When I posted a short introduction to myself and the idea of The Hemingway Project online in December of 2009, I had no idea what a gift was in store for me. I had recently reread Hemingway’s early books before visiting Paris and Northern Spain for the first time. I was working in a library at that time and wanted to somehow write about the fascinating experiences I had at the front desk of our public library, listening to people talk about how books and writers literally shaped the choices they made in their lives; from career choice to travel, I thrilled at the thought that writers really do have a profound impact on their readers. Within a few short months, readers of the blog responded to my idea of collecting stories of the way Hemingway has influenced them. More importantly, readers responded to my questions, telling me about their lives.
The goal of The Hemingway Project is to collect stories about Hemingway’s enduring influence. I feature interviews with readers and Hemingway fans of all kinds. The centerpiece of the blog has been The Hadley Tapes, which are the conversations between Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, and Alice Sokoloff, Hadley’s first biographer. I see The Hemingway Project as a bridge between the academic world and aficionados, an exploration of the fascinating Hemingway subculture that has existed for decades, and a study of one writer and his readership.
There have been some great moments in my first year and a half with the blog. Some that come to mind are talking with Mike Curry about life in Key West in the Great Depression, learning about the symbolism of bullfighting from the Spanish perspective of Paco Pereda from the University of Basque Country, getting a glimpse of Hemingway’s early family life from John Sanford, Marcelline’s son, and talking with several people about the ever intriguing topic of the lost manuscripts. Bob Orlin and Brain Gordon Sinclair were both very entertaining subject to interview because they’ve turned their interest in Hemingway into careers as artist and actor respectively. I was especially honored to interview John Hemingway about his book, Strange Tribe and Paula McLain about her book The Paris Wife.
I am always amazed at the variety of subjects and personal stories that come up when we are talking about Hemingway; stories about absent fathers and Romanian gypsies, fortunetellers and boy scouts, and Charles Bukowski, to name a few. When I interviewed Kiril Sokoloff, about his mother Alice (who conducted the Hadley interviews), we talked a bit about the Dali Llama. Someone emailed me after that interview to say that all things must surely lead to Hemingway, even his holiness! I always feel that each new interview is my favorite and I have some great new interviews lined up for the future.
It is encouraging that books like The Paris Wife and movies like Midnight in Paris are driving people to read The Moveable Feast for the first time and do their own research on lost generation figures like Pablo Picasso and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. In this way, the lives of these writers and artists will be carried forward in new and innovative ways, they will inspire new generations to live their lives to the fullest, like Ernest.
Last summer I lived in Spain collecting material for forthcoming writing about Ernest and Hadley’s unbearably poignant five-year marriage, I saw my first bullfight and holding my breath, I watched the running of the bulls in Pamplona. In October, I gave a talk in Ketchum at the Hemingway Symposium, called West of Paris, about Hadley and the blog. I am looking forward to meeting more Hemingway people in Petoskey at the Hemingway Society Conference where I will give a short presentation about The Hemingway Project called, “The Outer Suburbs of Hemingworld”. I will discuss the interviews I have conducted for the blog, which have produced remarkable insights and capture the poignant, bizarre and often hilarious ways in which people interact with Hemingway. Technology and the information age have given even people from the “outer edges of Hemingway” a way to participate in the discussion of Ernest Hemingway and provide us with a glimpse into the ways books and writers deeply impact the lives of their readers.
For me, Hemingway was someone who saw the potential of his own life and didn’t waste it. Creating The Hemingway Project has given me incredible new friendships and opportunities that I could not have imagined in the beginning. Reading about him, learning about him, traveling and asking questions has made my life larger and more interesting than it would be without having read Hemingway, which is about the best thing you could ever say about a book or a writer.