AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

by Ernest Hemingway

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AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby Liz » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:17 pm

Comment on Hemingway and Hunter. Refer to Tidbit #22, our discussion of Fear & Loathing or any other information that you have read about Hunter or Hemingway.

Below is an excerpt of an article in Glide Magazine:




The first thing I thought upon hearing the news this morning was a story Thompson had written after Ernest Hemmingway had killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head in Ketchum, Idaho. Thompson was a huge Hemmingway fan, and had openly expressed how much the great writer had influenced him. I went downstairs and tore through my bookshelf, till I found what was I looking for, my copy of The Great Shark Hunt, the Gonzo Papers vol. 1. It was a collection of early HST writings. Somewhere in it was the story I was looking for. I finally found it on page 429, the short story What Lured Hemmingway to Ketchum? It was about Thomson’s trip to Hemmingway’s final home in Idaho. The last paragraph said it all, “He was an old, sick and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him – not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.” The headline grabbed me again. Author Hunter S. Thompson dead from self-inflicted shotgun blast. It all just seems so cliché, Hunter S. Thompson checking out the same way as his literary hero.

Another quote I found that Thompson had made about Hemmingway seemed to ring true to me as well, “I think he killed himself because he couldn’t write anymore. He couldn’t write, he was too sick to hunt. He just didn’t have it anymore, so he decide to end it.” Thompson’s work in recent years lacked some of the venom and bite that defined his best-known works. He should have been flourishing now with the current political scene and administration, an administration he had openly criticized. This should have been a time of rebirth for him, with targets ripe for his venomous tongue and razor sharp criticism, but his lifelong muse, Richard Nixon, was gone and perhaps he found it difficult to redirect his anger. For so long it seemed that Nixon had fueled his existence, famously declaring, “Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man s**ting in his own nest. But he also s**t in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand.” We all need a foil and with out his Thompson lost some of his inspiration. Maybe as he said about Hemingway he was upset with himself and could not write anymore. Like an aging athlete who cannot play at the same level he once did, he is still capable of moments of greatness, they just appear less frequently. Thompson still produced moments of greatness in his writing, but they too appeared less frequently. He was tired of the caricature that he had at times had become, Raul Duke, The Doctor, Uncle Duke, and did not want to live up to it anymore, or could not live up to it anymore.


I could quote this entire article, but I’ll just give you the link:



Click to see Tidbit #22
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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby Liz » Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:41 pm

Back to that essay entitled, What Lured Hemingway to Ketchem? (of which I typed an excerpt in Tidbit #22). I was finally able to put my hands on a copy of The Great Shark Hunt and will type out the article in its entirety below. It is an interesting read not only because it gives us some more insight into Hemingway and Hunter, but also for the sense it gives us for the times in which it was written—1964.

‘“That poor old man. He used to walk out there on the road in the evenings. He was so frail and so thin and so old looking that it was embarrassing to see him. I was always afraid a car would hit him, and that would have been an awful way for him to go. I was tempted to go out and tell him to be careful, and I would have if it had been anyone else. But with Hemingway it was different.”

The neighbor shrugged and glanced at Ernest Hemingway’s empty house, a comfortable looking chalet with a big pair of elk horns over the front door. It is built on a hillside looking down on the Big Wood River, and out across the valley at the Sawtooth Mountains.

A mile or so away, in a small graveyard at the north end of town, is Hemingway’s simple grave, lying in the afternoon shadow of Baldy Mountain and the Sun Valley ski runs.

Beyond Baldy are the high pastures of the Wood River National Forest, where thousands of sheep graze in the summer, tended by Basque sheepherders from the Pyrenees. All winter long the grave is covered with deep snow, but in the summer tourists come out and take pictures of each other standing beside it. Last summer there was a problem with people taking chunks of earth for souvenirs.

When news of his death made headlines in 1961 there must have been other people besides myself who were not as surprised by the suicide as by the fact that the story was date-lined Ketchum, Idaho. What was he doing living there? When had he left Cuba, where most people assumed he was working, against what he knew was his last deadline, on the long-promised Big Novel?

The newspapers never answered those questions—not for me, at any rate—so it was with a feeling of long-restless curiosity that I came, last week, up the long bleak road to Ketchum, over the drainage divide between the Magic and the Wood River valleys, through Shoshone and Bellevue and Hailey—Ezra Pound’s hometown—past Jack’s Rock Shop on U.S. 93, and into Ketchum itself, population 783.

