The Press Conference! Part I

THE ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

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THE PRESS CONFERENCE

As we prepare to introduce the four bigs– #1 seeds– to the expectant crowd, we look around for our newly booked commentator, Emily Dickinson (“Emily D”). We notice she’s been cornered by Norm Mailer (our other commentator candidate), who while clenching and unclenching his fists and talking nonstop is explaining to Emily why he should’ve been a commentator, as well as a top seed and up on that stage. We think, Emily! Emily D is very talented and very cute, but she’s not very worldly.

The Four are invited to step to the microphone to make a few remarks.

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Ernest Hemingway: “It was an honor. It was a surprise but it was also an honor. It was not a surprise at all but he said it was because he didn’t want people thinking he wasn’t humble. It was easier to be humble. He didn’t want to think about not being humble.”

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Walt Whitman

(Editor’s note: Whitman has quite the contingent of young poetry groupies in the audience.)

Walt Whitman: “You who celebrate bygones! I, habitan of a cemetary in Camden, treating of himself as he is in his cups, Chanter of verse, I project the history of this contest, the great pride of this man in himself, Cheerful– knowing this man Walt Whitman will win.”

(Enthusiastic applause.)

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Herman Melville: (Melville declines the opportunity to speak, but instead remains in his chair on stage, puffing on a pipe and observing the proceedings like a bemused sea captain surprised to be on land.)

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Mark Twain: “I had a lurking suspicion that Ernie Hemingway was a myth, that there never was such a fantastic personage. I asked old Wheeler about him, and he said it reminded him of the infamous Jim Hemingway last seen flexing his neck muscles around the barroom stove in Algonac due south and over a bridge from here. Big-bearded big-headed Jim backed Wheeler into a corner then sat him down and reeled off a monotonous narrative about flyfishing in a river not ten miles from this very spot. A fishing story, we used to call it. The one that got away. But no fishing story like the one Herm Melville on this stage has been known to tell.” (Twain takes a puff from his own pipe.) “Fishing stories! You propose to defeat this old riverboat captain with fishing stories. Good luck.”
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(Editor’s note.)

In this town’s local barroom afterward, three of the Big Four stand around a stove telling yarns. Across from me, Emily D sips from sherry in a glass, the sherry the color of her eyes. “I taste a liquor never brewed,” she confides.

I’ve known many poets and they’re a strange bunch.

“What do you think of this event so far?” I ask, gesturing toward where Mark Twain holds court, where even Melville joins the group and silently listens, four giant men in the small wood room– Mailer trying to butt into the conversation rises barely to the others’ shoulders. Emily gazes around the little tavern.

“Such a delirious whirl!” she says.

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“Part II” will be a quick Press Conference wrap-up. Stay tuned.
 

A Side Issue

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ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

PROTEST STATEMENT

(NOTE: This is a side issue to the Tournament itself– one we debated discussing at the site. We ultimately decided to run this, in the interest of putting as many happenings as possible connected to the Tournament on the record. Take it for what it’s worth.)
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New Pop Lit has received a bad-quality video on dvd. It shows a petite young woman in a mask, dressed in black, reading a statement. Behind her with arms folded stands a tall male, similarly dressed and masked. They are supposed representatives of the activist group upset with our Writers Tournament. The poor quality of the sound and image prevents it from being shown here.

One hour after receiving the video, an envelope was dropped off at our headquarters. The envelope contained a statement whose words correspond, more or less, to those of the young woman shouting on the video. Here’s the text of the statement:

“We piss on your Tournament and your privileging of white male writers Ernest Hemingway and Walter Whitman, and the archaic notion that you can privilege anybody by combating writers against one another as if they were gladiators to feed the Hyper-Capitalist Spectacle that is America now. We say, ‘NO MORE CRUELTY!’ We shit on your privileging of American anything (There Is No Amerikkka!) which reeks of borders, fascism, intolerance and patriarchy. We will NOT participate in this clown show! We will be engaging in a sit-in and hunger strike at the auditorium, hall, saloon, cafe or other where the ‘Tournament’ is to be held– as soon as someone figures out where the ‘Tournament’ is to be held. The sit-in and hunger strike will continue until our demands are met. We will at a future time submit those demands to the capitalist pig asshole media, if this ‘event’ occasions any media. Preemptive shutting down of potential hate events before they occur is our only defense. WE WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS! Thank you.”

