The Importance of Being Ernest Love Him or Hate Him, Hemingway Left His Literary Mark. and Now His Hometown Is Making Big Plans for His 100th Birthday
Helbig, Jack, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Jack Helbig Daily Herald Correspondent
Thirty-eight years after his death from a self-inflicted shot gun wound, Ernest Hemingway still rouses passion.
"I hate him," a hip writer friend tells me, and then uses an eight-letter word unfit for a family newspaper to describe the man once called "the bronze god of the whole contemporary literary experience in America."
A lot of feminists would agree, lumping him in with David Mamet and other unapologetic patriarchs, sexists and male chauvinist fools.
Others, like Redd Griffin of the Hemingway Foundation in Hemingway's hometown of Oak Park can't speak of the man without his eyes glistening with undisguised hero worship.
"Hemingway was an intensely spiritual man," he says. "One of the great writers of the century."
And then there are people in between. Washington-based lawyer Mark Matulef was a total "Hemingway junkie" when he was in high school. Encouraged by an English teacher who loved Hemingway, Matulef read everything he could get his hands on by Hemingway: the short stories, major novels like "The Sun Also Rises" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," minor ones like "To Have and Have Not," even Hemingway's tersely written war dispatches.
"And then I outgrew it," he says with a sigh. "I guess everyone goes through a Hemingway phase when they are young. At least every man does."
Matulef is still quick to rise to Hemingway's defense whenever he feels the writer's reputation is threatened.
"He was not a misogynist, not anti-feminist. He was very progressive in his thinking about sex roles for his time. He was friends with Gertrude Stein, after all. The times just changed, and what seemed progressive then seems backward now."
Name another 20th-century author who arouses so many strong contradictory opinions. Or whose work continues to sell well with the general public and is read with equal relish by high school students and college professors?
Hemingway turns 100
Hem would love it. He loved stirring things up; he loved to catch the public's eye.
"Hemingway was a master at self-promotion," notes Hemingway scholar James Platt.
In his life he played a number of high profile roles: wounded war veteran, spokesman for a disaffected generation, boxing tough guy, great white hunter, disciplined Noble-prize-winning writer determined never to go soft.
If Hemingway were alive he would have turned 100 this year. And its not hard to believe a centenarian Hemingway would be very pleased by all the attention he is getting.
Several important books about Hemingway have been published, or are about to be published this year, including a collection of interviews, "Remembering Ernest Hemingway," conducted by James Platt and Frank Simons, and the final volume in Michael Reynolds critically acclaimed multivolume biography: "Hemingway: The Final Years."
Hemingway, himself, will weigh in with a new book, a memoir written in the mid-'50s and set aside for other work. Hemingway's son, Patrick, recently completed the exhaustive editing of the unpublished manuscript, which consisted of both type-written and hand-written pages. The resulting book, "True at First Light," about Hemingway's experiences on a safari, will be published July 21, Hemingway's birthday.
As important, there are Hemingway celebrations going on all around the country in such places as Key West, Fla., Petosky, Mich. and Sun Valley, Idaho, which are all places that loom large in the Hemingway legend.
But the locus of all the Hemingway celebrations will be here in the Chicago area, in his hometown of Oak Park.
For eight days, Wednesday through July 21, this quiet west suburban village will become Hemingwayland, with performances, lectures, films and the like planned for every night of the week, culminating in Hem's 100th birthday.
The big bash
The folks at the Hemingway Foundation have been literally planning this event for years.
Redd Griffin, a childhood friend of the family of Hemingway's sister and co-founder of the foundation, claims the idea for the fest may go back all the way to 1969 and the centennial celebration of another one of Oak Park's local legends, architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
"I saw how much that event seemed to revive Oak Park," Griffin, a life-long Oak Parker, explains, "giving us pride and a sense of identity. And I thought even then maybe Hemingway's centennial could have the same benefit for the community."
But it wasn't until the '90s were in full swing that the Hemingway Foundation, founded in 1983 by a group of Hemingway lovers, moved into high gear. Before that the foundation opened a museum in an old Christian Science Church, also in 1983, dedicated to the life and work of Hemingway.
In this museum you can find displays of original covers from all his books, replicas of the uniforms he wore as an ambulance driver in the first world war, as a war correspondent in the second world war and as a big game hunter in Africa.
