Why do I love Hemingway so much? I’m not sure.
Is it the light simplicity of his prose? His detached catalog of events, conversations, and beverages (his characters live one bottle of wine to the next)? Quiet banality finally interrupted by a description, an emotional confession, a love scene, which among the austerity strike you through the heart in surprise?
It might be that I relate to his main characters, in turn an extension of himself- melancholy, independent, would-be lost souls longing in the end for love and for soul-connection but who cannot quite bring themselves to give in to such cliches, whose life-lessons are inevitably inward-facing despite the presence of other people, of friends or lovers (or fellow drinkers, or F Scott Fitzgerald). They come looking for love and leave even more fiercely alone.
Maybe, but in the end it may just be the armchair-traveler in me who loves Hemingway- he remains one of the best travel writers, easily transporting the reader to create irrational fantasies about Paris or Spanish sea-side towns or elephant hunts or bullfights or even wars. You find yourself drifting alongside his characters in the Venetian canals, breezily drinking a bottle of white, good and dry, or in a Paris cafe with a glass of Pernod, tight, happy, and longing. How many Americans have followed his example, as drinkers, writers, or travelers, searching for their own playground of love gained and lost without too much fuss, only total heartbreak, sitting wordless at that quaint cafe only trying to emulate his simplicity and coming up with only over-descriptive messiness.
Images from his work drift into my head often, places I know no longer exist with company that I would hate to keep, but they have created a backdrop for my irresponsible travel fantasies: lovers in the city, taxi rides in the dark to nowhere, an endless European summer drifting ever further South to follow the heat, good wine and better food, simple and wholesome and totally filling. Writing. Traveling!
I am about to indulge in this dream, to get it out of the way, to complete my 16 year old desire- I have bought a one way ticket to Paris and I will stay for as long as it takes to remind myself that Hemingway was not only a misogynist but lived in a time that no longer exists… so What does Paris, or train hopping through France, have to offer me now? Now is the time to jump off that sweet cliff- to fly one-way to Paris and to be disappointed, or to fall in love, or to feel nothing, to drink Pernod and coffee and finally write, the way I have always meant to, to chase the ideal of Hemingway that has rattled around my head so stupidly, to have my Paris as a Young Man, and to see what feast that is, really. And then to continue on to probably more interesting places, where I can create my own mythologies and my own images.
But this first I must do. So call me romantic, or absurd. This is the first step in a long journey.