The printed statement was signed, “OPA! Outraged Protesters Against.”

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To date the first two tournament selectees, Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Whitman, have no comment regarding this matter. They have yet to arrive in town.

(All nominations for Tournament candidates can be sent to newpoplitATgmail.com)

 

First Two #1 Seeds

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

Here are our first two #1 seeds:

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A.) Ernest Hemingway. Possibly the biggest writer persona ever. In his day he was a bigger figure than movie stars and pop singers. Instantly recognizable. Larger than life. A giant part of the culture. He destroyed the effete image of literature. He had popular best-sellers but was also a critical darling. He defined, at least for a while, the American voice– and transformed the English language. Even the Brits weren’t the same after Hemingway. In America, the hard-boiled detective genre sprang from a single Hemingway short story. (“The Killers.”) Hemingway began as an underground writer, the artistic creation of Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. He took from his mentors, synthesized their ideas and made them accessible to the world. It’s impossible for us today to understand how revolutionary was the early Hemingway sound. Though some of his work today sounds dated, his best stuff holds up– his “Macomber” story one of the most exciting tales ever written; his top novels, “Sun” and “Farewell to Arms” striking reads also.

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2.) Walt Whitman. More than any other single writer, Walt Whitman created the American voice and justified a distinctive American literature very different from its Old World models. Beyond that, he transformed the art of poetry on a world scale. Many consider him the father of free verse. Not just his art, but his persona was distinctively American. “Leaves of Grass” was every bit as revolutionary an artistic happening as anything Hemingway wrote. Or, for that matter, Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, who would’ve been impossible without Whitman blazing the trail before them. Whitman was the first hippie. He lived during a time when poetry was popular, and he was the most popular poet. The American character is a mix of several influences. Whitman is surely one of them.
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 THE NEXT two #1 seeds will be announced in a few days. There will be 16 brackets of four writers each. Remember that we’re allowing ourselves one week to change our mind about our announced choices for the tournament, depending on feedback, disappointment or outrage. . . .

The Answers II!

ANSWERS TO OUR SECOND BIG LIT QUESTION

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You want answers?

We have answers! At least, answers for our big Hemingway Question, #2 in a series designed to probe the mind of today’s literary community on a variety of topics. Toward that end we asked writers and editors from varied backgrounds to answer our question. We received responses from critics, story writers, novelists, zinesters, journalists, and readers; giving us, we hope, a broad view of Hem’s legacy now. Please google the individual names for bios, works, and websites. Lavish thanks to all who participated.

(Be sure to view the rest of our Hemingway celebration at our main site.)

QUESTION

“What’s your opinion of Ernest Hemingway circa 2016? Is he still relevant?”

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Daniel Menaker, writer/editor

His short, simple sentences still have influence on many writers. Like that sentence. And that.

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Wred Fright, writer

Yes, Hemingway is still relevant. For example, we keep having him write short stories even though he is dead. Look at “For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.” Hemingway probably never wrote that, but we like to think he did, and that urban legend spawned a new literary form of six word texts. It’s kind of a stupid form, but it illustrates our desire for more Papa.

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Emerson Dameron, writer/performer

The character that Ernest Hemingway played in his stories is a relic – to imitate that character’s shtick now makes one appear foolish at best. But the writer’s ideas about economy of words apply heavily to digital media (where Faulkner’s “walls of text” wouldn’t build much of a readership), so, at least in a technical sense, Hemingway is more influential than ever. There is also an understated-if-not-unspoken sadness in his style that still speaks to people who can read past the Swashbuckling.

