Because of a client’s Facebook post, last week I ordered a copy of The Hemingway Cookbook by Craig Boreth. Now, most everyone who’s known me for a week or twenty years knows that my devotion to Papa Hemingway started early and has never really wavered. It has survived the bad publicity, the parodies, the mediocre later works, the disdain of my feminist friends who think of him as a sexist blowhard who could write a little….
Thing is, I still find that despite the reams written by and about him, this author continues to surprise and delight. Every once in a while I’ll read a book (The Paris Wife) or an article about Hemingway and his intimates and cronies that makes me think, “Man, those people lived large!” And despite the tragic ending and the many missteps I’ve always felt that he possessed great generosity of spirit.
Many years ago, I read in the local paper about a young man who wanted to be a writer and went to Hemingway for advice. He was given two lists of books to read. I dimly remember that both lists contained classic titles, but one featured books Ernest considered masterpieces and the other those he considered terrible. He suggested that the young author become familiar with both, the logic being that you can learn a lot even from a bad book. This notion has served me well professionally and so I’m always thrilled when I come across stories of Hemingway’s reading lists, like this one.
I think great writers learn to write by learning to read and I think a properly curated list is an invaluable tool. Do you agree? And, what books would be on the list you make up for someone looking for advice?
BTW, the cookbook is a treasure. I’m gonna try the burger recipe this weekend.