ago.

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