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T.C. Boyle, fiction writer

Great writing is always relevant, as is revolutionary writing. Hemingway–especially in his early great novels and short stories–succeeds on both counts.

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Luc Sante, writer

Hemingway is a great writer and his best works (In Our Time above all else) will never stop being relevant. Once again, though, he’s not the ideal model for young writers today. In my youth the issue was his toxic masculinity, but today the biggest problem is his style, which lacks context. By way of Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson, he brilliantly cleared the Augean stables of purple prose, the legacy of the nineteenth century, and brought a new clean-line astringency that was to become the language of modernism. Today’s young writers seem confused by what style even is. Between writing-as-therapy, Strunk & White, and facebook, people seem to think that flat and bland is the default–and that the only alternative is purple. Because Hemingway’s minimalism can be so easily mistaken for flat-and-bland, I would steer the young away from him.

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Margot Livesey, author

Yes! As a writer, reader and teacher, I find Hemingway piercingly relevant. He writes about war, violence and loneliness with a poetic precision that remains unrivalled.

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Mary Doria Russell, novelist

He never would have gotten an agent today. The manuscripts he submitted needed a great deal of editorial shaping and that doesn’t happen anymore.

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Elif Batuman, writer

Son, this question makes no sense. Literature is relevant to the human condition—it doesn’t have an expiration date. You know what has an expiration date, is discussions about relevance. People go around saying stuff like “Throw Pushkin overboard the Steamship of Modernity,” and then 100 years later they look like assholes because everyone is like “Ha ha, steamships.” Is Hemingway relevant! Ha! Would someone who wasn’t relevant in 2016 be featured on so many iPhone cases?

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Scott Cannon, story writer

Hemingway invented a new style of writing unlike anything that came before or since. Asking if his work is still relevant is like asking if Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is still relevant. Was it ever relevant? Relevant to what?

I love striking imagery, but sometimes get tired of writers trying to say everything in a way that it’s never been said before. I read one such story in this year’s Best American. When I finished it I felt like I had a bad head cold. The only thing for it was to read “Big Two-Hearted River” again. “Nick looked at the burned-over stretch of hillside, where he had expected to find the scattered houses of the town and then walked down the railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there.” The river was there. With that, my head felt clear once more, but I read the rest of it through again anyway. Still not one word on what Nick Adams looks like, but somehow I have a pretty good idea.

A friend once told me how she felt reading Hemingway for the first time as a young girl. “It was like sex,” she said. What more can I add to that?

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“He looked back. The river just showed through the trees.”

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“He wished he had brought something to read. He felt like reading.”

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Jinnie Lee, writer

His writing towards his female characters were rather unkind. Haven’t thought much of Hemingway since high school, but I hope his works are not considered required reading anymore.

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Douglas Lain, writer/publisher

Twenty years ago, when I was starting out writing, I tended to side with Kurt Vonnegut against Hemingway. You may recall that in Vonnegut’s play “Happy Birthday Wanda June” Papa Hemingway is an object of derision. Vonnegut mocks Hemingway for his hypermasculinism, but today I find myself wondering if hypermasculinity can sometimes be a good and necessary thing. I recall that Hemingway’s masculinity always came along with an awareness of human vulnerability.

Anyhow, because of my liberal bent and because of when I was born, I haven’t spent much time reading Hemingway. I know a few of his stories, but not many. Googling up a Hemingway quote I find this one, from For Whom the Bell Tolls:

“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

This seems relevant to me.

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Anne Leigh Parrish, novelist and short story writer

Absolutely. Hemingway wrote about terror, fear, having no control over events in battle, and the randomness of violence. The recent mass shootings in Orlando confirm that the world he described, though far away in time and place, is still horribly alive, sustained by madmen who hide behind the rhetoric of hate. Hemingway also wrote about the macho culture of men needing to dominate their world. This, too, is very much in evidence today. There are many cultures where men feel entitled to the subservience of woman and anyone perceived as weak or less worthy.

