Hemingway’s prose puts little anchors in my soul that gently tug and coax at it and sometimes thrust at it so strongly that tears quell up in my eyes and my throat crackles.
I’m re-reading The Old Man and the Sea for the first time since I first turned the brittle leaves of my Dad’s paperback copy as an eight year old outgrowing the bookshelf contents faster than my school shoes.
I first read The Old Man and the Sea in a cottage surrounded by more books than money and it did not take long to reach the top shelves where mum placed the heavier literature. One afternoon my Mum’s book suggestions were exhausted so instead I tugged on my dad’s shoulder and asked him for an offering.
“Hemingway”, he mumbled when my prompting urged him to name his favorite author as he sat in his chair wearing his navy woolen rib jumper.
And so it was that my mum took the wooden ebony stained chair into the lounge room to begin the arduous ritual of uncovering this time a slim dark blue coloured paperback with pages that smelt of dust and memories and even a few scattered pencil markings and annotations. She found the book, even though she and Dad thought it would perhaps be too advanced for my ken. And so I read Hemingway at 8. This is not a statement I make to be lauded but rather something that now places me in a unique vantage point for I seldom have ever re-read books (except for the Scarlet Pimpernel, I evade returning to even my beloved favorites for isn’t life too brief for that with its endless sea of unread prose waiting to break at the shore?) Now I am reading my father’s favourite once more I find myself catching ripples of memory of reading it as a kid and it feels like I’m 8 all over again except there is an undercurrent of appreciation for the author that my 8 year old mind never noticed. The imagination was strong in those days and unhampered by the necessities of survival such that I saw no line between the writer’s bait and hook and my imagination, the “great strong fish” caught by Hemingway.
“Fish,” he said softly, aloud, “I’ll stay with you until I’m dead”
– The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway.