Friday, April 25, 2014

Biking with Hemingway: "Some Wheeled Animal"

Ernest Hemingway loved to ride a bike. He especially loved riding around the byways of France, and usually with his wife. He also attended road races and other bicycle events, and mentioned some of them in his writings.

As so many prepare to pick up the bike again for a great ride this time of the year, most especially my wife, I thought it would be a great time to share this prose. It is a great example to non-Hemingway addicts just how good his writing is. You are on the bike, riding along-side, feeling the breeze. He writes the details in a way that -- somehow -- keeps you transfixed and in the moment and left with the experience as if you had just gotten off your bike, instead of just finished a paragraph.

That is how pretty much all of his writing is. Like I say, you do not have to do the same things Hemingway did, all you have to do is read his books. It is the same thing.

And now, from "The Garden of Eden" Chapter Fifteen:

"On the shiny black road that mounted through the pines as he left the hotel he felt the pull in his arms and his shoulders and the rounding thrust of his feet against the pedals as he climbed in the hot sun with the smell of the pines and the light breeze that came from the sea. He bent his back forward and pulled lightly against his hands and felt the cadence that been ragged as he first mounted begin to smooth out as he passed the hundred-meter stones and then the first red-topped kilometer marker and then the second. At the headland the road dipped to border the sea and he braked and dismounted and put the bicycle over his shoulder and walked down with it along the trail to the beach. He propped it against a pine tree that gave off the resin smell of the hot day ...

"He dressed, still wet from the sea and put his cap in his pocket, then climbed up to the road with his bicycle and mounted, driving the machine up the short hill feeling the lack of training in his thighs as he presses the balls of his feet on the pedals with the steady climbing thrust that carried him up the black road as though he and the racing bike were some wheeled animal. Then he coasted down, his hands fingering the brakes, taking the curves fast, dropping down the shiny dark road through the pines, to the turnoff at the back court of the hotel where the sea shone summer blue beyond the trees."

Notice how the last sentence slows you down with the bike, using commas to slow the cadence and speed of your reading down, then giving you that last literary swoosh at the end before you stop, just like when you stop on a bike-ride at the end.

Notice how he does not say he is on a bike or even mention one until near the end of the first paragraph, another example of the Hemingway style. You know you are on it because, hey, you are riding something that could only be a bike. He puts you in the seat, instead of telling you what it is like to be in the seat.

Did you feel it? Did you smell the pines, feel the sun on your face, and feel the sea breezes waft by as your muscles worked the bike? Were you in the moment? Reading Hemingway is very Zen.

You just rode a bike in the South of France, along the Mediterranean Sea, in a small village, near Nice -- and you rode it with Ernest Hemingway.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Eating Like Hemingway


