Before you think I’m late to the party, yes, we all covered the anniversary on July 2 of Ernest Hemingway’s death 50 years ago in 1961. But I guess I underestimated how much this anniversary was going to mean. For one thing, in July I was unaware of the upcoming publication of either The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 1, 1907-1922 or Hemingway’s Boat, both in September of this year. (You can see my review of the latter here.) These two books have been covered in a variety of magazines; I posted already about a blurb of Hemingway’s Boat in Town & Country magazine, and then came across another in Men’s Journal, and a brief mention in Playboy. And now I see coverage of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway in Vanity Fair. I’m not a big reader of magazines normally (just Playboy and Bike), but I receive a lot of them at the library where I work, and I have loving family in California (hi, Grammy!) who clip articles for me. So I’m just sort of marveling at all this coverage – which I attribute to the 50-year suicide anniversary – and observing what a hold Papa still has on pop culture. One of his unique qualities is that he captured the national and international attention, and imagination, as more than an author: he was a character. (Some would say a caricature.) He was a personality. He was bigger than his work – and that’s really saying something. I guess I should be on top of this concept, me with my Hemingway obsession, but I really wasn’t. I think I was too close to things. I’m a huge fan, first of his work; but as I became more and more impressed with his writing I started reading more about the man behind it. I guess I failed to notice how much the rest of the world shared my interest.
So, belatedly, I’m making the observation that 2011 appears to have seen a Hemingway revival. Is this a big duh; was I oblivious? Or are you just noticing, too? Have you seen Papa everywhere this year?
EDIT: I just read another article. Although this one was published in 1997, it fits with our theme today. The author, Nan Klingener of The Bone Island Book Blog, sent me a copy of her article, The Papas and the Papas, about the annual Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest in Key West. Thanks, Nan, I enjoyed it! It is certainly a shame that Key West fails to embrace the look Papa wore while he lived there – that is, a 30-something, dark-haired handsome Hemingway. But I do understand the argument given by a contestant-turned-judge: the white-bearded, bellied look is the one we know best in pop culture. And the takeaway lesson of the contest is about pop culture: that, as I wrote above, Hemingway is a cultural icon.
Nan, your article was a lovely little trip into a weird world, a Hemingway theme park if you will, that I did not experience on my recent trip to your fair island! What an interesting event. Thanks for sending me a little reading material.