Ernest Hemingway is having a bit of a moment (again). There’s the buzz over the recent archival reveal in September of a long-lost cache of never-seen short stories, diary entries, photos and other personal bits and bobs. And then there’s the Paula Ortiz-directed movie starring Liev Schrieber and Matilda De Angelis, based on Hemingway’s last novel, Across the River and Into the Trees. Set to release in March 2023, it tells the story of a World War II hero brooding over bad news who finds a glimmer of hope through the eyes of a beautiful Venetian local, ma certo.
What better time to revisit some of Ernie’s lauded works? Right now, the East Hampton Library is offering three weeks of all Hemingway, all the time on Mondays through its bi-monthly “Short Story Series Discussion.” Led by reference librarian Rebecca Voisich, tonight marks the second of three discussion groups in the series—and it’s not too late to join. We checked in with Voisich on the series particulars, her favorite Hemingway novel, and why the old man still holds relevance in a sea of Tik-Tok tokens.
What stories did you choose and why?
It’s six stories over three sessions, and we do them each Monday throughout the month. He wrote so many, that it was hard to choose, but I picked “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” “White Elephant,” “Soldier’s Home,” “Cat in the Rain,” “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” It’s our second year doing the short story series, and we started during the pandemic on Zoom. I’ve kept it virtual because while many participants are local East Hampton patrons, some are from as far away as the U.K. They’re from all over.
How is Hemingway’s straight-forward style translating with modern readers?
For me, his blunt style and the ability to talk about his own personal character is unapologetic in a way that I appreciate. So much of short story writing is clouded and opaque. There are underlying things going on that you have to decipher. Hemingway was certainly trying to make a lot of points but his aggressiveness, his bluntness, and straight-forwardness I enjoy. Interestingly, I enjoy reading his writing even though I don’t always enjoy him as an individual – there’s really so much to not admire about him. His issues with his friends, how he treated his wives, the affairs – even now reading back, it’s hard to reconcile things like big-game hunting and his attitude toward animals. I think these are things that people would struggle with now, but it’s interesting to dive into.
Why do you think his work is still relevant?
He’s definitely relevant for the simple reason that, like so many short story writers, his work dives into human nature and the human condition. His work also sheds light on veterans and the war time experience, and so much of that is transferrable today. It’s the human experience in different time periods. People don’t change. We still have the same emotions and experiences, and those things transcend time.
What’s your favorite Hemingway work?
I just re-read The Old Man and the Sea, and I think I would say that’s my favorite. The character Santiago, and his struggle with loneliness and desire and reaching for something that’s out of reach… it’s that eternal struggle. That really resonates with me.
Is the East Hampton Short Story Discussion series always classic authors?
It’s really a mix and we’ve done so many people: Alice Munro, J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I try to hit a lot of both female and male, and a good mix of backgrounds, and good diversity. I do try not to do new works, although I love doing things I haven’t read or have been wanting to read!
Register for East Hampton Library’s Short Story Discussion Series here or by calling 631-324-0222, ext.3, or by stopping by the Adult Reference Desk. Zoom link will be provided 15 minutes prior to the discussion time.