It wasn't until fairly recently that I felt compelled to read something by the literary ‘giant’ Ernest Hemingway. What’s it all about I thought. What is the Importance of Reading Ernest?
I must admit, I only developed a true love of books in more recent times and since the decline of my previously insatiable social-life… amongst some of my writing gurus, the pioneer of gonzo journalism, Fear & Loathing author, Dr Hunter S Thompson stood acid-fuelled heads above the rest.
Immediately gripped by Hunter’s love of all things mind-bending and his unwavering ability to get completely wasted whilst chasing the ultimate story, he was for me a natural idol.
The Las Vegas epic was the pinnacle of his psychedelic trips, one of my all time favourite films. If the film is a trip, the book is certainly a double-dose of madness. The more I read of the good doctor, the more I learned… What or who were his main inspirations – other than the skinful of chemicals of course?
He’d read Hemingway religiously as a youth, typing up his entire books, word-for-word, to soak up his style and ‘feel what it’s like to be a truly great writer’. Wow, who is this Hemingway guy? I wonder if he took acid too. And so his name climbed towards the top of my imaginary ‘reading to-do list’.
My wonderful mother, bless her, elated that I've finally started to read more than just the back of flyers for music events, had a Hemingway close to hand. One of her impressive original Penguin collection named ‘A Farewell to Arms’.
The main character Captain Henry is blatantly based on his own war-time experiences. He, like the author himself, signed up to join the front line for the Red Cross as a driver. He meets and falls in love with a nurse and they escape the war zone by boat, expecting their first-born “When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.” He writes…
Naturally the subject matter bored me. I'm not one for romantic war memoirs as a rule. The characters seemed bland and unappealing – although the simplistic style in which it is written was certainly refreshing. Short and punchy sentences seem to suffice here. “All thinking men are atheists” is one of my personal faves, plus there are many sweet and flirtatious lines penned between the two love-birds throughout.
But crucially have I developed a thorough understanding for what makes Hemingway such a literary legend? Have I been culturally enriched during the process? Have I really grasped the notion of the Importance of Reading Ernest in modern times? Perhaps, in part, yes I have. As the original ‘papa’ of wartime journalism, his style is noticeably effective.
However I was completely underwhelmed by the content of this book and I’m left struggling to see his wider appeal. I feel more research is necessary to fully gage his talents. I’ll try to avoid the one about the old man fishing on a boat. As the topic doesn't reel me in and I've been warned off it by someone much cleverer than I.
The Importance of Reading Ernest is not quite as imperative as the Importance of Reading Hunter. For me Thompson is god, but I guess he thought the same about Ernest. They both shared a love of whisky, creative journalism and he even followed Hemingway's suicidal end – both went out with a bang…
RIP: Read In Peace to them both I say.