drpeter

Super Member
Last night I watched the first part -- two hours of a three-part, six-hour documentary -- on Ernest Hemingway by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. No matter what your opinion of Hemingway might be as a writer (and opinions can differ), it is undeniable that he was a major American writer, and a profound influence on writers world-wide. A complicated and complex man with all sorts of flaws and faults, he was still enormously productive, well into old age. And he kept publishing for years after he died, LOL. The man, his life and his works have become a major cottage industry. And of course, the stuff of legends, as they say.

Ken Burns is also renowned for the many brilliant documentary series he has made (on Jazz, on the Vietnam War, on the Dust Bowl, on the Roosevelts). The first two hours of Hemingway are outstanding in its coverage of the first thirty years of the novelist's life. What blew me away, especially when viewed on my large plasma screen, was the quality of all those gorgeous, grainy, black-and-white photographs, some of them taken at night in Spain, in bars and public places, with beautiful, evocative use of light and shade. They capture a period of time in the early 20th century with poignancy and grace. The fact that all these images were assembled is in itself a testament to Burns' and Novick's skill.

Here's a link to the webpage put together by PBS:

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/hemingway/

In my mind, Hemingway's best writing was in A Farewell to Arms. Here is the often-quoted opening paragraph of the novel. It is beautifully written, with a sadness about war, about all wars, expressed vividly through the choice of simple words, of careful repetition. As an observer says in the documentary, he broke so many rules in this paragraph, and yet achieved a lasting effect that sets the tone for the entire novel:

“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swifly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterwards the road bare and white except for the leaves.”

I hope you watch this series.
 
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Peak and Pine

Connoisseur
America's Shakespeare. (Disputed) (Not by me) Twice I have wandered around his home in Key West, petted the descendants of his cats. I began to read For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1997 and because Hemingway was dead, because there would be no sequel and because I didn't want it to end, I stopped 50 pages short of the finish and have read two additional pages for each of the last 24 years, starting ten pages back from wherever I leave off, to refresh. I am due to finish it next year. But I probably will choose not to.
 

drpeter

Super Member
I think you are a devotee to Papa. Did you watch the documentary?

I read all of his novels when I was a teenager, so I should go back and re-read them after a lifetime of travel and experience in the world. That said, my favourite Hemingway work is not one of his novels but a collection of short pieces: A Moveable Feast.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I think you are a devotee to Papa. Did you watch the documentary?

I read all of his novels when I was a teenager, so I should go back and re-read them after a lifetime of travel and experience in the world. That said, my favourite Hemingway work is not one of his novels but a collection of short pieces: A Moveable Feast.
I saw it was coming, but it doesn't start on my PBS station until Wednesday (DVR all set). I enjoyed "A Movable Feast," which, coincidentally, is the most recent Hemingway book I've read.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Egad, the rumors must be true...I must be a hermit, as I heard nothing of this video celebration of Ernest Hemingway"s writings and his life. I think myself a fan, having read The Old Man and The Sea, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. I've also read two books about his wives and ex-wives, but the titles escape me at the moment. I think the volumes are stored somewhere in the hoard. And should this pandemic ever come to a close, the wife and I could take a short drive to Key West and haunt the Hemingway estate, just as one of my many mentors, Peak and Pine, spoke of doing! Gotta keep taking that Prevagen...or I might forget. :(;)
 

Andy

Site Creator/ Administrator
Staff member
I missed the Doc! But I am going to watch. Liked his writing and some of his lifestyle.

Tried to always pick The Old Man and The Sea for book reports since it was short!
 

Peak and Pine

Connoisseur
...my favourite Hemingway work is not one of his novels but a collection of short pieces: A Moveable Feast.
Hemingway off'ed himself when I was in high school and I'd only read Old Man at that time. Depressing I thought. In college I read my second, Sun Also Rises and was hooked and took a class in Hemingway. I bought Moveable Feast when it first came out ( '65?) and this was about the same time as Capote's In Cold Blood, (serialized in the New Yorker without author attribution except tc at the end of each installment). I mention this because at the time Capote's book was heralded as a new form, truth being told like fiction. But Moveable Feast was the first non fiction Hemingway I'd ever read. And it read in the precise same style as if he'd made it up. A true feat.

