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Ernie says “Up Yours” – “The Torrents of Spring” by Ernest Hemingway

There’s some good stuff happening in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novella, “The Torrents of Spring.”  Interesting characters navigate a landscape of work, love, and dinner.  One working class man makes friends with two Native Americans, while another marries one waitress only to discover he’s interested in another, which leads the wife to think she could win him back if she read book reviews.

Now, in order to fully understand the book at it’s deepest level, one needs to understand that Hemingway (who wrote it early in his career) intended it as a parody of a Sherwood Anderson novel called “Dark Laughter.”

Don’t worry, I haven’t read that book either.  That’s not what interests me.

Turns out, Hemingway wrote “The Torrents of Spring” to satirize writers in general – but mainly to break a contract with his then-publishers.  He had a three book deal with a company, but there was a caveat that if a manuscript he submitted was rejected, the contract was null and void.

So, Hemingway wrote this novella in ten days with the full intention that it get rejected.

And it was.

Isn’t that the most wonderful thing?

I picked up my copy of “The Torrents of Spring” at the Little Traverse Historical Museum in Petoskey, MI.  Petoskey (as detailed in the post from three days back) was a frequent and favorite stop of Hemingways, and the novella takes place on those very same city streets where the Museum is located.

As a novella, it’s short and interesting enough.  It won’t waste too much of your time.  By no means is it the best book ever written, and I’m going to flat-out say there’s really no point in your reading it, unless you’re a hard-core Hemingway fan (which I’m realizing more and more I’m not.)

It’s purely the historical context that made me smile.

Giving the finger to the industry that made him a legend, that’s Ernest Hemingway in a nutshell.

BookNerd Adventure: Stalking Hemingway (Petoskey & Walloon Lake, MI)

While I’m not Ernest Hemingway’s biggest fan, I give the man props for being a fascinating figure as well as for his notable contributions to the world of literature.  “The Nick Adams Stories,” which are pulled from his younger years in the Northern Michigan area, are my favorites. So when it was decided that my husband and I would head up to Northern Michigan for a week for our summer vacation (since I grew up there, and my family still lives in the area) I knew I’d be taking the opportunity to do a little Hemingway stalking.  With a little help from Google, Tripadvisor, and the Michigan Hemingway Society, I tracked down a day trip’s worth of haunts to journey to.  Assisted by my wonderful husband, we took off in our rental car across the state.

(To those who think this sounds really boring, please note: We’re history-people, and love museums.  One of my favorite parts of our Honeymoon in Hawaii last year was the tour of I’olani Palace, seriously.)

Stop #1 – The Little Traverse Historical Museum (Petoskey, MI)

This adorable little museum sits right on the gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay, and admission is only $2.  Once inside, you see a collection of area-related relics – but the Hemingway items jump out as the most prominent.  Much of Hemingway’s ties to the area are from his younger years, so the collection on hand is largely child-and-young-adulthood centric, but it gives a great deal of insight into the nature-dude part of the persona Mr. Hemingway would cultivate.

Most of the museum is Hemingway-centered.

It takes a real bad-a$$ to get a postage stamp.

Hemingway's actual baby chairs.

An invitation to Hemingway's wedding.

So many relics.

The very happiest of BookNerds.

Stop #2: Jesperson’s Restaurant & Pie Shoppe (Petoskey, MI)

Now, I think I read something wrong in my research — I thought that Jesperson’s was a place Hemingway used to go and get plastered.  (The man drank, it’s a fact.)  Well, seeing as how the menu at Jesperson’s in downtown Petoskey doesn’t seem to feature any alcohol at all, I’m guessing some facts got jumbled.  That said, the restaurant has been in operation (and family-owned) for 108 years, and it’s said to Mr. Hemingway’s favorite restaurant, so I consider it a win.

Enjoying Jesperson's Chicken Noodle Soup.

That, and the pie was awesome.

Cherry Berry.

Stop #3: Mclean & Eakin Bookstore (Petoskey, MI)

I’m always a fan of a good independent bookstore – and Petoskey has an absolute gem in Mclean & Eakin.  This two-story shop is packed with good reads, and a staff of friendly folks who are obviously readers.  On the day we arrived, they had an author signing books in the kids section and a full summer schedule of author signings and events lined up.

Two stories FULL.

The prominent Hemingway section.

BookNerd Approved.

Stop #4: Melrose Township Park (Walloon Lake, MI)

Historical Marker, Walloon Lake

Not everybody gets a postage stamp AND a historical marker.  Then again, not everyone was Ernest Hemingway.  In Melrose Township Park in the small town of Walloon Lake, Michigan, there stands a historical marker dedicated to the writer’s time in this lovely area.  The summer home of the Hemingway family – Windermere – sits on the shore of the lake, and Nick Adams rows his new bride across the lake after they’re married.

Walloon Lake is very pretty, and located only about fifteen minutes from Petoskey, so it’s an easy jaunt.

