Read More: Finding Hemingway

  • by Antony Ramm, Information and Research, Central Library

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

The 115th anniversary of American writer Ernest Hemingway falls on July the 21st. Born in 1899, Hemingway is remembered as one of the 20th-centuries most celebrated authors – as well as, perhaps, the author of his own celebrity. Most of Hemingway’s best known novels – The Sun Also Rises; A Farewell to Arms; For Whom the Bell Tolls – are available from various locations around our library service and can be reserved via our catalogue. However, anyone wanting to delve deeper into the life, times and work of the author should pay a visit to our Central  Library where a number of other fascinating texts can be found.

While Hemingway lived a rich and varied life – experiencing, as a combatant or as an observer, both World Wars – it is for his highly influential writing that he remains justifiably famous. His minimalist style – all staccato descriptive phrases and dry, slangy, dialogue – was rooted in his experience as a journalist. Readers can sample some of that work in the volume By-Line, a collection of newspaper articles spanning the 1920 to the 1950s. Hemingway’s technique was further refined through his voluminous short-story writing. Several collections of those short-stories are available in the Information and Research library, among them the best-known anthology, The 49 Stories – a volume which contains several stories later adapted by Hollywood, including the “The Killers” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”.

While his work was compared to an iceberg (because nine-tenths of what was important remained below the surface), his life was anything but. A larger-than-life figure, given to frequent bouts of drunkenness and loutish behaviour, Hemingway made an idol from a certain American masculinity, venerating action – usually in pursuit of sport, war, women or alcohol – as a mark of character. Titles that explore that life in more detail include biographies by Carlos Baker and Jeffrey Meyers, as well as an analytical study by Scott Donaldson. A familial perspective on the author’s life can be ascertained through My Brother, Ernest Hemingway (Leicester Hemingway) and How It Was by Mary Welsh Hemingway, his fourth and final wife. A selection of his letters – from 1917 to 1961 – can also be borrowed from the department. The excerpt below shows a letter written to the parents of his then-wife Pauline, one week after his birthday in 1939 (and making timely reference to the Tour De France!).

Excerpt from 'A Selection of his Letters'
Excerpt from ‘A Selection of his Letters’

Few other writers in the last century have so inextricably threaded their life through their fiction. For that reason – as well as its own intrinsic literary qualities – an exploration of Hemingway’s non-fiction is essential. To that end, the department holds an attractively-jacketed 1950s edition of Green Hills of Africa, his study of big game hunting (see image below); and The Dangerous Summer, a late-period collection of observations about Spain, as well as musings on the philosophy of bullfighting – which was really Hemingway’s philosophy of life.

1950s edition of 'Green Hills of Africa'
1950s edition of ‘Green Hills of Africa’

Several critical studies held by Information and Research explore the nature of the non-fiction in more detail, including Hemingway’s Art of Non-Fiction (Ronald Weber). The relationship between the non-fiction and the fiction is explicated in Hemingway’s First War: The Making of ‘A Farewell to Arms’, while Hemingway: The Critical Heritage is an indispensable anthology containing contemporary criticism from the earliest work to the posthumous publications.

An interesting article found during the course of researching this blog was a review of Hemingway’s two early short story collections – Three Stories and Ten Poems and In Our Time. This 1924 review was found in our archival holdings of The Dial – an influential literary magazine of the 1920s. The image below shows an excerpt from that review:

Review in 'The Dial'
Review in ‘The Dial’

This was written by Edmund Wilson, a hugely significant figure in 20th-century American letters. Wilson’s diaries contain numerous references to the literary circles he travelled in at the time, a grouping that included F.Scott Fitzgerald – and Hemingway himself. The infamously combustible relationship between Fitzgerald and Hemingway is entertainingly rattled through in Fitzgerald and Hemingway: A Dangerous Friendship (Matthew Bruccoli). The image below, taken from the fascinating book Hemingway’s Reading, 1910-1940: An Inventory, shows the notes Hemingway attached to his catalogue of Fitzgerald’s books; notes which show the complex mixture of admiration and competition that went someway to defining the friendship between these two seminal writers.

Note from Hemingway's Reading 1910-1940 : an Inventory
Note from Hemingway’s Reading 1910-1940 : an Inventory

Hemingway died in 1961, following a period of failing health brought on by two plane crashes in the 1950s. Among our journal archives we found several obituaries and tributes, with the image below showing part of the obituary from The Times (accessed using The Times Digital Archive, one of many online resources available through the library service).

Hemingway's Obituary from the Times
Hemingway’s Obituary from the Times

The titles listed here are all available to loan from the Information and Research library (with the exception of The Dial, which can be viewed by asking staff). Remember: you can also reserve any of these titles to be collected at your local library.

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