Adequate stretches of time in which to partake in some reading have come about only sparingly as of late. Between the shuddering death of summer, my daughters returning into the educational confines of Upton Elementary School, and the bustle and industriousness that comes with it, the only time I find myself reading is a tiny bit when I lay down for bed (before sleep quickly and utterly claims me). Today I snatched up a disjointed hour of reading in between doctor appointments at my local Veterans’ Hospital.
The current tome that I’m delving into is my newly-acquired copy of Ernest Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, the tale of the life and times of the painter Thomas Hudson in the Caribbean. As I explained in my previous blog post, http://nicholastrandahl.com/2013/08/12/rediscovering-hemingway/, my only prior reading of Hemingway’s work was The Old Man and the Sea when I was back in high school.
Now, as a more mature reader and a published writer myself, I’m able to better interpret different authors’ and poets’ writing style, and Hemingway’s writing style is completely foreign to me. That’s not to say that it’s bad! Not by any means! But it’s completely different than what I typically read and write.
Hemingway’s style is comprised of short terse sentences that don’t wander about poetically around the point, but delve straight into it. It is very practical hard-nosed prose, not flowery or delicate in the least. In other words, it’s very unlike my own writing. I’m a sucker for elaborate descriptions of just about everything, from each and every protagonist, antagonist and story character, to each and every landscape and environment. I suppose it’s my desperate need to paint my own vision in a mental masterpiece for my readers. When, for example, I write about Kraegovich in my debut fantasy novel The Azure Wizard: A Legend of the Fallen Baronies (http://www.amazon.com/The-Azure-Wizard-Baronies-ebook/dp/B007AUO842/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1377049238&sr=8-2&keywords=azure+wizard) I explain his build and height, apparent age, clothing, worn belongings, eye and hair color. I have a vision for each of my characters that I want to portray to my readers accurately and in a detailed manner. And the same goes for every other important noun that rears its head.
Hemingway’s characters, not so much.
He does describe settings, things such as buildings and weather and the sea, in pretty great detail. But in Islands in the Stream, for example, I still don’t know what Thomas Hudson is supposed to look like other than he’s a big guy and quite tanned. But maybe that’s Hemingway’s intention with his characters. Maybe he wants it left to the imagination of the reader to think up the specifics of Thomas Hudson’s appearance. Maybe he intended for his readers to put something of themselves onto the protagonists of his works as a way to connect the readers even more with the lively heroes that they are reading about in Hemingway’s writings.
I know that thus far in Islands in the Stream (and admittedly Hemingway may add to Hudson’s detail as I progress) I see Thomas Hudson as Hemingway described with his tanned and large athletic build, but I’ve also added thick grey hair, bright green eyes, and a handsome square-jawed visage with a trimmed grey or white beard. I suppose I’ve made Thomas Hudson look a little bit (or maybe more than a little bit) like Ernest Hemingway himself.
And that’s kind of cool to give a reader the benefit of the doubt like that. So thank you, Mr Hemingway. Thank you for entrusting me, and all of your other readers, with a little creative control with your characters. I can’t wait to finish Islands in the Stream, and eagerly await to dive into the rest of your books!