From there, we headed back to our cabin and continued our vacation in more traditional ways – BBQ, boating, sleeping late, you know…. But I’ll never forget the day my husband and I spent tracking down a legend.

Along my adventure, I picked up a copy of “The Torrents of Spring,” which is a Petoskey-centric novella that Mr. Hemingway wrote.  I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing some more of how he was able to capture the essence of the area in his trademark “simple” and direct style.

Happy BookNerding, everyone!

On Vacation!!

I’ll be away from the computer from 7/1 to 7/11, on a much-needed vacation.

(There may also be some Hemingway stalking.)

Have a lovely 4th of July weekend, friends!

Printer’s Row Lit Fest 2011 – Recap!

I have lived in Chicago for over six years now, and each year I have (for a variety of reasons) been unable to attend the annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest.  Either I was out of town, or had to work, or was doing something-or-other that kept me away.  As a BookNerd, this broke my heart. Finally, stars aligned and I was able to attend the 2011 event to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

A stretch south of the loop that’s a cornerstone of the Chicago publishing industry, Printer’s Row is a pleasant area full of bars/restaurants, lovely architecture, and rare book stores.  Located only a few blocks away from the imposing and formidable Harold Washington Public Library, it’s a landmark area for book nerds like myself.  The annual festival brings together book sellers, readers, and writers in a weekend festival of the printed word.  This was the 27th time the festival has been held.

(Pregnant Lady, ready to brave the heat in the name of books.)

Saturday’s weather forecast was heat and thunderstorms, so I threw an umbrella in my bag, loaded up on sunblock and headed out the door early with my good friends Amanda and Dan.  We got there right as the fest opened, and as such managed to score some really great books at great prices before the stacks started to get picked over by rabid readers.

With frequent hydration breaks due to the sweltering heat, we made our way through the numerous booths of booksellers.

Some of course put on more impressive displays than others.  We were super impressed with the Open Books booth, which came as no surprise.  In addition to having one of the biggest, best-priced collection of books, all their proceeds go to literacy programs – which is totally a noble cause.

In addition to book sellers, there were some authors on hand signing copies of their books, as well as a handmade jewelry maker and some other clever booths.  Like Acura.  Who would have thought a car company would be willing to sponsor a booth at a street festival that has nothing to do with cars?  Yet, there they were with a car filled with books and a raffle you could enter by guessing how many books it would take to fill one of their vehicles.

My purchases:  I think I spent a whopping $25 to score copies of E.L. Doctorow’s “The March,” Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimajarao and Other Stories,” an anthology called The Best American Travel Writing 2005,” and a gorgeous children’s book called “A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travellers” by Nancy Willard.   There were so many great deals to be found.  In addition, I purchased a fascinating item – “A La Card” – a deck of 52 cards, each of which is a description of a Chicago restaurant and a $10 coupon to the restaurant.

Dan’s haul:  I talked Dan into buying Christopher Moore’s “A Dirty Job” and E.L. Doctorow’s “Homer and Langley,” which delighted me. He also got a collection of stories about female sleuths.  He also made my day by purchasing the above baby tee for my yet-unborn child. (If ever a kid was destined to be a book lover, it’s this one.)

Amanda’s haul:  Amanda went looking for specific books, namely Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” which she ended finding in an adorable 1954 hardcover edition for $3. Her quest for Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park” proved fruitless, but she wound with a really great hardcover edition of “Pride and Prejudice,” so she was pleased. (In typical used book shopping fashion, Austen sells out fast.)  She also left with a book about Henry V’s wives, and a copy of Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.”

Had the heat been less intense, we likely would have popped into the numerous tents to catch a few more authors speaking, but wandering the streets where the breeze was seemed a better idea.  However, upon hearing that Chicago Tribune theatre-dude Chris Jones was going to be interviewing playwright/writer David Henry Hwang, Dan and I knew we had to attend.

Jones and Hwang led a super interesting panel, during which Hwang’s work was discussed in-depth, including his new play “Chinglish” which is getting it’s premier at The Goodman Theatre this season.  Hwang spoke about his work on Disney Broadway musicals, his interest in exploring issues of multiculturalism, his masterpiece/most famous work, “M. Butterfly” and hinted that a major revival may be in the early stages.

Here’s a couple brief videos of the conversation.

At the end of the panel, the heat had gotten to us, so we took  off for a late lunch before heading home.

(By the By, once we were on the bus it started to rain.  So that umbrella I hauled all day DID come in handy.  My advice to those attending outdoor events in Chicago:  Weather changes fast, so always be prepared)

I returned to the fest for a bit in the morning on Sunday to get some more great last-day book deals as well as to attend a panel featuring authors Wendy McClure and Kelly O’Connor McNees in conversation with Megan Stielstra.  Ms. O’Connor McNees (who’s written a book about Louisa May Alcott) had food poisoning and was unable to attend, but McClure delivered.  I read her hilarious weight-loss memoir, “I’m not the new me” several years ago and have kept it on my shelf ever since.

