Hemingway and Gellhorn (2012, AN H B O Movie)
The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
A Reading Life Project
"Up In Michigan"
Ernest Hemingway (1899 to 1961) is considered one of the best American writers. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Among his most famous works are novels like For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rise, and A Farewell to Arms. Some consider his short stories to be his greatest legacy. In fact this project sort of began in my mind numerous decades ago when I saw that Clifton Fadiman listed the complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway in his book, The Life Time Reading Plan. I also recently watched a 2012 made by H B O movie based on Hemingway's romance and marriage with Martha Gellhorn, a war correspondent and the inspiration for For Whom the Bell Tolls. I have, in the long ago, read all of the major novels of Hemingway and the fact that I still recall them is a tribute to their power.
I decided to start at the beginning with Hemingway's very first story (there are two or three stories that might based on my limited research be his first short story but for sure "Up in Michigan is one of the very first ). There are only two characters in this story, Jim who works as a blacksmith (by then a dying occupation) in a small town and a waitress, Liz, who works in a restaurant where Jim often eats. The story is told from the point of view of Liz, in the third person. We do not learn much about Jim other than the thoughts Liz has about his looks. Liz begins to fantasize about Jim but feels a sense of shame over this. Liz and Jim go for a walk one night. Maybe Jim has detected her feeling for him. They have a sexual encounter which borders on a rape. I admit I was shocked by how brutal Jim was and how powerless Liz was. There is a lot of power to disturb in this story
The language in the story is very sparse. For sure the prose is right out of the minimalist camp. I enjoyed seeing how much Hemingway could get out of a few words. I greatly enjoyed reading this story.
Hemingway is more than just a Nobel Prize winning author. He almost created the figure of the American hard drinking, into guns and hunting, bullfighting, and big game fishing, womanizing, out of control bad boy image of the writer living life at double speed with little regard for petty social conventions. The H B O movie, Hemingway and Gellhorn, plays totally up to that view of Hemingway. We get a super heavy drinking, no doubt alcoholic, man who cannot be faithful to a woman, given to hanging out with his male friends in Frat party settings , quick with his temper and ready to beat up anyone who criticizes his work. He needs a woman to act as his muse, baby sitter, and emotional punching bag. His redeeming feature is that he totally loves cats and hates Fascism. I do not know enough about his life to know if the movie is accurate or not but it was fun to watch and interesting to see how Hollywood portrayed Hemingway. The parts of the movie I liked best were those set in China, in Spain during the fight against Franco and for sure the scenes with his beloved cats. The ending was hard to watch and it was painful to see Hemingway in his last moments. I enjoyed watching this movie and others can pass judgement if the they like on its historical accuracy.