- Influencing Hemingway: People and Places That Shaped His Life and Work by Nancy W. Sindelar. Lanham
At first, I suspected that, given the number of critical biographies available on Hemingway, Influencing Hemingway could not provide very many additional insights about such an iconic author, but after I read the book’s first few chapters, I realized that my suspicion was clearly unfounded. As I completed my reading, I was persuaded that Dr. Sindelar—a noted educational consultant and scholar who had once taught literature at Oak Park and River Forest High School—in her well-researched, readable study, does deliver on her promised thesis to make a “modest attempt to document how Ernest Hemingway’s early years and the people and places Ernest was drawn to in his adult life contributed to his thoughts, actions, and writings” (xxiv). In chronological order, Sindelar shows how individuals and locales affected the author as a youth in Oak Park, as a young journalist, war volunteer, and apprentice author in Kansas City, Italy, and Paris, respectively, and as an established writer in Key West, Spain, Cuba, and Sun Valley.
In her first chapter, Sindelar emphasizes the profound influence that Hemingway’s parents, other close relatives, and his Oak Park education exerted on the formation of Ernest’s personal life philosophy. She observes that “Dr. and Mrs. Hemingway nurtured values that encouraged high moral principles, a strong work ethic, scholarship, and an involvement with outdoor activities [End Page 138] that placed emphasis on physical endurance and courage” (14). Sindelar also notes the emotional support of Ernest’s maternal grandfather, as well as the influences of Uncle Tyley Hancock, whose travels “no doubt fueled Ernest’s interests in adventure and perhaps alcohol,” and Uncle Willoughby Hemingway, who worked as a “medical doctor and missionary in China” (14). In high school, the writing that Ernest composed with the encouragement of teacher Fannie Biggs “taught him the craft of journalistic writing,” providing him with a foundation for his future careers as reporter and correspondent (20–21).
Sindelar suggests that Hemingway’s subsequent work as a journalist and Great War ambulance driver taught him that other worlds of experience lay beyond the boundaries of Oak Park (33–34). Working as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star helped define Ernest’s economical writing style (24), reinforced his efforts to become a “keen observer of places and events” (134), and gave him the opportunity to “explore his love of action and adventure” (24). Hemingway’s experiences on the Italian Front during World War I not only taught him that “modern warfare was different from what Grandfather Anson had experienced” during the Civil War (2, 34), but also provided the near death experience that would become a key component of the Hemingway Code (30). Sindelar observes, moreover, that Ernest’s relationship with wartime lover Agnes von Kurowsky, who served as the model for Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms, “had a profound impact” on the young writer (31).
Hemingway’s postwar residences in Paris and Toronto with Hadley constituted important influences on the author’s life principles, writing style, and politics. According to Sindelar, Paris of the 1920s so challenged the values that Hemingway had acquired in Oak Park that the expatriate soon “developed an autonomous morality” (53). The dissipations of his characters in The Sun Also Rises showcase the young writer’s new philosophy, a novel wherein the old values merge “with some of the new” (56–57). The influence of Parisian friend and mentor Ezra Pound contributed to the evolution of Hemingway’s prose style, one that was becoming “declarative, void of abstractions, and free from unnecessary adjectives and adverbs” (41–42). Sindelar also notes that, while reporting for the Toronto Star on political leaders such as Mussolini during the 1922 Greco-Turkish Peace Conference in Lausanne, Hemingway’s “life-long interest in debunking intellectualism and arrogant politicians was born” (44).
The “fertile” literary years that Hemingway subsequently enjoyed in Key West were nonetheless tainted by his midcareer...