In 1993 the Hemingway Foundation purchased Hemingway's birthplace, an elegant Queen Anne home built by his grandfather in 1890.
Since then, they've had their hands full restoring the building to its original condition. The Hemingways moved out of the home in 1905, seeking a roomier house elsewhere in Oak Park for the growing Hemingway clan.
Over the years the house at 339 N. Oak Park Blvd. was substantially altered. For a time the building was a rooming house and then later the home was carved into a two-flat. Somewhere along the line the graceful curving porch in front was removed and the beautiful exterior wood was covered with klunky aluminum siding.
In preparation for Hemingway's birthday party, the foundation has been working double-time restoring the Hemingway home. The siding has been removed, the porch restored and the walls that cut the home in two have been removed.
The plan is to have as much of the rehabbing finished as possible by July 21, the day the home will be rededicated.
That morning will begin with a blast on a coronet to celebrate Hemingway's birth.
Rest of the Fest
The dedication of the house is just icing on the cake for this eight-day festival, which will include everything from public readings of Hemingway's works to a four-day literary conference to a running of paper-mache bulls down Lake Street in Oak Park.
A number of Hemingway luminaries will be coming to Oak Park, including his son, Patrick Hemingway, who will speak about the challenges of editing Hemingway's last posthumous work. Hemingway's daughter-in-law, Carol Hemingway, will also be on hand for the premier of her play, "It Just Catches," adapted from three Hemingway short stories.
Oak Park also will be crawling with Hemingway scholars, many of whom will be presenting papers at the International Literary Conference. Some may also be speaking as part of this year's Humanities Festival.
Every year the Humanities Festival, under the auspices of the Illinois Humanities Council, tackles a different topic. Last year it was gender roles and gender bending. This year its Ernest Hemingway. The folks at the Humanities Festival have planned their events, most of which are free, to run in Oak Park concurrently with the birthday extravaganza.
Included on the Humanities Festival schedule is a panel comparing Hemingway to another writer who is native to Oak Park, Edgar Rice Burroughs, lectures on the Spanish Civil war (which Hemingway wrote about in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"), and even the showing of a documentary written and narrated by Hemingway himself.
Rounding out the festivities are the foundation's planned events which include events for both fun-loving families - including a three-day carnival, Fiesta de Hemingway - and the most serious Hemingway fan, including an exhibit of more than 100 historic photos taken of Hemingway over the years, from his childhood in Oak Park and summers in Michigan to his glory years in Paris, Spain and Africa to his respectable late middle-age years in Cuba and Idaho.
Ernest Hemingway may no longer be the "bronze god" of modern American writing. But for eight days in July, at least, he's going to be the center of the American literary universe. Or at least, the toast of Oak Park.
Events honoring Hemingway's birthday abound in Oak Park
Here's a select list of events planned in connection with Oak Park's celebration of favorite son Ernest Hemingway's 100th birthday.
Carol Hemingway's new play, "It Just Catches"
The adaptation by Hemingway's daughter-in-law (she married Patrick Hemingway) of three short stories by Ernest Hemingway will be performed in its premier production by the Montana Repertory Company at Oak Park/River Forest High School, 201 N. Scoville Ave., Oak Park, at 3 and 8 p.m. July 18, and 8 p.m. July 19 through 21.
Oak Park annual Fiesta de Hemingway
The outdoor festival in Scoville Park includes a running of the bulls, the paper mache variety, used to train matadors in Pamplona, Spain. The parade is at 5 p.m. and the running of the bulls is at 6 p.m. The festival runs from July 16-18. The parade and running of the bulls will be down Lake Street.
Hemingway birthplace dedication
For those with cash to burn there's Hemingway's 100th Birthday Party July 21. For $150 per person, celebrate Hemingway's 100th with flamenco, swing and tango and plenty of culinary delights. This formal affair starts at 6 p.m. at Hemingway Manor (MarLac House), 104 S. Marion St., Oak Park. Reservations are needed. Call (708) 848-2222.
The dedication of Hemingway's birthplace is at 8 a.m. July 21 at 339 N. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park.
The International Literary Conference
This three-day conference from July 19-21 will focus on Hemingway's influence as a major literary figure of the 20th century. Hemingway friends and scholars will provide three days of lectures, panel discussions and scholarly papers. Full conference registration is $110 for members of the Hemingway Foundation, $125 for nonmembers and $75 for students. The conference is at Oak Park/River Forest High School, 201 N. Scoville Ave.
