Wednesday, February 25, 2015
The Sun Also Rises On The Hemingway House
They come to see six-toed cats. They come to see a historical landmark that’s nearly 165 years old. They come to see where a shipwreck salvation pioneer built a home that was architecturally ahead of its time. And visitors from all over come to see where Ernest Hemingway produced 70% of his legendary works. The Hemingway House is something to behold, even if you are like me and don’t like the books of a man who won a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize and had numerous novels turned into movies.
I had visited the Hemingway House a number of times in the 1990s when I’d go visit Key West, which was then just a three-hour car ride from where I lived in Ft. Lauderdale. I hadn’t been back in nearly two decades until I came down with my family for a vacation in mid-February.
Hemingway was many things I will never be – a hunter, a fisherman, a war correspondent, and a fall-down drunk who suffered from diabetes, bipolar depression, and a penchant for cheating on each of his four wives. His writings come from his life experiences, and though one can appreciate the writings or lifestyles of others, I never really fell in love with the work of a man who would end his life prematurely with the help of a shotgun. He was just shy of 62 years of age.
He wrote more than three dozen books and short stories and spent years writing for the news media. He sounded like an interesting character and one who truly lives on the extremes – passionate about life and death equally.
But even after hearing one of the best tour guide speeches ever and being in the historic setting of his old house, I couldn’t muster up an interest in buying any of his books in the gift shop. But I was amazed at how many people come to visit his house and pay homage to a man gone more than 50 years. I would estimate there were at least one hundred people coming every hour. It easily is visited by thousands of people every week of the year. So if over 100,000 people visit annually – and 5% buy at least one book, he’ll sell better in death than most living authors. Don’t forget he’s on school reading lists as well.
In fact, back in 1983 or ’84 when I was walking the halls of Murrow High School in Brooklyn, I had to read The Sun Also Rises. My term paper reflected my disinterest in the book. I thought the dialogue too simple, the story too slow. My teacher disagreed, especially when I challenged him as to why this book was considered a classic. Lesson learned. You get a C-when you speak your mind in school.
However, despite my lack of enthusiasm for his writings, I must admit I admire the career he had and I envy his following that’s fueled interest in 2015 for a man who died in 1961.
It is wonderful that we honor writers in such a way, by preserving their homes or creating museums dedicated to their works. I recall going to see Margaret Mitchell’s home (Gone With The Wind), Ann Rice’s Home (Interview With The Vampire), Eric Carle Museum (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), and the museums and homes of other talented and revered writers. It is the stories about our storytellers that cause fans and curiosity-seekers to flock in droves to such places. People feel connected when they come together for a common purpose, such as visiting where geniuses created their works.
Will there be a Brian Feinblum House to visit? What will be displayed and fawned over? Will it show how I developed into The Book Marketing Buzz Blog blogger or the author of The Florida Homeowner, Condo, and Co-Op association Handbook? Will it show a newsletter I handed out a college called Peace, Love & Democracy – or my online newsletter from the late 90’s, The Sunny Times? Have I written anything memorable, anything that could outlive me?
We don’t need a physical structure to live the writings of another or to honor the ideas, sprit, and creativity that flowed from the author. But it is making the world a better place when we keep talking about writers and encouraging a new generation to read the books that influenced so many who came before them.
Hemingway you may not have been my kind of writer, but I applaud your efforts to write what you live, to pen what you know, and to influence the hearts and minds of millions from beyond the grave. There should be more Hemingway Houses darting the landscape.
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