Cooking with Hemingway

By  posted at 6:00 am on February 19, 2014 0
We crave what we lack, and most professional desk-sitters lack the satisfaction of producing something tangible. We cannot eat or wear or hold the sentences we read or write or analyze. Money – if we’re lucky – is the only thing we make.
People cope in different ways. Sometimes, while reading, I keep a knitting project nearby just to give my hands some work to do. And I like to mark the end of my working days by cooking dinner – a form of labor in its own right, certainly, but also, in my circumstances, a luxurious re-entry from a world of glowing screens and uniform pages into the material world of smells, textures, and colors.
A lot of writers seem to yearn for the sensory immediacy of doing over thinking. You find evidence of this tendency in those many moments in poems and novels that dwell not on the thoughts of characters but on their mundane actions. Read closely enough and you’ll see that the writer might actually be instructing you on how to complete a practical task.
coverThis didactic impulse has a long history. Hesiod, a Greek poet who lived around the time of Homer, included in his poem “Works and Days” such salient advice as “remember always to work” and “You really need two plows, and they can both be homemade,” and “Don’t piss standing up while facing the sun.” His Roman counterpart Virgil responded a few hundred years later with the Georgics, a four-part poem that claims to be a farming guide and contains a memorable lesson on generating bees from a bull carcass (don’t try this at home).
In recent centuries, that explicitly imperative voice has lost popularity among Western writers. This has something to do with the rise of novels, in which narrators spend a lot more time observing characters than admonishing readers. At first, novelists could get around this inconvenience by writing their morals into preachy prefaces, but that custom also faded over time. Romanticism, with its emphasis on lyric self-expression, also helped quash the instructive literary spirit. But it was those grumpy high Modernists who outlawed the practice of literary teaching most fiercely: Literature is Art, and only Art! Art is Form, and only Form! Form sullied by Moral Instruction is…positively Victorian!
coverOr so the story goes. Yet practical lessons lurk even in the most quintessentially modern texts. Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River,” the last story in his 1925 collection In Our Time, is essentially an instruction guide for camping and fishing. In it, Hemingway’s stand-in character Nick Adams goes on a solo fishing trip, seeking release from the past. The “hard work” of hiking to his campsite pleases him: “He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs.”
It is a great story, sparse and moving and so eminently close-readable that Hemingway might as well have wrapped it, tied it with a bow, and given it to the world’s English teachers for Christmas. Nick goes to the woods to recover from war trauma by fishing instead of thinking, and it sort of works, except everything in the woods reminds him of war. Even the grasshoppers he uses as trout bait act like angry little warriors.
When recovery succeeds, it comes from Nick’s ability to recreate the conditions he knew before the war by following simple instructions, like setting up a tent. Danger, in the form of thinking, arises when he runs out of things to do with his hands. And on the flipside, Hemingway craved engagement with the material world so keenly that he actually wrote instructions into the abstract world of fiction. The physical immediacy of the prose got me antsy when read the story recently: why was I sitting around reading? Why wasn’t I out doingall the things that Hemingway so clearly shows you how to do?
I became enamored with the idea of literature leaving the page and entering the world of things. Maybe that divide between mind and material didn’t have to be so absolute; maybe Hemingway stories had more in common with my bossy hat patterns and lentil recipes than I had realized. I decided to test the theory by treating “Big Two-Hearted River” like an instruction manual: I would cook every “recipe” it contains.
coverIt is all camp food, easier to prepare than to digest. There would be spaghetti and beans from a can, buckwheat pancakes, and onion sandwiches. Everything might have tasted better if I’d actually been camping. Hemingway surely would only have eaten these foods in the woods; in trendier locales, he was as snooty a gourmand as ever pranced the streets of Greenpoint. See A Moveable Feast for his Parisian memories of slurping top-notch oysters “with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture.”
But oysters à la Hemingway would have been too expensive and too effortless: you go to Paris, you demand douze huitres, you wash them down with exquisite Sancerre.
I wanted to put in some work. In Hemingway’s story, most of the work comes before the first meal – a supper of pork and beans mixed with canned spaghetti, bread, coffee, and canned apricots. Nick huffs and sweats his way to the river, and then he is very strict about setting up camp and cooking carefully before he dives into his bubbling mess of carbohydrates. I mimicked his discipline by eating lightly on the day of the experiment and spending an extra half hour at the gym. My boyfriend came over right after his usual 12-mile run. Yes, you read that right. He has a sedentary, brain-centric job too, and if mine leaves me needing to make, his leaves him needing to move.
He was already very hungry when he arrived, and I still had to take a shower. He wanted a snack but I wanted authenticity. We compromised on water and a mug of tea. I was pretty hungry too. The thought of dinner-from-a-can had turned my stomach when I was buying the ingredients, but now it was starting to sound pretty good.
I cooked out of my kitchen, not the woods, but I did at least empty the cans of spaghetti and beans into the good old pot that saw me through my more adventuresome backpacking days. Its warped base recalls the many meals it held, precariously, over my feisty little propane stove. Even back then I wasn’t as hardcore as Nick, who cooks over a real campfire. And I cheated a little bit, replacing pork and beans with baked beans to avoid meat.
But the neon-bright, all-American glop of sugar, salt, and acid that was soon burbling on my stove must have looked a lot like Nick’s. My boyfriend watched skeptically as I poured the steaming mix into our bowls. I even topped mine with an artistic splurt of ketchup, as prescribed by the story — more sugar, salt, and acid. We rounded out the meal with a side of bread for sopping up the sauce, because Dr. Atkins wasn’t born until 1930 so we could have as many carbohydrates as we wanted. (In a concession to 2014 tastes, the bread was homemade and whole grain.)
It was perfect workout recovery food, and the first few bites didn’t taste so bad. Intensely tomatoey, extremely sweet, salty, and tart. We were really hungry. We could appreciate the meal, even if we couldn’t approach Nick’s level of enthusiasm: “He took a full spoonful from the plate. ‘Chrise…Geezus Chrise,’ he said happily.”
