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Posts Tagged ‘hemingway’

Ernest Hemingway died by shooting himself with a shotgun in the mouth. It wasn’t a pistol. It wasn’t in the temple. It wasn’t by someone else’s hand. It was a shotgun, he pulled the trigger, and the shot went into his mouth. There is no other way that Ernest Hemingway could have died. For him, this was a perfect death.

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Albert Camus died young in a car crash. Though regrettable, and he was taken far before his time, this was a perfect death as it was an accident. Albert Camus could not have died anyway except by chance. For him, this was a perfect death.

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On his deathbed, Oscar Wilde is reported to have looked up and just before passing into the depths, and said, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do…” Perfect.

 

What are some other perfect deaths?  Or what would be yours?  If I somehow get electrocuted to death while blogging, I’m going to be pissed.

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When Hemingway was 29 years old, his young life in Paris ended. On a warmer than usual March night, after too much wine and absinthe, Hemmie made his way into the shared bathroom down the hall from his bedroom on the rue Mouffetard, and, not bothering to turn on the light, after relieving himself, confused the flush chord for the chord of a skylight which quickly came crashing down on his head.

His record of past injuries and maladies at the hospital that night would have read as such: multiple cuts to the right eye, gorged tonsils, internal hemorrhaging, third degree burns from a water heater, kidney trouble, hand injury from punching through a glass case, broken arm in a car crash, groan muscles torn during a bull run, laceration from a charging horse, torn ligament in his right foot, anthrax, malaria, hemorrhoids, broken toe from kicking a door, jaundice, and a self-inflicted gunshot wound that happened while fishing.

These are just a few of the scraps and bruises Hemingway picked up before his thirtieth birthday. And this trend continued, until, well, the story ended.

What’s your list? What do your scars say about the way you lived, how fiercely you’ve done so?

I’ve always liked camping. I’ve gone my entire life, and each time, I’ve needed a cooler full of food, pots and pans, a five gallon jug of water, changes of clothes, sandals and boots, A GIANT TENT, sleeping bags, mosquito repellent, you get the idea. When I go camping, I go prepared. But right now, and this is new in my life, I think I’m ready to be much, much more uncomfortable. Next camping trip, nothing but a bottle of absinthe and an endless sky of stars.

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There is a blog I enjoy reading that is a good reminder of why it is good to be young, crafty, organic, and in love, that recently did a post directed at people who, well, I’ll just say for people who describe old bookshops as dangerous.

So here in Paris, there are some essential ex-pat stops.  The first, of Hemingway fame, Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company, which to this day has been called a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookshop. 

There are couches upstairs and a reference library filled with tattered pages and “To my beloved” inscribings on first pages. 

A working 20s era typewriter can also be found in a small nook and can often be heard in use, though not very effectively as the A key does nothing (makes for very modern writing).  I still do enjoy a peaceful Tuesday afternoon in the shop, reading upstairs, but avoid it on weekends when you will struggle for space, air to breathe, and the cat to pet.

Trumping that though, and I’m dreadfully sorry America, is The Abbey Bookshop, a Canadian haven that often goes unnoticed. 

To my eyes, far more romantic than Shakespeare and Co, often half the price, and literally only a five-minute walk from its British competitor.  The man who owns the shop, Brian, is a polite and zen-like Canadian from whom I get the impression he could both wrestle a Canadian grizzly, and could make you a mean cup of sencha.  That being said, coffee is his drink of choice and he’ll almost always offer you some complete with, of course, maple syrup. 

Though it is the downstairs of the shop that appeals to me.  It has ancient stonewalls and ancient dusty books. 


There are piles and piles of them and you can test your strength and search for one at the bottom, actually quite a fun game that I played last time there while trying to find a book of haiku.

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So please, love on your local used bookstore but please don’t invite me as all bookshops take from me hours I don’t have and money I surely don’t either. 

 

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I have a misguided friend.

He is smart, witty, funny and awfully cute, but tragically misguided.

He recently posted on his blog asking the question of who exemplifies more perfectly the “American experience,” F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Miller Hemingway. He argues that Hemingway’s overly simplistic noun-verb structure simply will never be enough to bring him as a reader to true understanding of a moment. He feels eluded with Papa Hemmie. He then turns to a quote, (which he is known to whip out on sleepless nights trotting along the Seine in Paris. This was the first time we had this H v. F discussion) from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in which Nick, near the end, swoons over a girl who, when she played tennis, “a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on her upper lip.” How romantic.

Hemingway had what he called his iceberg theory of writing. He says, “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of the iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. The writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.” Perhaps Hemingway isn’t for those who lack the imagination to fill in the required seven-eights.

I realize a bias I present here, but let me return to the original question of the “American experience.” When I look at the love stories of the main characters in A Farewell to Arms and The Great Gatsby (Robert Jordan and Nick Carraway, respectively), I am approached by two very different reactions to initial attraction. Hemingway’s Robert Jordan is attracted to a young Spanish woman and within twenty pages of meeting her, has her in his bed, and continues with her there for the remaining 200 or so pages of the book. Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway also meets his woman, Jordan Baker, early on, and then proceeds to pussy foot around her, insult her driving, and never quite seal the deal.

Nothing to me cries American experience more than the Revolution. The American experience has been defined by that initial defiance. They held truths to be self evident, that all are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and fervently fought for these truths. And frankly, if freedom from tyranny, the pursuit of liberty, were a beautiful woman, Hemingway was in bed with her quick and Fitzgerald was lamenting over how to tactfully end the relationship-that-never-quite-was from miles away.

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