World War I vet. Plane crash survivor. Epic game hunter. Epic submarine hunter. Short story writer. Novelist. Nobel Laureate. Transformer of the use of the English language.
Ernest Hemingway left much to talk about.
“He changed the entire landscape of American fiction, completely turned fiction on its ear in a totally new direction,” says Brandon Schrand, director of the Hemingway Festival in North Idaho.
Hemingway, an enthusiastic outdoorsman who often weaved those experiences into the turbulent lives of his characters, frequented Idaho and killed himself in his Ketchum home in 1961 after battling depression. He is buried in the cemetery there, though local landowners in the town have worked successfully to limit access to his house.
The festival, organized by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation and Society and the University of Idaho, will make its third appearance as an expanded event in Moscow next weekend. The three-day occasion features writers reading their own work and talking about the man known as “Papa,” and a discussion of a Hemingway documentary, Rivers to the Sea.
Featuring an assortment of scribblers from nearby and far away — “We just sort of draw on a network of writers that we’re reading,” Schrand says — the festival also includes Brando Skyhorse, whose novel The Madonnas of Echo Park won the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award. Skyhorse will read from his novel and participate in panels such as “The Business of Writing” and “Why Hemingway Matters Today.”
And Hillary Justice will be on hand to discuss boar hunting and oysters — “a look at how Hemingway uses food as he does geography,” Justice, a professor at Illinois State University, says. “That was a huge vein, and he tapped into it for really good literary affect.”
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a story most people — even casual readers — know. Assigned to high school and college students, the piece that douses the “Our Father” in “nadas” sums up for Justice not only Hemingway’s mastery of language but of powerful themes.
“You get politics, religion, age and youth, wisdom, youthful passion . . . all in one story,” she says.
Schrand, who also teaches at the University of Idaho, says his first dose of Hemingway was struggling through The Old Man and the Sea in high school.
“I was listening to Motley Crue and I didn’t want to read a book about some old man and a fish,” he says.
The Sun Also Rises changed that. After reading Hemingway’s first novel, Schrand starting buying Hemingway books and signing up for classes on the writer. That’s when the author taught the reader how to read like a writer.
“I started looking at verbs and nouns and how he strung them together on a page,” Schrand says. “I started typing out the first sentences of The Sun Also Rises. I also studied his dialogue.
“In fact, if I teach dialogue now, I often go back to Hemingway,” he says. “It’s concise, it moves intuitively, there’s not a sense of contrivance there.”
Hemingway wrote with “an emphasis on clarity and what’s now commonly know as the iceberg theory.”
In other words, one-eighth of the story is written about and obvious to the reader, while the rest is only alluded to.
“There’s always so much more going on beneath the surface,” Schrand says. “If you’re a writer or a teacher or both today, whether you like his aesthetic or not, he casts such a shadow where you have to reckon where you stand in that shadow.”
Hemingway Festival • Thurs, Oct. 27 - Sat, Oct. 29 • various locations • Moscow, Idaho • uidaho.edu/class/hemingway • (208) 885-6156