Pretty soon, my lips were puckering with the tartness. I fobbed the rest of my plate off on my boyfriend and urged him to eat what was left in the pot, too. He almost made it. We couldn’t bear to face the super-sweet canned peaches. After dinner, we both buzzed with sugar highs as strong as any third grader’s and couldn’t stay still. That phase lasted about ten minutes. Then we felt quite ill and went to bed.
The next morning, it was time for pancakes. Here is Hemingway’s buckwheat pancake recipe from “Big Two-Hearted River”:
Rapidly he mixed some buckwheat flour with water and stirred it smooth, one cup of flour, one cup of water. He put a handful of coffee in the pot and dipped a lump of grease out of a can and slid it sputtering across the hot skillet. On the smoking skillet he poured smoothly the buckwheat batter. It spread like lava, the grease spitting sharply. Around the edges the buckwheat cake began to firm, then brown, then crisp. The surface was bubbling slowly to porousness. Nick pushed under the browned under surface with a fresh pine chip. He shook the skillet sideways and the cake was lose on the surface. I won’t try and flop it, he thought. He slid the chip of clean wood all the way under the cake, and flopped it over onto its face. It sputtered in this pan.
There is so much to love about this paragraph, as a paragraph. This time around, I got most excited about what happens to the word “buckwheat.” It occurs exactly three times and modifies three different nouns – first “flour,” then “batter,” then “cake” – effectively echoing the narrative arc of the paragraph. I couldn’t question Hemingway’s mastery of prose. His pancake recipe inspired less confidence. It went against all of my pancake-making instincts, and I have developed a lot of those. I love making pancakes and eating pancakes and I have experimented with a whole internet-full of recipes over the years. Plain, blueberry, oatmeal, vegan, zucchini, whole wheat, apple, yeasted, carrot, cornmeal, sweet potato. All these pancakes share traits that Nick’s flour-and-water version lack: they include something to provide flavor (salt, sweetener, fruit, vanilla), a binder (usually egg), and most importantly leavening (baking powder, soda plus acid, yeast).
I thought maybe buckwheat flour had some magical property that would create perfect pancakes out of almost nothing. It did not. The flour was a pretty pearly gray, but the batter looked dead and gloppy and the cakes did not “bubble to porousness” in the skillet. They did not bubble at all. They were like thick buckwheat tortillas, but too stiff to fold. I served them, as per the story’s recommendation, with apple butter and “coffee according to Hopkins.” This, according to Hemingway, is coffee grounds boiled in a pot until they make the water bitter and gritty and disgusting. My boyfriend rebelled against this coffee and put up water for a French press. Of the flat pancakes, he said “They taste fine, if you have a taste for fine cardboard.”
I was frustrated. Nick’s pancakes bubbled, and mine – following the same instructions – did not. A pinch of research revealed the reason: Nick was secretly using pancake mix. Which means that Hemingway included an inaccurate recipe in “Big Two-Hearted River,” and that maybe literary didaxis is a practical failure, and maybe literature is doomed to survive on its aesthetic laurels alone.
This is not to say that Hemingway wasn’t a mansplainer par excellence. I discovered the discrepancy in a 1920 Toronto Star column that Hemingway wrote on how to go camping in the woods. Yes, Hemingway wrote a column called “Camping Out,” and it is as cheerful and snarky as “Big Two-Hearted River” is somber and reflective. Here is his remarkably familiar pancake recipe:
The coffee can be boiling at the same time, and in a smaller skillet, pancakes being made that are satisfying the other campers while they are waiting for the trout. With theprepared pancake flours, you take a cupful of pancake flour and add a cup of water. Mix the water and flour, and as soon as the lumps are out, the batter is read for cooking. Have the skillet hot, and keep it well greased. Drop the batter in, and as soon as it is done on one side, loosen it in the skillet and flip it over. Apple butter, syrup, or cinnamon and sugar go well with the cakes.” (Emphasis mine.)
Well. Hemingway certainly has no compunction about using the imperative voice in his journalism, even if the strictures of modern fiction forced him to excise it from his story. Maybe — and this is just a theory — maybe he worried that using preachy language in fiction would make him sound more like an advertisement than like High Art. See, for example, this copy from an Aunt Jemima Buckwheats pancake flour ad, circa 1932:
Just the simple act of mixing up a cup of milk or water with a cup of ready-mixed Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour… Prepare a delicious breakfast of Aunt Jemima’s buckwheats tomorrow. You can whisk them up while the coffee boils.
coverI decided to make the pancakes again to get closer to that Aunt Jemima taste, or maybe exceed it (side note: if you need new reasons to be horrified by American history, spend time with old Aunt Jemima ads). Craig Boreth provides a pretty compelling pancake mix recipe in his 1998 compendium The Hemingway Cookbook, a collection of recipes inspired by Hemingway’s writing. But his version contains no buckwheat flour and requires funny things like powdered egg and dried milk.  I improvised a buckwheat recipe instead, with the internet’s help, and threw in a little extra baking powder just for spite. This time, the buckwheat batter “poured smoothly” onto the hot skillet. Then, after a minute, the cake bubbled. Oh, did it bubble. I flopped it and made two more and served the new stack of pancakes proudly. The boyfriend’s verdict on this round: “Feel free to make these any time.”
4.One challenge remained, and I feared it the most. For lunch by the stream, Nick packs two sandwiches. The sandwiches contain nothing but raw, sliced onion between bread slices. I hate eating raw onion. The taste is okay but the lingering breath bothers me almost as much as it must disgust others. Still, I had come this far. I sliced my onion thinly and layered it onto the bread. The first thing I noticed when I picked it up is that onion sandwiches aren’t well engineered: there is nothing to keep the slices in place so a lot fall out. The second thing I noticed was – wow, onion. I lasted just a few bites.
Then I remembered something. When I bought my Hemingway ingredients, I whimsically picked up a package of smoked trout, thinking I might eat some to celebrate the completion of the camp food marathon. Nick presumably eats his freshly caught trout for dinner.
I did not catch my trout. I did not smoke the trout. I did not even carry the trout farther than the distance from my driveway to my kitchen. Hemingway would have fainted, but I took the trout out of the fridge. I flaked off a generous hunk of this pale pink trout and placed it on my onion sandwich. Then, by sudden inspiration, I added a thin smear of cream cheese to the top slice of bread before replacing it. I picked up the sandwich and took a bite. Geezus Chrise, it was good.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year Papa

January 1, 2014 -- I want to wish each of you a Happy New Year and send my best for an excellent 2014.

As you know, I began this blog mostly as a way to write and journal about what has become a dedicated year to learning about Ernest Hemingway. To borrow a phrase from another Hemingway blogger, like others who began such a thing on EH my love of Hemingway began as an interest, turned into a passion, and is now an obsession.

First, let me say that My Year did not really begin until late March, with my journey and second post here entitled "Middle Aged Man and the Sea," and will not end at least until my wife and I travel to Paris this summer, technically taking more than a year. But - hey - it is now an obsession, right, so who is counting?

Secondly, let me say I wish I were a better blogger. I may have stranded some of you in the middle of Pamplona and "The Sun Also Rises" -- my last post. Unfortunately, the crash of Christmas deadlines, my full time business and side line businesses, as well as keeping my promise to totally redecorate my daughter's bathroom this past month, have kept me away. I so envy those bloggers I follow who actually have the time and the discipline to write every day. I promise to return us to Pamplona soon and pick up where we left off, if you are still interested anyway.

Anyway, it was a busy year, 2013. So allow me to take this moment to reflect and post an accounting, of sorts, on where I have come in my Hemingway journey:

March -- Caught a 7 1/2 foot Sailfish off the coast of Florida, along with 6 other sailfish and dolphin fish, after completing "Hemingway on Fishing" the night before, including a re-reading of The Old Man and the Sea";

April -- Visited Hemingway friend F Scot Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald's home in Birmingham;

May -- Second visit to the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Home in Piggott, where my last minute stop a year earlier had let to the beginning of this whole fascination with Papa.

June -- Went trout fishing, Hemingway style, in Cotter, Arkansas, while reading "Big-Two-Hearted River"

July -- Oh July. What a month:
-Visited the South of France, Provence, and saw the 100th Anniversary of the Tour de France;
-Visited Barcelona and drank absinthe in Hemingway's favorite bar there, the Bar Marcella, which invented the drink and has purposely not changed at all since he was there, literally (never once dusted);
-Visited the museums of some of Hemingway's friends and colleagues, Picasso and Dali;
- Traveled through the Pyrenees and stayed in the Hostel Burquette in Ernest Hemingway's actual room and reenacted scenes from "The Sun Also Rises";
- Pamplona -- Oh man. The Fiesta. Ran with the Bulls, attended my first Bull Fights, drank at the Cafe Iruna while re-reading "The Sun Also Rises" and hitting his favorite bars and locations;
- Met and befriended John Hemingway and his son Michael (grandson and great grandson of Papa), and made a lot of other great new friends with the Pamplona Posse, a group of expats -- including John -- who run together and hang out at the Fiesta all week. Drew got to run with John as well. Thank you John for some great memories! John wrote "Strange Tribe" and is a noted writer in his own right. He signed my book and also gave me directions to the place that held my tickets which was a life saver... see future blog.
- Drove to Madrid from Pamplona, crossing much of the area involved in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
- Madrid -- Stayed in one of Hemingway's favorite hotels, visited his favorite Art Museum, the Prado, and gazed at his favorite painting (of a woman, of course, lol); drank a martini at one of his favorite bars at the Palace Hotel and ate his favorite meal, Roast Sucking Pig, at the same restaurant featured in the last scene of "The Sun Also Rises". Also walked around to some of his favorite places during the Spanish Civil War. I wish I had had more time in Madrid;
- Africa -- Flew into Arusha, Tanzania and went on Safari (not the hunting kind) in the Serengeti, around Mt. Kilimanjaro and Moshi, Lake Manyara, the Ngororo Crater, and the Rift Valley, all places prominently featured in the various safari stories and books of Ernest Hemingway. We even got to stop and see the indigenous tribes of the Masai. Did this while reading "The Green Hills of Africa."
- Mt. Kilimanjaro -- My son and I spent a week climbing and finally summitting Mt Kilimanjaro. Played with the snow, or slushy ice anyway, on top of Kili. A great way to end a great trip.

August -- Contracted malaria in Africa but it lay dormant until shortly after my return. I felt like death, not unlike the main character (whoops, person, sorry Hem) in his short story entitled "The Snows of Mount Kilimanjaro."

October -- Attended my first meeting as a member of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Home and Museum board in Piggott. Excited about the prospects of working with this important place in his life.
-- Grew a mustache and went to Holloween party with my wife as Hem dressed up in Pamplona gear, and Sissy went as Zelda;

November -- Purchased a Life Magazine's first printing copy that included the first publication for the public of "The Old Man and the Sea"; Saved my "Hemingway Mustache" at the end of "Movember" but raised money for testicular research. A good thing.

As for reading, which is after-all what a Hemingway obsession should be about... well - I have been busy in 2013. I made a New Year's Resolution to read all of Papa's works. He was, of course, a very dedicated, prolific and disciplined writer, so I did not really make this goal. However, I did read or re-read every major work published during his life-time, saving those works published after his death for 2014. Here is what I read this year, including other works about Hemingway as well, beginning with the original inspiration, of course:

List of Readings for 2013

"Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow" by Dr. Ruth A Hawkins

"Hemingway on Fishing" a collection of works -- Ernest Hemingway

"The Old Man and the Sea" -- EH, 1952

" A Farewell to Arms" -- EH, 1929

"The Sun Also Rises" -- EH, 1926

"The Big-Two Hearted River" -- EH, 1926

"Death in the Afternoon" == EH, 1932

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" -- EH, 1940

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro and other Short Stories" -- EH, 1936

"Strange Tribe" -- John Hemingway, 2013

"The Green Hills of Africa" -- EH, 1935

"The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber" -- EH, 1936

"The Torrents of Spring," EH, 1926

"In Our Time," 1923

"Hills Like White Elephants," 1927

"Indian Camp," EH, 1925

"A Day's Wait," EH, 1933

"Men Without Women," EH, 1927

"Winner Take Nothing,"EH, 1933

"The Fifth Column and the First Forty Nine Stories," EH, 1938

"To Have and to Have Not," EH, 1944

Other Short Story Collections of Short Stories Published During His Life

"The Paris Wife," 2013, Paula McClean (fictional account of marriage to Hadley)

"Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife," 2011, Gloria Diliberto

"Hemingway and Gellhorn: The Untold Story of Two Writers, Espionage, War, and the Great Depression, 2011?, Jerome Tuccille

"Hemingway's Paris," 1978, Robert E Gajdusek 

and Finally, as of today:

"Across the River and into the Trees," EH, 1950

I also watched several of the famous works above in the movie adaptations, as well as documentaries, including "This Spanish Earth" narrated by EH and available on NetFlix

"The Hemingway Project" is my favorite Hemingway Blog, and Wishes of Good Health Goes to my new social media friend Allie Baker who is the genius behind this site. May she live long and continue to blog about our favorite person.


All of his Published Works After His Death
Can I figure out a way to go to Cuba, his boyhood stomping grounds in Chicago and Michigan, his final resting place in Ketchum, and also Paris, where my wife and I will be celebrating our 25th Anniversary this summer.  Stay Tuned... it should be fun. 

Finally, I want to make this important note. Thank you to Ernest Hemingway, for your inspiration, for your craft, for your incredible literary legacy and gift to us all, and for watching from above when you put that amazing fish on my line in Florida, when you ran beside me and pulled me away from that Bull inside the Bullring in Pamplona, for introducing me to your Grandson (and making sure he appeared out of nowhere in the square to help me find my way, now that was strange) and of course, on that last summit night on the snows of Kilimanjaro. I could feel your presence as if a Guardian Angel were there. How do I know it was you? Who else would have put all those amazing fish on my line on what turned out to be the only good fishing day in 60 days? 
Not just any angel would bother.