Anybody who considers himself a writer or even a serious reader cannot help but wonder just what it was about this outback little Idaho village that struck such a responsive chord in America’s most famous writer. He had been coming here off and on since 1938, until finally, in 1960, he bought a home just outside of town, and, not incidentally a 10-minute drive from Sun Valley, which is so much a part of Ketchum that they are really one and the same.

The answers might be instructive—not only as a key to Hemingway, but to a question he often pondered, even in print. “We do not have great writers,” he explains to the Austrian in Green Hills of Africa. “Something happens to our good writers at a certain age….You see we make our writers into something very strange….We destroy them in many ways.” But Hemingway himself never seemed to discover in what way he was being “destroyed,” and so he never understood how to avoid it.

Even so, he knew something had gone wrong with both himself and his writing, and after a few days in Ketchum you get a feeling that he came here for exactly that reason. Because it was here, in the years just before and after World War II, that he came to hunt and ski and raise hell in the local pubs with Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor and all the other celebrities who came to Sun Valley when it still loomed large on café society’s map of diversions.

Those were “the good years,” and Hemingway never got over the fact that they couldn’t last. He was here with his third wife in 1947, but then he settled in Cuba and 12 years went by before he came again—a different man this time, with yet another wife, Mary, and a different view of the world he had once been able “to see clear and as a whole.”

Ketchum was perhaps the only place in his world that had not changed radically since the good years. Europe had been completely transformed, Africa was in the process of drastic upheaval, and finally even Cuba blew up around him like a volcano. Castro’s educators taught the people that “Mr. Way had been exploiting them, and he was in no mood in his old age to live with any more hostility than was necessary.

Only Ketchum seemed unchanged, and it was here that he decided to dig in. But there were changes here too; Sun Valley was no longer a glittering, celebrity-filled winter retreat for the rich and famous, but just another good ski resort in a tough league. “People were used to him here” says Chuck Atkinson, owner of a Ketchum motel. “They didn’t bother him and he was grateful for it. His favorite time was the fall. We would go down to the Shoshone for the pheasant shooting, or over on the river for some ducks. He was a fine shot, even toward the end, when he was sick.”

Hemingway didn’t have many friends in Ketchum. Chuck Atkinson was one of them, and when I saw him one morning in his house on a peak overlooking the town, he had just received a copy of A Moveable Feast. Mary sent it from New York,” he explained. “I read part of it after breakfast; it’s good, it sounds more like him than some of the other stuff.”

Another friend was Taylor “Beartracks” Williams, a veteran guide who died last year and was buried near the man who gave him the original script of For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was “Beartracks” who took Hemingway into the mountains after elk, bear, antelope, and sheep in the days when “Papa” was still a meat-hunter.

Not surprisingly, Hemingway has acquired quite a few friends since his death. “You’re writing a story on Ketchum?” asked a bartender. “Why don’t you do one on all the people who knew Hemingway? Sometimes I get the feeling I’m the only person in town who didn’t.”

Charlie Mason, a wandering pianist, is one of the few people who spent much time with him, mainly listening, because “When Ernie had a few drinks he could carry on for hours with all kinds of stories. It was better than reading his books.”

I met Mason in the Sawtooth Club on Main Street, when he came in to order coffee over the bar. He is off the booze these days and people who know him say he looks 10 years younger. As he talked, I had an odd feeling that he was somehow a creation of Hemingway’s, that he had escaped from one of the earlier short stories.

“He was a hell of a drinker,” Mason said with a chuckle. “I remember one time over at the Tram [a local pub] just a few years ago; he was with two Cubans—one was a great big Negro, a gun-runner he knew from the Spanish Civil War, and the other was a delicate little guy, a neurosurgeon from Havana with fine hands like a musician. That was a three-day session. They were blasted on wine the whole time and jabbering in Spanish like revolutionaries. One afternoon when I was there, Hemingway jerked the checkered cloth off the table and he and the other big guy took turns making the little doctor play the bull. They’d whirl and jerk the cloth around—it was a hell of a sight.”

On another evening, out at Sun Valley, Mason took a break on the stand and sat down for a while at Hemingway’s table. In the course of the conversation Mason asked him what it took “to break in on the literary life, or anything else creative, for that matter.”