McClure has written a new book, “The Wilder Life,” about her Laura Ingalls Wilder/Little House on the Prairie fandom.  (I’ll be reviewing that shortly, as well as sharing a great video of her reading from that book.)

Below, Wendy McClure talks about her twittering as Laura Ingalls Wilder. 🙂

I scored some more fantastic deals on books, too.  Faulkner, Judy Blume, William Peter Blatty, some parenting books, and more wound up in my bag. Yes, I left overloaded.

Overall, the weekend was great.  The weather cooperated and everyone seemed in a good mood.  I will definitely return next year – though I’ll be pushing a stroller, so we’ll see how that goes – and am looking forward to another great weekend.

Nature Boy – “The Nick Adams Stories” by Ernest Hemingway

One of my great confessions as a reader is that I wish I liked Hemingway’s works more than I actually do.  Though I understand how much of an impact he had on modern literature, I just have a hard time getting caught up in his prose.  Also, I’m not really a fan of war stories, so a lot of his subject matter leaves me, frankly, bored.

Hemingway does have one thing going for him that should endear him to me – he spent a great deal of time enjoying the nature of northern Michigan.  Since I hail from there, I thought I’d look into his works that focus on this time in the hopes that I’d finally find the thread that connects me to this landmark author.  “The Nick Adams Stories” are a collection of pieces, most previously published, about a young man growing up within the woods of Northern Michigan, and then heading off to live his adult life as a soldier, journalist, and parent.

Did it make me fall in love with Hemingway?

No.  Frankly, It’s probably going to take a great deal more before I rank him on my “adored authors” list.

However, “The Nick Adams Stories” is hands-down my favorite work by Hemingway I’ve ever read.  Blame it on the location and my sentimentality if you want, or maybe the vignette format (as the book is really a collection of short stories) but the book was a pleasant read.  As expected, it brought a few twinges of homesick-ness.

I’m glad I read it.  If you’re looking for some “Hemingway-lite” this might be just the book for you.

Go Fish — For Book Nerds!

There’s a lovely new game on the market for book nerds.  Well, it’s actually an old game with a new  literary twist, but I find it incredibly enjoyable and thought I’d share.

Notable Novelists of the 20th Century” is essentially just the classic card game Go Fish, but the sets you’re trying to build and match are authors.

Eighteen noted authors – Edith Wharton, James Baldwin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Roberto Bolano, Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, John Cheever, William Faulkner, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, Vladmir Nabokov, D.H. Lawrence, Saul Bellow, James Joyce, E.M. Forster, and Richard Wright – are featured on a series of cards.  For each author, there’s an Author card (which featured a cleverly drawn cartoon-ish image of the author), a Bio card (which has a fact or two about said author), and a Library card (which features a few of their selected titles.)

At the start of the game, each player is dealt four cards.  Your goal is to complete the three-card set for each author.   So, for example, if after the original cards are dealt you find yourself with the Vonnegut Author and Bio card, you’d go looking to see who had the Vonnegut Library card.  Once you have all three cards in an author set, you lay it down.  The winner is the person with the most sets once all the cards are gone.

Creators Gina Manola, Nick Rudd, and Townes Durbin have obviously taken their time in creating this game, and the artwork is lovely.  I’m sure narrowing down all the authors that could have been included into just these eighteen was tricky, but I appreciate the diversity of the authors selected.  (Where else are Edith Wharton and Kurt Vonnegut going to share the same space?)

As someone who digs learning about authors, I really enjoy the game.  For my friends who aren’t as book-crazed, it’s like playing Go Fish, which is always fun.  So really, it’s a win all around. I recommend it as a gift for the special booknerd in your life.

My 2011 (Literary) Resolutions

Usually, I kick off a new year with some champagne (which I did) and some resolutions about eating better and going to the gym more (which I will.)

However, this year I’ve also made a list of literary resolutions, and I thought I’d share.

1.  I will visit the Ernest Hemingway Museum in Oak Park, IL.

2. I will visit the Madeleine L’Engle Collections at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.

3.  I will attend at least ONE author or literary event a month.

4.  I will do more of my book shopping at Independent Bookstores.  Since Chicago is so rich in indie shops,  I should really take advantage of these little gems.

5. I will read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” (I mean, since I live in Chicago and have never actually read it.)

There. I feel like 5 goals is attainable and should actually be pretty easy.

Let’s see how I do.

Happy 2011, Everyone!

Hemingway-themed dinner at Kiki’s Bistro – 10/5

I can’t locate much more information on this yet, but I saw it mentioned in the new edition of the Chicago Reader:

10/5 —  “A three-course Ernest Hemingway inspired dinner (complete with Hemingway-inspired martinis) will be served to celebrate the release of Diane Gilbert Madsen’s new mystery, Hunting for Hemingway.  Each guest receives a copy of the book, and Madsen will read excerpts during dessert.  Advance reservations required.”

Sounds amazing, right?

Kiki’s Bistro

900 N. Franklin


($37.50, taxes and tip not included)