Happy New Year Papa!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hemingway's "Mississippi": Pamplona & The Fiesta

The Cafe Iruna in Pamplona -- The Place Where It All Began and the location of many dramatic scenes in The Sun Also Rises
July 6, 2013, Pamplona, Spain -- Ernest Hemingway visited Pamplona and the San Fermin Fiesta nine times. Ironically, on that fateful July day in 1961, at the same time Papa reached to open his unlocked gun cabinet to end it all, on his desk were tickets and reservations for the place where it all began -- not just for his career -- but for modern American literature.

When Hollywood finally gets around to doing an epic of Papa's life, there is only one fitting way to film the final scene, and that is to show a shaky hand opening the unlocked gun cabinet, then slow-pan and fade-in focus up close on those tickets, followed by a sudden black-screen (with no gun shot, please).

"We went down the stairs and out of the door and walked across the square toward the Cafe Iruna." The Sun Also Rises

"Across the square the white wicker tables and chairs of the Iruna extended out beyond the Arcade to the edge of the street. I looked for Brett and Mike at the tables. There they were.." The Sun Also Rises
Why is Pamplona so important? Is it just a place for men (and now women) of all ages to come test their metal and courage in the Running of the Bulls, as the popular myth would have you believe? Perhaps, for some, but for American literature it is so much more.

"Brett saw us coming and waved. Her eyes crinkled up as we came to the table. 'Hello, you chaps!' she called." The Sun Also Rises -- Inside the Iruna Cafe -- Nothing Has Changed
"The Sun Also Rises" is important because so much that we enjoy in literature came from this one book, inspired here, in this place, with this work.

Dad (center, back turned) ordering us a drink at the bar EH Frequented both in Fiction and in Real Life. His statue is in the background right looking towards the entrance and out onto the plaza.
His many early visits here, in the 1920's, inspired the novel that not only made him famous, but identified him and his writing style: short declarative sentences, lacking adjectives and fancy words; allowing us to drink in every word for its impact; detailed description that puts you there, with him, at every turn, like the journalist he was; free-flowing conversational dialogue; and honest story lines that describe real life, in all its complexities, both with meaning and without, not fantasy or escapism. In sum, writing done with unvarnished truth and integrity.

Holding up the Bar with Papa (the hat thing felt a little disrespectful, so I removed it)

Above Is Perhaps the Most Photographed Statue in Pamplona -- The Spirits of San Fermin and Ernesto Were With Us
This new approach to literature, as put together in novel form for the first time with "The Sun Also Rises", has since been replicated by many.  Specifically, it helped give voice to "The Lost Generation" of young people who saw their world turned upside down by The Great War. The violent and horrific scenes -- the effects of chemical warfare, losing life and limb to take ground only to be voluntarily ceded the next day, the meaninglessness of the war's beginning, and the tragedy of its duration and end -- all marked this generation. Few members of it were as marked as Ernest Hemingway, and his fellow ex-patriots of writers, artists and musicians.

The Bar Adjoined to the Iruna Where Papa Keeps Watch and Holds Up the Bar
Hemingway gave them a voice, and did so with a new modernist literary style that all began with "The Fiesta", the first title and still the title in Europe.

The corrals from which the bulls are released in the morning for the bull run,and the location of one of the opening scenes between "Brett and Jake".
"At the gate of the corrals two men took tickets from the people that went in. We went through the gate. There were trees inside and a low stone house. At the far end was the stone wall of the corrals..." The Sun Also Rises 

"All along the old walls and ramparts people were standing.... 'They must think something is going to happen," Brett said. 'They want to see the bulls.'" The Sun Also Rises
However, why does something that mattered to another, older generation, still matter now, to us?

Hemingway's gift was not just to his own generation, but to each successive generation, each of which has a need to find its own voice and a means to express it.

"Beyond the river rose the plateau of the town." The Sun Also Rises
Whether it was "The Lost Generation", the "Greatest Generation", the "Rock and Roll" or "Vietnam Generations", the yuppies in "Thirty Something" or Generation X, they each have replicated what was first done here, in a small city in the Navarre Region of Northern Spain, by a young writer trying to find his own voice, in a book about a small group of ex-patriots, a fiesta, a beautiful girl, a tragic romance, and the Bull Fights.
Dad in front of the corral, at sunset. 
"The Sun Also Rises" is not just Hemingway's voice, it is our own. That is what makes it a classic. That is what makes it special. That is what makes this place, and everything about it, "Hemingway's Mississippi."