“Well,” said Hemingway, “there’s only one thing I live by—that’s having the power of conviction and knowing what to leave out.” He had said the same thing before, but whether he still believed it in the winter of his years is another matter. There is good evidence that he was not always sure what to leave out, and very little evidence to show that his power of conviction survived the war.

That power of conviction is a hard thing for any writer to sustain, and especially so once he becomes conscious of it. Fitzgerald fell apart when the world no longer danced to his music; Faulkner’s conviction faltered when he had to confront Twentieth Century Negroes instead of the black symbols in his books; and when Dos Passos tried to change his convictions he lost all his power.

Today we have Mailer, Jones and Styron, three potentially great writers bogged down in what seems to be a crisis of convictions brought on, like Hemingway’s, by the mean nature of a world that will not stand still long enough for them to see it clear as a whole.

It is not just a writer’s crisis, but they are the most obvious victims because the function of art is supposedly to bring order out of chaos, a tall order even when the chaos is static, and a superhuman task in a time when chaos is multiplying.

Hemingway was not a political man. He did not care for movements, but dealt in his fiction with the stresses and strains on individuals in a world that seemed far less complex, prior to World War II, than it has since. Rightly or wrongly, his taste ran to large and simple (but not easy) concepts—to blacks and whites, as it were, and he was not comfortable with the multitude of gray shadings that seem to be the wave of the future.

It was not Hemingway’s wave, and in the end he came back to Ketchum, never ceasing to wonder, says Mason, why he hadn’t been killed years earlier in the midst of violent action on some other part of the globe. Here, at least, he had mountains and a good river below his house; he could live among rugged, non-political people and visit, when he chose to, with a few of his famous friends who still came up to Sun Valley. He could sit in the Tram or the Alpine or the Sawtooth Club and talk with men who felt the same way he did about life, even if they were not so articulate. In this congenial atmosphere he felt he could get away from the pressure of a world gone mad, and “write truly” about life as he had in the past.

Ketchum was Hemingway’s Big Two Hearted River, and he wrote his own epitaph in the story of the same name, just as Scott Fitzgerald had written his epitaph in a book called The Great Gatsby. Neither man understood the vibrations of a world that had shaken them off their thrones, but of the two, Fitzgerald showed more resilience. His half-finished Last Tycoon was a sincere effort to catch up and come to grips with reality, no matter how distasteful it might have seemed to him.

Hemingway never made such an effort. The strength of his youth became rigidity as he grew older, and his last book was about Paris in the Twenties.

Standing on a corner in the middle of Ketchum it is easy to see the connection Hemingway must have made between this place and those he had known in the good years. Aside from the brute beauty of the mountains, he must have recognized an atavistic distinctness in the people that piqued his sense of dramatic possibilities. It is a raw and peaceful little village, especially in the off season with neither winter skiers nor summer fishermen to dilute the image. Only the main street is paved; most of the others are no more than dirt and gravel tracks that seem at times to run right through front yards.

From such a vantage point a man tends to feel it is not so difficult, after all, to see the world clear and as a whole. Like many another writer, Hemingway did his best work when he felt he was standing on something solid—like an Idaho mountainside, or a sense of conviction.

Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn’t. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him—not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.’

National Observer, May 25, 1964
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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby gemini » Mon Nov 10, 2008 8:47 pm

They certainly had many things in their lives in common!
I have read more about Hunter than Hemingway but what we have learned lately reinforces how much they were similar.

Hemingway and Thompson both lived to write. They were macho, lived larger then life among famous people, both were in the military, womanizers, and gamblers. They liked fishing and hunting, traveled, and wanted to live life to the fullest. They each were known for speaking their mind. Both lived at times in the tropics, Hemingway in Cuba, Hunter in Puerto Rico.

The fact that they both committed suicide could be for health reasons, or the inability to maintain the image they created for themselves in life. Some men don't like growing old gracefully.
Hunter died at his at "Owl Farm" in Woody Creek Colorado. Hemingway in Ketchum Idaho.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming - Wow! What a ride!
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:38 pm

I remember telling Liz when I was reading the book and researching the tidbits I felt there were so many connections. One of the first visual ones that came to mind was this one. I kept waiting to find out that Hemingway had shot his typewriter as well. :lol:

Image

gemini, many of the similarities you have pointed out are the same ones that came to my mind. Nice quote there at the end. ;-)
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:42 pm

Reading the passage made me feel really sad. Hunter could have been writing a prophecy about himself............