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Andrea Gregovich, writer/translator

I’m a feminist (sort of, kind of) but my favorite writers are almost always men. I love to get lost in the nitty-gritty details of the male gaze, to really resonate, as a woman, with the world as men see it. Why shouldn’t I? Men are half of the human experience, why wouldn’t I want to figure out how they tick? I love how they are capable of writing in such loving detail about things like cars, wars, video games, machinery, hunting, fishing, the female body. Does that make me a bad feminist? I’m not saying there isn’t an abundance of asshole male writers about, but I find plenty whose outlook on everything is beautiful to me.

But even so, I could never much get into Hemingway. His minimalism is so blunt and tightly written, I can admire his prose but can never feel much empathy for his characters. He has no interest in wining and dining me with a poetic experience of male perspective. He is simply so good at his craft that he is always right, never unstable or vulnerable, and that has just never resonated with me as a female reader, even one with a secret jones for the male gaze. I’m sure there are ways in which his themes and metaphors are still very much relevant in contemporary society and all that, but what good are they if I just can’t dig it?

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Christopher Merkner, writer/teacher

I find Hemingway’s short stories to be rare and distinctive examples of heavily crafted literary humor and absurdity. His commitment to melodramatic subtext commits him to a superficial ridiculousness in character and speech that is very slick, tricky to follow and replicate, and perhaps incapable of losing its critical relevance for readers of short fiction.

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Justin Taylor, author

Relevant to who or what? To me personally? Sure, I guess. Not the novels so much, but I always preferred the stories, so this doesn’t qualify as a change in relevance per se. without him you wouldn’t have Andre Dubus or Raymond Carver, to say nothing of conscientious objectors like Donald Barthelme. I probably read all those guys more often than Hemingway himself, but it’s good to get back to the source sometimes, and if you haven’t read him in a while he’s almost definitely funnier and more self-aware than you remember. Far more than he typically gets credit for, at any rate.

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Kelly Cherry, fiction writer and poet

Hemingway’s work is certainly still relevant and will continue to be so for some time. He wrote some wonderful stories; they are stronger than his novels. Readers will continue to read those stories and learn from them. Critics and literature professors are not ready to give up on using him as an exemplar example. Or is the question about Hemingway rather than his work? Despite his heroism in war, he was psychologically fragile. In any case, the definition of “masculinity” has shifted dramatically. Men cook and clean and help the kids with homework. Many men still cheat on their wives, but by no means all of them. Men and women work together. Yes, the men still get paid better, but sooner or later the women will catch up. (Not, however, in my time.) In short, the stories will continue to be celebrated; the macho image is no longer of use.

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Laurence W. Mazzeno, scholar

No American writer save perhaps Mark Twain has entered into the cultural consciousness of the nation as Hemingway has. His works remain in print. His life continues to fascinate the public (witness, for example, the popularity of journalist-turned-professor Paul Hendrickson’s widely reviewed 2011 biography Hemingway’s Boat). Why? Because he has transcended the narrow boundaries of “author” to become a cultural icon. While he may continue to be vilified by intellectuals (and many women) the persona he created for himself remains admired by those who uphold what might be called “traditional male virtues.” Today, perhaps, that isn’t what one ought to be remembered for, but it’s likely Hemingway wouldn’t mind. Instead, he’d probably laugh uproariously at the gentle parody that has used his image to sell Dos Equis beer: he remains, for some at least, “the world’s most interesting man.”

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Jeff Brandt, writer, book lover, cinephile

Hemingway is as relevant in 2016 as ever. People seem to have a misconception of Hemingway as a simple-minded man’s man. He is anything but. When you really read and analyze Hemingway, he is deeply conflicted about masculinity, femininity, what they mean and how much they matter. In The Garden of Eden, he also wrote about polyamory decades before that was a coined term or increasingly popular lifestyle. I also believe there is a timeless and deeply affecting appeal to his stories of comradeship in war.