Next week: Day one of the Fiesta begins like a rocket -- literally! Now that we have established the significance of The Sun Also Rises, as a reminder for some, as an introduction for others, but mostly as an introspective exercise for me, we can move on next time with more fun. Parties, drinking, dancing, singing, and, of course, running with bulls and watching my first bull fights.

Along the way, I meet John Hemingway, grandson to Ernest and Pauline Hemingway (of Arkansas), and I even espouse a little on that "something" we never can seem to define, but that felt an awful lot like Ernest himself looking out for me.

We will end the Spanish portion of this blog -- perhaps the most important -- in the same place the novel finished, at the same bars and restaurants in Madrid.

So stay tuned.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Sun Also Rises, From Hemingway's Room

The Hostel Burguete, Where -- in the 1920s -- Hemingway, Hadley & Friends Stayed Several Times and in the Fictional Account Known as "The Sun Also Rises"
July, 6th, 2013, Burguete, Spain -- I write this post from the very same room that Ernest Hemingway stayed in and later wrote about in great detail in "The Sun Also Rises". I am up early on the morning of the Saint Fermin Festival's first day, writing in the same room that EH wrote in, looking out on the same unchanged landscape.

Hemingway's Room Number (Photo by Drew Smith)

Hemingway's Window at Sunrise: "When I woke in the morning I went to the window and looked out. It had cleared and there were no clouds on the mountains" Excerpt from The Sun Also Rises
This is indeed turning into my own Woody Allen nostalgic "pinch me" tour. I am also writing this at the same time Ernest himself would have written, at the break of dawn, with roosters crowing outside my open window, which looks out onto the Irati Forest and valley -- the mountains in silhouette against still dark skies.

Below is the Courtyard where once there "were some old carts and an old diligence..." 

"It was cool outside in the early morning and the sun had not yet dried the dew that had come when the wind died down. I hunted around in the shed behind the inn and found a sort of mattock, and went down toward the stream to try and dig some worms for bait. The stream was clear and shallow but it did not look trouty." The Sun Also Rises
From out side the window in the picture above you can see the old shed (pitched roof and black door), still standing and still paddocked as it must have been in the 1920s. The brook where he dug for worms is down a path behind this shed about 200 yards, about where the treeline meets the brown pasture.

Hemingway's Room" "After supper we went up-stairs and smoked and read in bed to keep warm. Once in the night I woke and heard the wind blowing. It felt good to be warm and in bed." The Sun Also Rises

It was cold, but not viewing-my-breath-cold, as it was in the novel. The Pyrenees are in the background, the same ones that Drew and I hiked yesterday in preparation for our Kilimanjaro hike later.

"There were two beds, a washstand, clothes-chest..." The Sun Also Rises

"and a big, framed steel-engraving of Nuestra Senora de Roncesvalles." The Sun Also Rises
It is hard to describe this feeling for you. The room is just as he described it himself in the book on his visit to the village of Burguete. There is a picture of him outside the door marking this as his room.

The Famous Photo of EH outside the Entrance
They serve trout from the Irati river in the cafe, and the downstairs is just as it was, with the piano, the same prints, and all the rest as described in the book. On Trip Adviser and in a NY Times article about this hotel it mentioned that the good thing is that "nothing has changed" and it does not seem to be a tourist mecca or have been spoiled at all by -- lets be honest -- people like me. It also mentions, however, that the sparseness of the room suggests that it really has not changed any at all. Of course, that is exactly as I would have it.

The Downstairs Entrance: "It had a stone floor, low ceiling, and was oak panelled." The Sun Also Rises
The owners of the hotel spoke little to no English. My Spanish speaking son had to interpret for us. As with my post entitled "Midnight in Barcelona" this experience gave off a similar eerie feeling. It was if we really had gone back in time to the 1920's. Like the book, we practically had the place to ourselves. They charge a little more for the Hemingway room than the others, but still it was very cheap to stay here. Hemingway's favorite room in Pamplona costs thousands to rent per night and is booked years in advance. This one, arguably more interesting, is a steal.

The old woman who greeted us had to be the granddaughter of the woman in the book..."The fat woman who ran the inn came out from the kitchen and shook hands with us..." There is a small photo of an old woman on the door to the kitchen who looks a lot like this woman... could it be?

We did not have time to go fishing, nor to stay longer than about a half day and a night.  But Drew and I did go on a hike that followed much the same route as in the book, down to the Irati River and back, as Dad rested in the Inn.

