Celebrate Hemingway’s Birthday and Read

It’s been a week full of Hemingway here at Book Perfume, and I’ve gotta tell you, friends, that’s my kind of week.

I shared my love letter to Papa and relived the story from my teen years about the woman who tried to talk me out of reading a “boy book.” We played Love Connection with some of Papa’s most famous leading men, and there was some major gushing over Erika Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl and Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. I loved hearing your stories on Facebook about your first experiences with Hemingway, and just talking about him all week makes me want to drop everything I’m doing and wrap myself in a blanket of his books. (And while I mean that figuratively, I’m now making a mental note to google “Ernest Hemingway blankets” once we’re done here, because I’m pretty sure I need one.)

As we close out the week, I have a confession to make: I couldn’t decide what to write about today. There’s so much more I wanted to cover—the holy experience of visiting his house in Key West, the strong female characters in his novels, the passages from each of his books that never cease to make me marvel—and every time I settled on one topic, another one cried out to me. But Hemingway said that all you have to do is write one true sentence, the truest sentence that you know, so here it is, folks:

Honor Papa and read one of his books.

If you’re already a Hemingway fan, I don’t need to tell you this. You know how brilliant his books are, how his writing is like no other, and how his novels beg for a re-read. But sometimes life gets busy and with so many new books out there, it’s hard to make time to revisit the old ones. I get it, but you can always find something new to love in a Hemingway book. Make time. Discover that new thing.

If your only experience with Hemingway was in school, and you kind of skimmed through it with an eye roll because you had to get this paper written before Party of Five came on, pick up one of his books. I guarantee you will see it with a fresh perspective, and I promise I won’t make you write an essay.

If you’ve never read Hemingway because you’re not sure he’s for you, just do yourself a favor and give him a try. The Sun Also Rises or A Moveable Feast are the perfect introduction, and they’re not even that long. If it turns out to be not your cup of tea, it’s not your cup of tea—but what if it’s your perfect cup of tea? Then you’ve got an entire untapped chest of oolongs and jasmines sitting there waiting for you.

No matter which camp you fall into, in case you need an extra push, let me remind you of the gems of sentences he creates, like in A Moveable Feast:

“’We’re always lucky,’ I said and like a fool I did not knock on wood. There was wood everywhere in that apartment to knock on too.”

And the way he perfectly captures the little truths in life, like in The Sun Also Rises:

It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.”

And how he can be so poignant in so few words, like in For Whom the Bell Tolls:

“The world is a very fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

And how he can convey humor and courage and disillusionment in one fell swoop, like in A Farewell to Arms:

“Did you do any heroic act?”

“No…I was blown up while eating cheese.”

Celebrate Papa today, lit lovers. Be thankful for his books and for the generations of writers he’s inspired. He was simply the best, and his sentences were truer than true. And if you want to have some cake in his honor, that would be cool too, because if there’s one thing as good as a perfectly crafted sentence it’s a perfectly crafted buttercream frosting.

Happy birthday, Papa.

“The hardest thing in the world to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write. Both take a lifetime to learn.” – Ernest Hemingway

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