Was Hemingway a hipster? #MyFavouriteBooks
Ernest Hemingway is on everyone’s list of favourite writers, but that’s because, a) he knows how to party, and b) his writing distills the truth of relationships and human desire with a rare combination of simplicity and depth.
Yes he was an alcoholic and a chauvinist, but that doesn’t define the man’s writing; his characters and his perspectives were both blokey and sensitive. He liked hunting and drinking but he brought with it the nuance of relationships and human interaction like no other. The heat of a conversation leapt off the page, fuelled by both the dialogue but also by what was left unsaid.
He looked at the world with eyes open, calling bullshit when he saw it all the while offering searing observations of his friends and lovers.
But he was also a pioneering hipster, long before the term became commonplace and overused. He had a beard certainly, and he liked nothing better than sitting in cafes and writing in notebooks. But most hipster of all was his lifestyle, his rejection of the norms of society to drink and write and do what he pleases rather than what is expected.
He and his ilk, the lost generation, who congregated in Gertrude Stein’s studio in Paris to smoke and to complain, are the model for today’s over-educated and under-employed hipsters.
As is documented in A Moveable Feast (a book of his diary entries published after his death), Ernest moves to Paris with an unexplained supply of funds, he works sporadic hours at a newspaper and has all the time in the world to drink and dance and pity his own fate.
He was also a failed Russian spy, which doesn’t really add much to my hipster-thesis but it does add weight to the argument that he was a loose-unit.
Choosing a favourite isn’t easy, but I always seem to come back to Fiesta: the sun also rises. The opening pages break all the rules and is still absurdly effective. It follows the ‘lost-generation’ as they decide to flee Paris and head to Spain for the running of the bulls, there’s drinking and fighting and the hero doesn’t get the girl. It’s the kind of book that is different every time you read it, it grows with you.
Within only the first few pages of one of his last books, Across The River and Into the Trees, an old army Colonel shows his frustration with his boat handler with barely a word spoken. Scenes then with his military surgeon and then with his driver in the Italian countryside, leave us with little doubt about who this man is. We can feel his pain of growing old, but also his humour and his incurable hunger for life. Another character brought to life by words.
And as mentioned before A Moveable Feast. It’s the lit-junkies perfect companion for wandering the streets of Paris.
If you like the sound of my novel, and you can’t wait for it to hit the shelves, send me your email address and I’ll send you a free excerpt. But only if you promise to send me some brutally honest feedback ;)