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby Theresa » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:05 pm

nebraska wrote:Reading the passage made me feel really sad. Hunter could have been writing a prophecy about himself............

I had to go back to the top of Liz's post twice to read her intro...I wasn't sure that I was reading about Hemingway by Hunter, or about Hunter by someone else. The parallels between the two men -- at least in their later years -- was pretty eerie.

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby Liz » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:23 pm

gemini wrote:They certainly had many things in their lives in common!
I have read more about Hunter than Hemingway but what we have learned lately reinforces how much they were similar.

Hemingway and Thompson both lived to write. They were macho, lived larger then life among famous people, both were in the military, womanizers, and gamblers. They liked fishing and hunting, traveled, and wanted to live life to the fullest. They each were known for speaking their mind. Both lived at times in the tropics, Hemingway in Cuba, Hunter in Puerto Rico.

The fact that they both committed suicide could be for health reasons, or the inability to maintain the image they created for themselves in life. Some men don't like growing old gracefully.
Hunter died at his at "Owl Farm" in Woody Creek Colorado. Hemingway in Ketchum Idaho.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming - Wow! What a ride!

Both had a thing for guns. They both wanted to live life on their terms. Lots of similarities between the two. I did not realize it until I read the Guardian article.

Interesting that Hunter considered Hem to not be political. Hunter was just the opposite. However, they both had "strong convictions" as Hunter pointed out that Hemingway had.

DITHOT, that picture from the Curse of Lono came to my mind too.
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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby gemini » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:47 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote: Nice quote there at the end. ;-)
I was going to write refer to DITHOT'S signature but figured it was easier to just use the quote.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:55 am

gemini wrote:
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote: Nice quote there at the end. ;-)
I was going to write refer to DITHOT'S signature but figured it was easier to just use the quote.


gemini, I think it's safe to say they both lived that quote!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby Buster » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:23 pm

Today we have Mailer, Jones and Styron, three potentially great writers bogged down in what seems to be a crisis of convictions brought on, like Hemingway’s, by the mean nature of a world that will not stand still long enough for them to see it clear as a whole.

It is not just a writer’s crisis, but they are the most obvious victims because the function of art is supposedly to bring order out of chaos, a tall order even when the chaos is static, and a superhuman task in a time when chaos is multiplying.


I think this illuminates a crucial difference between Hunter and Hemingway. It might be said that Hemingway liked control, and Hunter liked to immerse himself in chaos, just for the sake of a challenge. I also believe that Hunter truly liked other people, and responded passionately to them. Hemingway was more concerned about other people's reactions to him.

By the way, do you agree with this?:
...the function of art is supposedly to bring order out of chaos...

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:12 pm

Buster I agree that Hunter genuinely liked people but I also believe he liked watching how people reacted to him. I'm picturing the fire extinguisher incident in Jan Wenner's office at Rolling Stone and how he liked to gather people in the "kitchen" at Woody Creek to hear them read his work as examples.

I was struck by that last sentence and I don't totally agree with it. I feel that at least one of the functions of art is to change how we see things and make us see things outside the parameters of order. The history of great art movements has been to create new and interesting art forms that create change to the status quo not go with the flow.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby Liz » Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:46 pm

I have seen a wide range of functions listed for art--to evoke emotion, to express creativity, to make a political statement, to provide an aesthetic. I don’t think it is one thing. It is whatever the artist meant it to be and whatever the beholder wants it to be.

I, too, think Hunter wanted to get a reaction out of people. He had very outlandish behavior and behaved that way for effect.
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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby Buster » Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:16 pm

I suspect that much of what Hunter did was designed primarily to amuse himself, and whenever he found someone else who "got it", he took it as far as he could. There is a hysterically funny book called The Kitchen Readings: Untold Stories of Hunter S. Thompson by two of his Woody Creek friends, Michael Cleverly and Bob Braudis.
After reading it, I was even more amazed by Thompson's genius and humanity. Basically, the more I learn of HST's writings and behaviors, the more appealing he becomes. Sorry to say, Hemingway somehow diminishes in my mind the more I learn about him.
(This probably says more about me than about either author...)

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Re: AMF Question #25 ~ Hunter and Hemingway

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:28 pm

Buster, I have The Kitchen Readings in my pile o' books to be read. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!


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