by Kristy Mandour
Readers and authors have grown to hold Hemingway in an iconic and exemplary esteem. Both The Sun Also Rises (1926), along with A Farewell to Arms (1929) were included on a 199 8 list of the top one hundred novels of the twentieth century. According to Terry Tempest Williams, “Hemingway has been a powerful mentor, in terms of what it means to create a landscape impressionistically on the page, to make it come alive, pulse, breathe, to ‘make the country so that you could walk into it.’” The rich and concise prose that makes Hemingway a stand-out American literary figure, transcending decade after decade, has also “Elvisized” him, as author Justin Kaplan explained. As Elvis became the “King of Rock and Roll,” so too, some say, has Hemingway become the “King of Fiction Prose.”
How was one man capable of such a feat? In his own words, “All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” This feeling holds true for many who read Hemingway and experience his freshness and simplicity on each page. In 1999, at the Hemingway Centennial celebration at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, essayist Joan Didion declared Hemingway “a writer who had in his time made the English language new, changed the rhythms of the way both his own and the next few generations would speak and write and think.” He has forged a path in American literature which has been imitated but never surpassed by his contemporaries.