At Lehigh there was a mid-level English course on Hemingway. Taught by James R. Frakes, this course opened the entire compendium of Hemingway's work to this eager undergrad. This weekend while sitting on the plane heading to Florida, I re-read several short stories from "Big Two Hearted River" and revisited "A Clean Well Lighted Place." and "In Our Time." The stories are of course vivid and direct.. declarative sentences and laconic descriptions of place and person and activity,dialogue with coursing undercurrent. Interactions between men and women and men and the outdoors and the sporting world hint at familiar themes of temptation, resonsibility, living well or behaving poorly,order, mess and lonliness.
"The Battler" allows us to observe while Nick Adams is hopping freights and along the tracks meets an old washed up boxer. When I was 20 I had only seen a few professional prize fights."My Old Man" takes the reader to the racetrack as a kid who hears scurrilous talk about his father When I was 20 I had been to the racetrack only twice. The reader witnesses Nick Adams fly fishing the stream he knew as a younger man. I had not read these stories in years and the re-reading was as fulfilling as the first time around.
The travel and boozing and hunting and boxing and fishing and bullfights and camping and skiing and experience with women all resonate in a different way to me now. When I was 20 and hearing Frakes lecture on these stories and evoking my response from my own reading, I lacked the experience that I have now. I did not know why the line" Is dying hard daddy?" from "Indian Camp" was so critical. "In Our Time" features "The End of Something" and at 20 I was ill equipped to appreciate the dynamic of Marjorie leaving Nick after their brief conversation.
I am hooked all over again...I must read more. I think I will even tackle A.E. Hotchner's biography of Papa once again. Perhaps I will even finally come to terms with what Jake meant when he said: "Isn't it pretty to think so ?"