**I can't see the documentary. No tee vee. Cable's not been strung here and satellite is 65 a month plus additional 40 for internet and I'd rather take my $105 and spend it on old tweeds on online thrift sites. My internet access is limited to this kinda tiny Samsung cell plus towers that sometimes radiate and sometimes don't.
 

drpeter

Super Member
Egad, the rumors must be true...I must be a hermit, as I heard nothing of this video celebration of Ernest Hemingway"s writings and his life. I think myself a fan, having read The Old Man and The Sea, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. I've also read two books about his wives and ex-wives, but the titles escape me at the moment. I think the volumes are stored somewhere in the hoard. And should this pandemic ever come to a close, the wife and I could take a short drive to Key West and haunt the Hemingway estate, just as one of my many mentors, Peak and Pine, spoke of doing! Gotta keep taking that Prevagen...or I might forget. :(;)
You can order the complete Blu Ray and DVD package plus the book if you so choose, at the PBS website shop. I did so this morning. About $65 including postage for the whole package.
 
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drpeter

Super Member
Hemingway off'ed himself when I was in high school and I'd only read Old Man at that time. Depressing I thought. In college I read my second, Sun Also Rises and was hooked and took a class in Hemingway. I bought Moveable Feast when it first came out ( '65?) and this was about the same time as Capote's In Cold Blood, (serialized in the New Yorker without author attribution except tc at the end of each installment). I mention this because at the time Capote's book was heralded as a new form, truth being told like fiction. But Moveable Feast was the first non fiction Hemingway I'd ever read. And it read in the precise same style as if he'd made it up. A true feat.

**I can't see the documentary. No tee vee. Cable's not been strung here and satellite is 65 a month plus additional 40 for internet and I'd rather take my $105 and spend it on old tweeds on online thrift sites. My internet access is limited to this kinda tiny Samsung cell plus towers that sometimes radiate and sometimes don't.
As I have mentioned to Eagle, you can order just the DVDs, or Blu Ray and DVD, or the whole package with the book about the documentary, all from the PBS website. I did so because it is a good addition to my library.
 
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drpeter

Super Member
The second and third episodes of the PBS series on Ernest Hemingway were quite powerful and well done. The decline of Hemingway's life over his later years, the marriages, the drinking, and most striking of all, the number of traumatic head injuries he suffered -- all of these are gone into with careful attention paid to the details. As in the first episode, the images and details are compelling.

As a scientist who knows a little bit about the brain, there is no question in my mind that the damage to the brain that Hemingway suffered, on top of familial predilection toward mental illness, and self-medication through alcohol (plus various other prescribed medicines), contributed heavily to the deterioration. His writing begins to suffer, and the later books show evidence of this.

I was strongly reminded of the study about the influence of dementia on the writing of the famed novelist Iris Murdoch, who died of Alzheimer's disease, published some time ago in the journal Brain. The investigators did a careful content analysis of all of Iris Murdoch's novels. They found an arc, with increasing skill, complexity and command of the possibilities of creative use of the language, in her successive novels -- and then the decline begins to show in the last novel. It is almost possible to predict the onset of the dementia by looking at the decline in the quality of her writing.

https://www.nature.com/news/2004/041129/full/041129-4.html

Back to the series: One of the poignant figures in all of this is the second son, Patrick, who suffered at his father's hands, perhaps more so than the other children in some ways. He speaks at length in the documentary and I found his account very touching.

Among the American winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, at least four -- Eugene O'Neill, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck -- were known to be heavy drinkers by any standards, even the relatively lax ones of the first half of the twentieth century. The relationship between writing and alcohol is an interesting one, and has been written about by some observers and critics. The process of writing can be difficult and full of self-doubt, and blunting the force of the world's intrusion into the writer's life can become a primary concern for many writers who achieve a certain amount of fame, especially early in one's career. This is also seen in the careers of other artists.
 
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Big T

Senior Member
‘Twas burned in memory to watch, alas, ‘‘twas not burned deep enough, or I just forgot!

He had many contemporaries, some great and some not known, and an era for the print word that we might never have again. As PBS is one of my greatest joys for relaxation, I will purchase the mentioned documentary.
 
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