2011: the year of Papa?

[Updated 2pm]

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. 🙂

2 Responses

  1. Aw, thanks! Hard to believe it’s been 14 years since I wrote that … but you can catch Hemingway Days in late July any year. I assume you saw the Maureen Dowd piece in the NY Times on Sunday? I’m afraid I have no perspective on a Hemingway revival since he never goes away here. My favorite recent piece on him and his celebrity status was in a book called A Skeptic’s Guide to Writers’ Houses — the Hemingway House here is the most-visited writer’s home museum in the country, and the only one that’s for profit, according to the book — she has some good points about how Hemingway crafted and exploited his own fame.

    • I remember your review of that book; it sounded interesting, too. I can’t really imagine being interested enough to visit any *other* writer’s home, myself; I don’t usually go in for such things. (Skipped the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, too.) I like your reply that you have no perspective. 🙂 Makes perfect sense!

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