At Ernest Hemingway’s Key West Home

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 It’s common truth that every person when he is exposed to something new tries to bring in his own experience to make sense the new situation he is into. The same happened to me when I stepped into Hemingway’s home in Key West (the island at the far end of the USA  and 90 miles from Cuba). To say the truth,  I didn’t expect that this house  will stir some details of my own personal memories. I remembered the day that my mother  bought – from her cousin, a salesman in a publishing company in Greece – all the series of Hemingway’s books which were leather-bound in red colour with gold letters on the books’ spine and cover.  That time, I was around 16 years old  and I had a vivid memory of my mother lying in her bed and reading one of the book of the series, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.  Our conversation was about the translation, I believed then that the cause I didn’t enjoy reading this particular title was the translation but my mother had a different opinion and for sure experience, she was  avid reader and she was taking great pleasure by reading it.  This title  among others – “Death in the Afternoon”, “Winner Take Nothing”, “To have and Have Not” –  had been written in this house.  Hemingway with his second wife Pauline have resided for 9 years in this house and he wrote the 70% of all his work.  This impressive Hemingway’s estate  is supposed to be the largest house in town comparing to the relative small houses in Key West.

 

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Hemingway’s House from outside,  at Whitehead Street.

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The entrance

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The stair at the front entrance leads to the bedrooms upstairs.

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One of his magnificent balconies.

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One of the descendant of Hemingway’s cats. Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are descendants of that original cat,

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Kitchen as it was in Hemingway’s time there.

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One of his living room. Hemingway was avid collector of Spanish furniture of 17th & 18th century.

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Pauline’s boudoir.

Hemingway’s studio where he was working everyday from 9-12 pm.

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His typewriter.  “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed” Hemingway.

 

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One of the corner of his studio. Above his armchair and below his desk.

IMG_7318The swimming pool where all the parties were taking place. Pauline was the best party’s organizer according to the curator of the House.

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His third wife Marthe Cellhorn (Cuba years)                                                                                                 Hemingway’s books

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The first wife Hadley Richardson (The Paris year) and his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer (Key West Years).

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Whitehead street and below is the old lighthouse as a view from Hemingway’s house.

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Below one of the small house in Hemingway’s neighborhood.IMG_7077

Visiting Hemingway’s house in Key West was one my finest days in this beautiful  island. I had the impression that  is the Cuban influence that gives such a vibrant colour not only to this American island but to the whole area including Miami.

The website of the house is http://www.hemingwayhome.com/.

p.s One of his book about Paris!

12241552_997162850345433_4712333655832055710_n“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Eating Pomegranates with my friend

sarahI met her some years ago in a leafy suburb of Dublin. The rule of attraction as always happens among human beings  was her appearance, her nordic appearance.  Her slim figure wrapped up with a white anorak and  her ‘signature’  long blond hair attracted my attention in the first place.  When I talked to her, her voice had the same effect on me as her appearance, soft posh intellectual  English accent.  Usually this kind of people who concentrate all the above ingredients of popularity are  quite indifferent about others , but not Sarah. Sarah was quite tuned to other people’s need for communication. So it was not too long that a real friendship was developed between us.   One of those friendship which one could share secrets and lies  without being  embarrassed, reveal their weakness but as well as their  strengths, fears and have a good laugh.

Despite my moves around the globe we kept in touch, even during her ordeal, fighting a common disease of our times, breast cancer.  And during this ordeal  she made an extraordinary   thing:  she wrote a book.

This summer she gave it  to me with her signature. I didn’t expect anything less than her. A book about her disease, explaining it by  scientific precision as   a bright first class educated person can explain. Sarah read English literature in Oxford with first class honour as well as she attended the prestigious UEA creative writing courses.  She wrote about her beloved mother who had the same disease and the same gene mutation BRCA1, about her father and the impact her disease had on her own small family.

Reading the book I realized that I had  already known the most of the facts and  I learned more about Breast Cancer, the BRCA1 gene mutation which Sarah described with medical accuracy, I learned more about her family, her politician father her late mother, another Oxford graduate and much loved by her.  I recognized somewhere myself with my daft questions and once more  I confirmed that Sarah comes from a certain stock -a  family of driven people,  “..we were the whole world’ with her father’s words. All of them have put in, with  their own way, a small stone in this very exclusive English  society. Sarah is a journalist in Sunday Times.

Sarah’s book  isn’t a simple memoir of her life , it’s well crafted  literature which, I’m sure, was the reason that  Clare Alexander, the guru of the literary agent in London, snatched her book to add it in her long list of the famous authors she promotes…..

