Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ernest Hemingway's Snows of Kilimanjaro Still Resonates

The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1936, some 25 years before his death, still stands as perhaps one of his most autobiographical, and important works.
I recently re-read Snows of Kilimanjaro after stumbling upon a short story collection book that my sister-in-law, Jai-Tip, bought.  I haven't had a chance to sit down with Tip, who happens to be the artist who created the cover of my soon to be released short story collection book, "And They're Off!  Stories From the Racetrack", but I felt the need to blog about the story anyhow.
It's just too important of a story for any artist, much less any writer, to not think about and contemplate.  Hemingway, lest we forget, committed suicide in 1961 by putting a double-barrel shot gun to his forehead and pulling both triggers.  Gruesome and destructive, but almost poignant considering his works.  I don't want to get into why I believe it was poignant, that's a discussion, that could lead to some believing me a dark individual on the Jerzy Kosinski level.
Instead, I want to remind readers of the brilliance of Hemingway and Snows of Kiliminjaro which jarred me quite literally off of the toilet, yes, I was reading while doing number 2, in a way that I cannot explain.
Snows of K is about an author, Harry, who lies dying on a cot because of an infection he received, while the woman he is currently seeing, tries desperately to tend to him. 
In a bit of brilliant semi-stream of conciousness, removed from the Joycian style yet utterly effective, Harry decries the life he has led, the utterly insatiable need for things that "don't matter", the Bohemian life style that he has embraced, "living" so to speak, instead of writing what matters to him.
It's an example of the writer's dilemma - - one must live in order to find what to write, yet one must write in order live.
I believe that all writers, all artists really, understand this dilemma.  Tip and I certainly do as we travel on the fruity and nutty streets of Los Angeles.  My freind Chenjerai, formerly of the the rap group The Spooks does, as he works towards a phd at Penn State while trying to satisfy his musical hunger.  My friend Lin and my friend Andrew certainly do as one puts together moving pictures of daily struggles and the other creates brilliant momentos through an art form, poetry, that nobody seems to think about anymore.  My friend Damon does as he uses his extreme talents to makes sense of the world through a medium, Hollywood filmmaking, that has become overblown with sugarless candy.  My brilliant sister, Jennifer does, as she raises a family while creating an entirely different world for her young adult characters, their minds and hearts reacting to the hardness of life that they are just discovering. 
But...all of us are young and alive.  Hemingway is dead and so is Harry. 
As I read Snows of K, on that fantastic toilet that my wife Jomjai installed that would literally suck the hairs out of my ass if I didn't raise my buttocks just a bit before flushing, the damn thing is so powerful, I suddenly realized why it struck me so. 
Time.  We all need more of it.  We never get enough of it.  And, we all cry about it.  That is the artist's life.  It is all about time.
At the end of the day, all artist's believe, all artist's feel, that they are running out of time.


  1. I was wondering about that damn toilet, but you came back to it at the end. Which begs the question how much time do we spend on the throne during one lifetime? ha.

    But seriously, when you realize time is just a human construct, that the unfolding of days/events is actually spacetime, (ie motion/movement) it somehow makes it easier to make peace with. At least it has for me. I see the beauty and futility of life through the progression of my children, too. I don't know what one has to do with the other, really. Just noodling here. But I'm not desparate anymore. I guess accepted my fate and somehow, even though it's not getting down at this moment, feel like eventually my work will get done.

  2. It's been years since I read Hemingway. As a young adult I ate his books for breakfast, though even then they were apparently well "out of fashion". One of these days I'll go back and taste them again. Still there are chunks of some of his books that remain with me.