Dinner with Patrick Hemingway
Hemingway's son, Patrick, will speak about Hemingway's last posthumous book, "True at First Light," edited by Patrick Hemingway, and to be released by Simon and Schuster on Hemingway's 100th birthday. Dinner runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at MarLac House, 104 S. Marion, Oak Park. The cost is $30 per person.
Highlights of the Humanities Festival's Fest within the Fest
Films: "Hello Hemingway," a 1990 Cuban film, in Spanish with subtitles, tells the story of a young girl in Cuba and the influence of Hemingway on her life. The film will be screened at 6 p.m. July 15, and 2 p.m. July 17, at the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St. Free.
Also, "The Spanish Earth," a 1937 film produced by Hemingway, Lillian Hellman, Clifford Odets, and Dorothy Parker in support of the loyalist side of the Spanish Civil War, will be shown. Hemingway wrote and read the narration in the film. Screening is at 6 p.m. July 21 at the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St. Free.
Readings: "Hemingway's Quest," an evening of readings from Hemingway's work will be performed by The Readers Theater Ensemble at 6 p.m. July 16 at Austin Gardens, Forest Avenue and Ontario, Oak Park. Free.
Also, Oak Park Village Players presents staged readings from Hemingway's work, including his seminal jazz age novel, "The Sun Also Rises," on July 18. Also on the program are readings of Hemingway-related work, such as Lucille deView's "A Summer with Hemingway's Twin" and Morris Buske's "Lovely Walloona." The 7 p.m. performance is at Oak Park Village Players, 1010 W. Madison, Oak Park. Admission is free.
Bicycle tour: "Hemingway's Oak Park." 10 a.m. July 17. Two-hour bike tour featuring important Hemingway sites throughout Oak Park. The $25 fee includes bike rental and lunch. For reservations, call (708) 848-9524.
* * *
For more information on the fest, call the Hemingway Foundation at (708) 848-2222 or check out their Web site at http://www.hemingway.org. Or call the Oak Park Visitors Bureau at (708) 848-1500.
Don't miss these Hemingway classics
Considering a dip into Hemingway's books? You may want to check out these classics.
"The Sun Also Rises": The ultimate "lost generation" novel put Hemingway on the map when it was published in 1926. It tells the story of an alienated expatriate American trying to find himself in post-war Paris and Spain.
"A Farewell to Arms": Set in the first world war, this moving, semi-autobiographical work concerns a young American soldier, wounded in action, and his doomed love for a nurse in an army hospital.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls": Hemingway distilled his experiences reporting on the Spanish Civil War into this tight, taut story, recounting one American volunteer's experiences fighting for the tattered Republican army against Franco's stronger, better-supplied fascist forces.
"The Old Man and the Sea": Many critics believed Hemingway was all washed up when he published this novella in 1952. Boy were they wrong. The book was an instant best-seller, earning Hemingway a Pulitzer. Some believe the book even greased the way for Hemingway's 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.
"In Our Time," "The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories," "The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway": Say what you will about Hemingway, call him a publicity hound, call him a braggard, but he is also undeniably one of the finest short story writers of the century. Early Hemingway, middle Hemingway, late Hemingway, it's all gold.
"A Moveable Feast": This gossip-filled memoir of expatriate life in Paris in the '20s may not be the best thing he wrote about this period, but it is certainly the juiciest. No wonder it was published posthumously.
All of these books are still in print. They are also most likely available at your local library.
- Jack Helbig
GRAPHIC: The Scoop
Hemingway aficionados will want to visit:
The Hemingway Birthplace
339 N. Oak Park Blvd.
The Hemingway Museum
200 N. Oak Park Blvd.
- Admission is $6 for adults and $4.50 seniors/students (admission to both museum and birthplace included in that price.)
- Times: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Sunday
- Phone: (708) 848-2222.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Importance of Being Ernest Love Him or Hate Him, Hemingway Left His Literary Mark. and Now His Hometown Is Making Big Plans for His 100th Birthday. Contributors: Helbig, Jack - Author. Newspaper title: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL). Publication date: July 9, 1999. Page number: 34. © 2009 Paddock Publications. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.