The Village of Burguete, in the Navarre Hills of Northern Span: "As we came to the edge of the rise we saw the red roofs and white houses of Burguete ahead and strung out on the plain, and away off on the shoulder of the first dark mountain was the gray metal-sheathed roof of the monastery of Roncesvalles." The Sun Also Rises (Photo by Drew Smith)

"We went up the street, past the whitewashed stone houses, families sitting in their doorways watching us, to the inn." The Sun Also Rises (photo by Drew Smith)

"The houses of Burguete were along both sides of the road. There were no side-streets. We passed the church and the schoolyard, and the bus stopped." The Sun Also Rises (Photo courtesy Drew Smith)
"'We have to follow this road along the ridge, cross the hills, go through the woods on the far hills, and come down to the Irait valley,' I pointed out to Bill. That's a Hell of a Hike.'" The Sun Also Rises (photo courtesy Drew Smith)
"We started up the road and then went across a meadow and found a path that crossed the fields and went toward the woods on the slope of the first hill. We walked across the fields on the sandy path. The fields were rolling and grassy and the grass was short from the sheep grazing. " The Sun Also Rises (photo by Drew Smith)
"The cattle were up in the hills. We heard their bells in the woods." The Sun Also Rises

The path crossed a stream on a foot-log. The log was surfaced off, and there was a sapling bent across for a rail. In the flat pool beside the stream tadpoles spotted the sand. We went up a steep bank and across the rolling fields."

"Looking back we saw Burguete, white houses and red roofs, and the white road with a truck going along it and the dust rising." The Sun Also Rises (photo by Drew Smith) 

"Beyond the fields we crossed another faster-flowing stream. A sandy road led down to the ford and beyond into the woods." The Sun Also Rises (photo by Drew Smith)

"Way off we saw the steep bluffs, dark with trees and jutting with gray stone, that marked the course of the Irati River." The Sun Also Rises (photo by Drew Smith)
"The road came out from the shadow of the woods into the hot sun. Ahead was a river-valley. Beyond the valley was a steep hill. There was a field of buckwheat on the hill. We saw a white house under some trees on the hillside." The Sun Also Rises

"It was very hot and we stopped under some trees beside a dam that crossed a river.... The gate was up, and I sat on one of the squared timbers and watched the smooth apron of water before the river tumbled into the falls. In the white water at the foot of the dam it was deep. As I baited up, a trout shot up out of the white water into the falls and was carried down."  The Sun Also Rises (photo by Drew Smith)

"a smooth apron of water..." The Sun Also Rises (Photo by Drew Smith)

"We found a stream with a pool deep enough to swim in. " The Sun Also Rises Local children swimming in the Irati River. (Photo by Drew Smith) 

 "It was hot enough so that it felt good to wade in the cold stream, and the sun dried you when you came out and sat on the bank." The Sun Also Rises  -- Photo of me contemplating Hemingway, beside the Irati River , after taking a dip myself. The water is still "so cold my hand and wrist felt numbed..." and it is certainly cold enough to chill wine, as it was in the book.(photo by Drew Smith) 
After Drew and I made this hike we stopped at a roadside store, purchased the kind of practical things you can never find on a trip, and walked back to the Inn. It was dusk. There were several other real hikers coming south from the French border town of Saint Jean Pied de Port. In "The Sun Also Rises" Jake also meets an Englishman named Harris who is a hiker, and who they end up befriending for five days of fishing, drinking and playing three handed bridge. We did not make friends with any hikers, but there were several.

The Only Official Sign that this is Hemingway Turf --
a Map in Spanish Outlining His Favorite Spots of the Navarre Region

Drew and Dad outside the Hotel Burguete Before Leaving for The Fiesta
If you want to visit this area, the most popular hike is the one mentioned in the book from the Monastery of Roncesvalles to Pamplona. It is a beautiful yet challenging hike, mostly on what are today paved roadways. The Pyrenees are just as scary and steep as they look on TV.

"We started up the road into the woods. It was a long walk home to Burguete, and it was dark when we came down across the fields to the road, and along the road between the houses of the town, their windows lighted, to the inn." The Sun Also Rises

Headed for Pamplona and the first day of "The Fiesta" as the snow melt runs through the town's gutters. (photo by Drew Smith)
I wish I had more time here. It is a real village experience. There was one literary type I saw sipping wine and reading, jotting in her journal, at the side cafe next to the hotel.  Dad rested up after a long day of travelling across France the day before. We all hate to go now... but it is time for the Fiesta!

"Come on to Pamplona. We can play some bridge there, and there's going to be a damned fine fiesta." Jake Barns to Harris, the English hiker. The Sun Also Rises

NEXT WEEK: The Fiesta Kicks Off -- A Party Like No Other You Have EVER Seen-- I Promise