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Boris Kachka, journalist

Well, I think the implication is that Hemingway might have gone out of style. That may be so, but I don’t think relevance is quite the same thing as fashion. Hemingway was possibly overrated once and now, not so much. Does that make him antediluvian? Certain of his opinions and values are, but so are most of Shakespeare’s, unless you consider the state to be the body of the king. The question of how good Hemingway is should be separate. I think he’s…pretty good! I’ve learned a lot from reading him, and so have writers we consider to be more relevant, like Joan Didion, who started out by retyping his work to learn its rhythms. I wish he’d had a sense of humor, but no writer gives me everything I want (well, maybe Nabokov). And more globally, if the question is whether he should be taught, emulated, etc., the answer is yes. With caveats, but no writer should be taught without caveats.

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Robert McCrum, writer and critic

Going round for round with posterity, Hemingway has taken some knocks, as he did in his lifetime. but for me he’s still in the ring as one of the 20th century masters of American prose. The essential volumes on my Hemingway shelf are The Sun Also Rises, and my Everyman edition of his Collected Stories.

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Samuel Stevens, writer/blogger

Hemingway is my favorite novelist, my second favorite author after Ezra Pound probably. It’s funny though, for all the adoration the New York chattering class has of him, he was never one of them. He, like his contemporaries, was part of an entirely different “scene.” Hemingway’s style was influential, which has been a double edged sword. On one hand, you have writers like Cormac McCarthy who’ve gone one step further than even Papa himself in terms of style with tremendous effect. On the other, you have Raymond Carver who practiced the “iceberg” method with underwhelming results. The difference is, Hemingway had the substance to make his style work. That’s the best lesson with Hemingway.

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John Colapinto, essayist/novelist

You’ve hit on the one author I feel most uncomfortable making a public statement about. As a Canadian, I’m tempted to give full play to my native repulsion for such grandiosity, self-advertisement, over-compensating manliness, and stretches of execrable, self-parodistic writing—and simply offer Nabokov’s famous put down (“bells, balls and bulls”) and E.B. White’s assessment of the late Hemingway (“the farting of an old horse”). But then there is The Sun Also Rises, one of the most original and hilarious and moving novels in existence. And the ravishing Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast which is a masterpiece, despite its unforgivable, ignoble betrayal of his “friend” Fitzgerald (over Scott’s supposed insecurity about his sexual performance of all drearily predictable things). So, I mean, how can anyone feel about old Ernie in 2016? Deeply, deeply divided. Embarrassed and thankful.

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Liesl Schillinger, critic/translator

Yes, Hemingway’s still relevant! The question is almost like asking, “Is the male ego still relevant?” Hemingway strikes me as a “method” writer. That is: he himself inhabits the characters he portrays, at least, the male leads. So the vitality of his prose gets a boost from his personal myth. As I write this, I’m finishing my friend Lesley Blume’s fascinating book on how Hemingway became Hemingway—Everybody Behaves Badly—about his dogged pursuit of fame, and his compulsion for literary innovation. His conviction in himself is breathtaking, all the more so because it was justified. He did innovate. I challenge any 20-year-old to read The Sun Also Rises and not find it arresting and fresh. By way of contrast–I love F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I associate him with nostalgia. Hemingway, who was Fitzgerald’s age, writes as if he were a generation younger. He still reads like he’s news.

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Scott Beauchamp, writer/journalist

So much of the “bells, balls, and bulls” criticism of Hemingway – of his homemade stoic code that he could never quite live up to, his cult of practical knowledge, and his flirtation with nihilism – ignores his technical achievements as a writer. Those achievements are what keeps Hemingway relevant. Take the opening paragraph of A Farewell to Arms. It isn’t simply the minimalism that gives the descriptions energy, but, as Hugh Kenner pointed out, the feeling that time has outrun the language in a torrent, and “what memory and prose have fixed is the brief being of what never again will be.” Politics, gender, sexuality aside, it’s this expression of temporal impermanence that continue to give Hemingway’s prose strength and poignancy.

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Hemingway’s Nobel Acceptance Speech

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THANKS EVERYONE!!

Be sure to read this month’s other “Hemingway Day” features.

“Inspired by Death in the Afternoon,” by Jess Mize.

“Diminutives,” a short story by Samuel Stevens.

-Our editors’ journey “Searching for Hemingway.”

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(Main Hemingway photo by Helen Pierce Breaker.)

Our first Big Lit Question is available here.

Searching for Hemingway

Hemingway Day– July 21st– fast approaches. To set up our celebration, New Pop Lit editors Karl Wenclas and Kathleen M. Crane made a quick excursion a couple weekends ago up to northern Michigan. (Supplementary excuse– a respite from our jobs!)

We traveled by car. By contrast, when Ernest Hemingway made his visits up north, beginning over one hundred years ago, transportation options were different.

Hemingway’s family lived in Oak Park, Illinois, near Chicago. During summers they’d take a steamboat to Harbor Springs, Michigan, on the northwestern edge of the state, on Lake Michigan.

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The family would then travel by rail to their cottage on Walloon Lake. Back then, railroads were the preferred mode of transportation. One sees evidence of this throughout the northern half of Michigan’s lower peninsula, in the form of converted railway stations.

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THE QUESTION

As we began our weekend quest, one question was uppermost in our minds about America’s most famous writer:

“What about this area formed Ernest Hemingway as a writer?”

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The state of Michigan, for all its recent exodus of residents, is much more populous than it was in Hemingway’s time. Today the state’s population is estimated at 9.9 million. Census figures in 1910 had it at 2.8 million. In 1920, 3.7 million.

When Hemingway visited the state, the great cutting down of Michigan’s primeval forest was a recent memory. One finds hints of that forest today.

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Long gone are the lumberjacks and brassy-haired prostitutes who peopled the Nick Adams stories.

One still finds in abundance Michigan’s beautiful lakes.

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(This photograph was NOT taken from the Hemingway cabin on Walloon Lake, which is private property. But it could’ve been.)

HEMINGWAY’S WRITING

As early as his Michigan stories Hemingway made use of his realistic eye– yet was able to romanticize his people and places at the same time. When you begin entering Hemingway territory, you gain the same feeling he expressed in the stories. The feeling of Michigan’s air, trees, and people– the part of living nature which remains much the same as in Hemingway’s day.

THAT IS, you can maintain the illusion if you block out the occasional-but-unavoidable signs of the worst parts of contemporary civilization: franchise chains. McDonald’s; Burger King; Wendy’s; et.al.: blots on the landscape that should be banned from more natural areas. They should be confined to inner suburbia– there should exist areas where people can escape from the chains’ aesthetic crimes.

A CRITICAL ASIDE

To get these images out of the reader’s mind, a few remarks on Hemingway’s modernist techniques.

Ernest Hemingway was a modernist, but one who wrote with strict clarity. This makes the images he presents MORE real than those of a strictly realistic writer.

His most modernistic story is “Banal Story.”

It takes a few minutes for the reader to get his bearings. Hemingway, with a few spare brushstrokes, paints a scene.

The narrator is a writer who sits on a warm stove. It’s apparently wintertime.

Then the narrator is reading a blurb for a literary journal named Forum.

Then, juxtaposed at the end, is a powerful description of the death of– and mourning for– a bullfighter.

This story shows that the Hemingway technique was not simply writing short, terse sentences. It was also about combining those sentences. His intention was to create stories like modernist paintings.

A BLUE LAKE

To further cleanse the palate.

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ALANSON

One of our favorite spots discovered during our scouting was the small town of Alanson, located between the chief highway north, and Petoskey on Lake Michigan. In Alanson there’s a neat tavern called Crooked River Tavern at which a talented piano player performs for free on Friday and Saturday evenings, in a relaxed setting. Everyone is friendly. This tavern is also famously known for its home-made cheesecake, which is the best you’ll taste anyplace.

