DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Hemingway’s Art Lives On

It was in a freshman English class at the University of North Dakota in 1961 that I first encountered the writing of Ernest Hemingway, just a few weeks after he committed suicide at Ketchum, Idaho.

The short story was “A Clean Well-lighted Place,” published in 1933. James Joyce regarded it as one of the best ever written.

I was inspired to write a story of my own for the campus literary magazine. The plot was different, but clearly imitative. So much so that at the age of 18, I received my first rejection letter.

Years later, I was privileged to know the late UND English Professor Robert Lewis, who deepened my understanding of Hemingway’s art. He encouraged me to become a member of the Hemingway Society, an organization he headed from 1978 to 1992.

I’ve read all of Hemingway’s fiction, and my library contains numerous biographies and studies of his work.

His books are still in print and selling well, unlike those of contemporaries such as William Faulkner and Sinclair Lewis.

However, one still finds critics who dismiss Hemingway both as a person and as a writer. Although admittedly I’m biased, I find much of their negative analysis to be shallow and often pure nonsense.

But excellent biographies and critical studies continue to appear, made possible in part by the work of the Cambridge University Press in collecting and publishing Hemingway’s letters. His correspondence reveals much not previously known about his life and work.

So far, three volumes have been released, covering the years through 1929.

And two new biographies have been published this year. I’ve ordered both: Verna Kale’s “Ernest Hemingway: A Critical Life” and James Hutchisson’s “Ernest Hemingway: A New Life.”

If I keep this up, I may need more shelf space.

Over the years I’ve visited most of the places that figured in Hemingway’s life and writing. Later this summer, I’ll travel to his grave site in Idaho with my daughter, Kristi, to pay my respects.

Perhaps Cuba some day, although as Hemingway often said, “D’abord il faut durer.”

It’s a French proverb that translates into English as “First one must last.”

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