The following is an extract from her book, just to illuminate her literary craft:

I always thought I would write novels about relationships. Subtle psychological studies of the contemporary family, its disintegrations and reformations; the long shadow play of gender;generations across time. Exquisite things in the realist symbolist tradition, where the fictional creatures took off from the page and held you in a separate rapture, about which there was nothing of shame or disclosure.

But reality supervened. It crashed on to the page. The third-person narratives got stuck. I couldn’t get my creatures up in the morning, let alone dressed and out of the house. The sat like a roomful of outgrown toys, slumped in the corner, when the children have long gone on to other things. They reproached me, with their twisted limbs, their ratty fur, glass eyes hung out on wire.

Instead, something else got up and running. It wasn’t nice. I didn’t like it. But I have to admit it had a certain vitality. The hideous familiarity of certain close relatives, or one of Dostoevsky’s drunks. Affable and manipulative, emptying out his pockets. What’s mine is yours, my dear. Including my degradation, of course.  Any comparison of offerings is vulgar; you know it yourself.  It chuckled at me softly as I fled, and returned at night, when I was Jumpy.

I took a mallet to its hands, as they crept under the shutters. I went for its knees; it just kept on coming. I am the way and the life, it said. Or your life, at any rate. I’ve got your card. It’s marked. ‘

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P.S.  “Sarah”, reading your book one quotation stuck in my mind, perhaps because I knew  that you adore the Russian classical authors  : ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

On Creative Writing

typewriter4Can creative writing be taught?  Can creative writing be learned? 

Hanif Kureshi says  “The writing courses, particularly when they have the word ‘creative’ in them, are the new mental hospitals. But the people are very nice”. He said that he was impelled to start teaching writing by the example of his children, who have tennis lessons, piano lessons and the like. He became convinced that teaching a skill was an honourable calling: “I felt if I knew something, I should pass it on.”

David Morley (Ass Prof Warwick Uni)says “I think creative writing can be taught most effectively when its students have some talent and vocation for it. If a teacher can shape the talent and steer that vocation, and the students enjoy the shaping and steering, then I think creative writing should be taught as a craft. The whole point of teaching creative writing, however, is that students must learn to make and guide themselves, for writing is mostly a solitary pursuit,even when written collaboratively using electronic media”

Another novelist David Lodge wrote “Even the most sophisticated literary criticism only scratches the surface of the mysterious process of creativity; and so, by the same token, does even the best course in creative writing”

 Henry James in the essay The Art of  Fiction writes “The painter is able to teach the rudiments of this practice and it is possible, from the study of good work (granted the aptitude), both to learn how to paint and how to write. Yet it remains true…that the literary artist would be obliged to say to his pupil much more than any other, ‘Ah well, you must do it as you can’ If there are exact sciences, there are also exact arts, and the grammar of painting is much more definite that it makes a difference” So you must do it as you can. Writing is not painting, neither is it as systematised knowledge. It is not empirical science; teaching and learning writing is not like teaching and learning medicine.

Fay Weldon “There are lots of readers out there and they need lots of books to be written, she said. If you can teach some of the writers that “the fewer adjectives and the fewer adverbs the better, you’re just doing the world a favour.”

 

And here you are with the following  list of books  in a descenting order of interest. Some of them I found quite interesting and helpful as reference books in my bookcase.

‘The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing’  by David Morley

‘The Writer’s idea book’ by Jack Heffron

Your writing coach by Jurgen Wolff

The writer’s voice by Al Alvarez

13 ways of looking at the novel by Jane Smiley 

Authors writing about their own experience as writers :

‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Murakami

And ‘On writing’ by Stephen King wich I haven’t read  because I’m not a fan of Stephen King

The write stuff

42-15214588The other day when I said to  my little albion that I am a writer she paused for a second and she replied with  a mischievous expression ‘we are all writers in my class,  we are writing all day!’ I didn’t have any other option other than saying  ‘Yes sure, you have absolutely right! ‘ thinking at the same time  about  us, the bloggers, we are all writers we are writing  writing, writing most of us in a regular basis.  So I choose some quotations which have some  beams of wit .

‘Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you intended for ‘ Mark Twain 

‘And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.’  Sylvia Plath

‘If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it’.  Toni Morrison

‘The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.  By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say’  Mark Twain

‘Easy reading is damn hard writing.’ Nathaniel Hawthorne

‘A good style should show no signs of effort.  What is written should seem a happy accident.’W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938

‘I try to leave out the parts that people skip’. Elmore Leonard

Something from me  about publishing  a book  ‘The best thing you have to do after handing your book to your agent is to put a copy to your drawer next to your bed and  pray.’

And don’t forget  the three secrets of writing a book  ‘writing, writing, writing’ and after finishing it ‘editing, editing, editing’.