A New Pop Lit editor in Alanson:

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We could say many more good things about Alanson, but it’s tangential to our search, so we’ll move on to Petoskey.

PETOSKEY

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The statue of Ignatius Petoskey overlooks the bay. Don’t tell anybody– we don’t want the resort town to become too popular– but the setting of Petoskey is so beautiful as to compare with the Riviera.

Ernest Hemingway spent much time in Petoskey when he returned from his service in World War I. His story “Soldier’s Home” indicates that he felt out-of-sorts with his family and Oak Park neighborhood. So he escaped– fleeing to where the air was clean. In northern Michigan. He could refresh his thoughts. He could also write.

THE PERRY HOTEL

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The Perry Hotel is where Ernest Hemingway lived in 1919. The hotel’s proprietors allowed us to look around the hotel, as we plan to stay there when we return to the area.

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A GHOST STORY?

It was while looking at the original lobby on the second floor (shown above) that we experienced a strange happening.

As if from nowhere, a tall man with a white beard entered the nearby elevator. He was holding a fishing rod in his hand. We looked at each other.

“He looks like Hemingway,” Kathleen observed.

“He’d be great for a photo!” I replied.

We ran down the stairs to the main floor, hoping to beat the man to ground level. But nobody was near the elevator.

“Did someone just walk by?” we asked the woman at the desk, which the man would’ve passed.

“No,” she told us.

WISDOM

Here’s a sign we saw in a nearby coffee shop named North Perk Coffee:

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We don’t know if the sign applies to Hemingway. Based on our investigations, we believe that while in Petoskey Ernest Hemingway drank other things. As we’ll see.

FISHING

While in Petoskey Hemingway did a great deal of fishing. He had to have, being Hemingway. Here’s a view of a possible location:

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When he returned from fishing, Hemingway would’ve sat in the garden of the Perry Hotel. Here he might’ve contemplated literature– or life.

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THE DISCOVERY

Prominent on our list of spots to visit in Petoskey was City Park Grill. According to a sign at the entrance, this business was once known as The Annex. Here young Hemingway would shoot pool and sometimes watch bare knuckle fights taking place in the park across the street.

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We ate a late lunch in the Grill, in a back dining area. When we finished we questioned our waiter about the building and about Hemingway.

The waiter told us that the room we were in was a later addition. In 1919 there was just the front bar area. Ernest Hemingway had indeed been a regular.

“The second seat from the door is where he sits. Er, used to sit.”

Hemingway used to write while in that seat. The waiter told us there was still a hole in the bar there, where Hemingway would put out his cigars while writing early drafts of stories.

Well, we had to see that seat, and possibly sit in it. After we paid our lunch tab we moved to the bar area.

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I sat in the second seat from the door. Hemingway’s seat. (You’re thinking, “Big deal!”) But Hemingway is the closest thing we literary people have to a rock star. Would you believe that as we sat at that part of the bar, talking about writers and writing, we felt the immortal Hemingway’s presence? Just a trifle. Likely it was only the fresh air and blue water everywhere around us, and the perfect sunshine day, and the beer I was tasting. Along with the many other sights and sounds we’d been experiencing, like the stately Victorian homes of Petoskey– and other things too numerous to describe in a blog entry.

It was the feeling of being part of an ongoing and never-ending community of writers, dating back to Homer’s time.  The feeling of art, of achieving art– and through that achievement, finding meaning in life. Ernest Hemingway was famously pessimistic about the world, the bleak games of the world, but in his art he found purpose. He achieved meaning.

Such was how we felt sitting at the bar in City Park Grill, Hemingway’s old hangout. But we looked at the polished wood bar, thoroughly, felt it with our hands, in so doing touching a part of the legacy, and couldn’t find anywhere on it the Hemingway cigar hole our waiter had described.

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(Be sure to answer our Big Lit Question  about Ernest Hemingway!)