Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Long Live Pappa

47 years ago today, Ernest Hemingway took his life.

He had suffered from depression for several years, and had undergone Electroshock therapy as a treatment. The treatment took away his memory, and ultimately, left him more depressed than before. He killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head. In what surely must have been a genetic condition, his father, 2 of his siblings, and his grand-daughter also committed suicide.

It always saddens me to think of such a lion of a man being undone by his own mind. He lived his life with what I would consider the very definition of “gusto”. He was a man who spent his life in dangerous and exciting places, and duly recorded the human drama that played out in that quickened world of war and adventure. We men of today are soft. I have no allusions that I would have lasted very long in his world. Many consider him misogynistic. Certainly, his writings are full of protagonists who aren’t exactly icons of feminist enlightenment, but at the same time he doesn’t romanticize those traits. His characters were flawed, and he portrayed them as such.

As I’ve alluded to before, Hemingway will always be special to me. Last fall, Rene’ and I read his entire work together, every bit of it, from the short stories, to the play, to the non-fiction, to the poetry, and of course, the novels. His writing has been described as sparse, but I think efficient is a better word. He managed to convey in his short declarative sentences the emotion, the feeling, the very sense of the place he was writing about. More than any other writer, he gave me a feeling that I knew the place he was writing about. Be it Spain, Africa, Italy, France, or his beloved Florida Keys, he captured the essence of what those places must have been like to me.

His world is gone now. The Festival of San Fermín still goes on, but it has become a squalid tourist attraction, over taken by drunken, well to do Americans, guide books in hand, checking off yet another item from the tattered copy of 1000 places to see before you die. Gone are the humble bars of Key West, home to local fishermen and men on the edges of the law, replaced by chain restaurants and theme bars, resplendent with spring breakers and girls gone wild. He and his world may be physically gone, but they will forever live in my mind, and in the minds of millions of others thanks to his writings.

That is immortality.

Not bad for a guy who killed himself before I was even born. Thank you Pappa, thank you for keeping that world alive for all of us.


Just a Plane Ride Away said...

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in Paris during the 1920s. The expat community, the art world--must have been fascinating and exciting.

I like the idea of reading all of one author's works in one sitting, by the way.

Brave Sir Robin said...

I like the idea of reading all of one author's works in one sitting, by the way.

It was a really interesting thing to do. I had read most of the novels, but little of the rest. We read them in chronological order, so you could see him grow and change as an author.

As for the fly on the wall, Hell yes!!

Alyson said...

He was amazing, to state the obvious. I always find it so interesting how depression and creativity often go hand-in-hand.

I only found out in the last couple of years that my grandma had electro-shock therapy many years ago. I've always known that depression had been in her life, but I didn't know about that. I wish I knew if it helped. People of her generation rarely speak of such things.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Alyson -

My Mom had EST about the time I graduated high school.

She was never the same after that. She just wasn't the same person. She lost memories, of course, but she lost who she was as well.

Depression is a horrible disease, but in this instance, I have to believe that the cure is worse.

Bee said...

Gosh, I didn't realize that he was only 47 when he died! He certainly packed a lot in, didn't he?

Brave Sir Robin said...

Bee - No, it was 47 years ago. He was a couple of weeks shy of his 62 birthday - still young, but yes - he managed to squeeze more than his fair share of life into those years.

Bee said...

Hmmmm . . . I can't believe I misread (misremembered?) that! Can I blame the late hour?

And you're right: 62 is still young . . . and getting younger all the time.

Brave Sir Robin said...

and getting younger all the time.

LOL Yes it is!!!!