Follow by Email

Special Feature: Ernest Hemingway Home

  "A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit."

~Ernest Hemingway, 'The Art of the Short Story'

Hemingway the author was as intriguing as his stories. Upon visiting his house today, I couldn't miss the myriad lounging cats. These were the grandkids of EH's cats, some six toed felines that supposedly granted good luck. The tour, one of dozens we've taken on our Adventure, was particularly interesting. Following are a few tales of the man behind the stories. 

Hemingway liked birthing chairs, their use obvious, with handles for women to grip during delivery. He found them convenient and easy to carry to places like the bullfights in Spain. Imagine peoples' responses to the American, entering the crowd with a birthing chair.

The house, given to them by his (3rd) wife's uncle, was located close to the lighthouse, which he appreciated and could locate after long evenings at Sloppy Joe's Bar.

The house, on an acre (huge by Key West standards), featured beautiful grounds. It was built at an elevation of sixteen feet above sea level. Since it was on such a high plane (right!), they were able to have a basement, which became quite the wine cellar. 

His wife wanted a pool, which Hemingway thought preposterous. If you wanted to swim, jump in the ocean. But while he covered the Civil War in Spain, she 'surprised' him with the $20,000 pool. Furious, he handed her a penny, shouting, "Do you wanted to spend my last red cent?" He turned away and she pressed it into the wet cement of the patio. Still there. 

His favorite bar had to move, as the landlord decided to jack the rent. They took the bar equipment and furniture, but then took up the carpet, hardware and bathroom fixtures. Hemingway saw a urinal, brought it home and laid it by the pool-a statement- which launched another verbal war. The groundskeeper took it, placed it on the ground, strategically placed tiles and cement around it, set a pot with water to it alongside, and voila, the cats' drinking fountain. It ended the battle; Hemingway, happy to see the permanent sign of his distaste, and his wife, seemingly unaware that the new fountain contained the urinal. 

Mrs. Hemingway converted the old kitchen above the carriage house into an office for hubby to write. Apparently no matter how long his absence or deep his imbibing, he would get up at six and knock out seven hundred words. Even though he was a hunter, fisherman, philanderer, drinker and adventurer, he didn't forget he was a writer.  

Modern speculation claims Hemingway was bipolar. After four marriages and struggling with emotional issues, he moved to Idaho, where he received shock treatments to fix his dilemma. Not only did they fail, it made him unable to write. A lifetime of alcohol abuse and physical pain from numerous accidents and war wounds took their toll. He ended his own life with a shotgun blast in 1961 at the age of sixty-one. 

He may have lived to only sixty-one, but jammed a hundred years of living into it.


Karla Akins said...

I am envious that you got to see this but so glad you shared it with us. I wondered about the cats. It would seem like there'd be dozens. How fortunate there was one sleeping on the bed for that wonderful pic. He was quite a character. Only 700 words a day. It seems that the best writers wrote 250-700 words a day and the quality they had naturally is enviable. I try to pound out a couple thousand a day but have a lot to edit. They, probably not so much. My favorite children's author, DiCamillo only writes 250 a day and she has won tons of awards. Thanks for sharing this wonderful journey!

................................ Kevin Parsons said...

Hemingway wrote on a typewriter, so his writing needed to be more deliberate; no cut and paste, find and replace, formatting. So 700 words was probably much more than on a computer. However, he had to write while hung over.