Ernest Hemingway: Larger Than Life

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold for the first edition of "For Whom the Bell Tolls", at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939.
Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo for the first edition of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939. (Photo by Lloyd Arnold via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1899, writer Ernest Hemingway was born.

Here are some things you may not have known about him.

He was born in a suburb of Chicago. His father was a doctor and his mother was a musician.

Hemingway had a conflicted relationship with his mother. A later biographer would say that it was because they were temperamentally similar.

His father taught him to to hunt, camp and fish near their summer home in northern Michigan.

He began writing for his high school newspaper, which he would eventually edit, before becoming a reporter for the Kansas City Star.

The Star’s style guide would form the basis for his writing style: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.”

After only six months with the Star, he signed up to become an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I.

On July 8, he sustained severe shrapnel wounds to both legs, and spent six months recovering at a Red Cross hospital in Milan.

Hemingway returned home early the next year, not yet 20, recovering from war wounds. He took a fishing trip with some high school friends to northern Michigan. The trip became the basis for his short story “Big Two-Hearted River,” in which the character Nick Adams heads to the wilderness after returning from war.

In 1921, he married his first wife, and moved to Paris as the foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star.

While in Paris, Hemingway met writers Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. Pound and Hemingway struck up a fast friendship, touring Italy together and living on the same street.

In 1924, Hemingway met F. Scott Fitzgerald, who inspired him to write his first novel.

The next year, drawing further inspiration from his third trip to Pamplona, Spain, Hemingway began work on what would become “The Sun Also Rises.”

The novel, about damaged post-war expatriates, was recognized as Hemingway’s best work to that point.

It was also around this time that his first marriage began falling apart.

In 1927, he married his second wife and moved to Key West, Florida. Before leaving Paris, he suffered a severe head injury when a skylight fell on him.

In 1928, his father committed suicide, which devastated Hemingway.

He recovered from the emotional blow to write his second novel, “A Farewell to Arms” the next year.

In 1937, he reported on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. During his time in Spain, he met his third wife, which was a problem, as he was still married to his second.

Following a divorce and wedding, Hemingway set up shop in Havana in winter and Ketchum, Idaho, in summer. He began working on “For Whom The Bell Tolls” around this time. The novel would be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1944, we headed to Europe to cover the war for Collier’s magazine. He witnessed the Normandy Landings from a distance, before heading ashore days later. Also, his third marriage ended when he began an affair with a reporter for Time magazine.

In 1951, he wrote “The Old Man and the Sea,” for which would win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

On a trip to Africa in 1954, Hemingway was almost killed in two plane crashes. The first happened when his plane struck a utility pole, resulting in a head wound. The next day, while trying to reach medical care, his  plane exploded on takeoff, resulting in another concussion. Premature obituaries appeared in newspapers around the world. In October, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Over the course of his vigorous life, he suffered several head injuries. In the late 1950s his health, both physical and mental, began to deteriorate rapidly. He developed high blood pressure and diabetes, along with depression and paranoia.

In December 1960, he received electroshock therapy, before being sent home “in ruins.” After a second electroshock session, he returned to his home in Idaho, where he took his own life at the age of 61.

Our question: What was Hemingway’s preferred nickname for himself?

It’s the birthday of former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who is 78; musician Cat Stevens, who is 68; and comedian Robin Williams, who would have been 65 today.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1973, the top song in the U.S. was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce.

The No. 1 movie was “Enter the Dragon,” while the novel “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

What was the site of the last Confederate surrender to end the U.S. Civil War?

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