Papa Died 50 Years Ago Today

02 Jul

I still remember the day I learned of Hemingway’s death. It was such a shock. I was in high school and had only recently discovered his books. My fascination with novels began with Jules Verne’s The Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Mysterious Island. From there I moved on to Edgar Rice Burroughs and ultimately to John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.


The first Hemingway book I read was The Old Man and the Sea. I was blown away with the greatness of the story and the simplicity of the writing, both Papa trademarks. That led to For Whom the Bell Tolls (which ironically I was reading when I learned of his death), A Farewell to Arms, and all the wonderful short stories, which I keep on my iPad. You can learn a lot by re-reading them from time to time.


That Hemingway abused alcohol and was depressed and probably bipolar is fairly well known. His depression had apparently worsened in the months before his death. It is rumored that he could no longer write, not even a single sentence. Whether this is true or not is unknown but for him the inability to create that perfect sentence would have been maddening. He who slaved over every sentence, every phrase, every word. It is probably what led to his placing a double-barreled shotgun to his forehead and pulling the trigger on the morning of July 2, 1961.

John Walsh has now written an interesting piece on Hemingway’s psychological spiral and the things that led to his suicide. For any Hemingway fan it is interesting reading.

So long Papa, you are greatly missed.


Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Medical Issues, Writing


16 responses to “Papa Died 50 Years Ago Today

  1. Laura Mitchell

    July 2, 2011 at 7:17 am

    I think my favorites are The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Like many of his generation (the lost generation), I think he did his finest work in the period between the wars.


  2. James Scott Bell

    July 2, 2011 at 7:20 am

    Thanks for this, Doug. I went through a big Hemingway period in college, and while he’s dropped out of fashion I still think he is the author of the finest American short stories ever written.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      July 2, 2011 at 7:22 am

      That’s why I revisit him frequently. So much to learn from so few words.


  3. James Helton

    July 2, 2011 at 7:29 am

    The Old Man and the Sea; what an awesome work. My favorite book of all time. It is hard to believe it has been 50 years. Thank you Doug.


  4. amyshojai

    July 2, 2011 at 8:16 am

    …not only a great writer, but a great CAT man, too. And yes, I’m serious, for me that makes a big impact. Thanks Doug.


  5. Lee Lofland

    July 2, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I once was assigned to transport a visiting Superior Court judge from our city to his home overlooking the Chesapeake Bay (he’d presided over a case as a visiting judge). It was after a long trial and a long day in court so I’m sure it was a bit relaxing for him to sit back and not have to worry with traffic for a couple of hours.

    Anyway, during the long drive the judge expressed his fascination with Hemingway and we soon found ourselves in a discussion about The Old Man and The Sea. The judge learned of my interest in writing and encouraged me to pursue the dream. When we finally arrived at his place – the view was absolutely gorgeous – he got out of my police car and turned to me and said, “Son, don’t let a police report be the last thing you write.” I’ve never forgotten his words.


  6. Laura Mitchell

    July 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

    The Old Man and the Sea was my late husband’s favorite Hemingway story.


  7. Sherri

    July 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve been a Hemingway fan since high school (a long time ago) and I enjoyed this piece. You might also be interested in A.E. Hotchner’s 7/1 NY Times story on Papa’s last years and the FBI:


  8. Ardee-ann

    July 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    One of my favorite Hemingway pieces is a short story that is too seldom mentioned, “Hills Like White Elephants.” I think that story speaks volumes about the man, his passions and even his latent demons. The man was brilliant.



  9. Teresa

    July 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    My two favorites were The Old Man and The Sea and A Farewell to Arms.
    This was a really interesting article.

    Teresa R.


  10. J.D.

    July 3, 2011 at 5:13 am

    I loved The Old Man and the Sea and others. About two years ago I read in another literary blog about the short story, Hills Like White Elephants. The story is entertaining and thought provoking, but more than anything it certifies Hemingway as a genius.


  11. Mike Carpenter

    July 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    There is a telephone commercial where the man says, “It was the white elephant in the room.” Mixing metaphors! I remember studying Hills Like White Elephants in high school. I learned what a white elephant party is and have come to the conclusion that my mother in law is a white elephant giver. It is a simple thing Jig.

    Hemingway is a favorite of mine. For Whom the Bell Tolls is my personal favorite.

    If I were to drink with Hemingway….I’d go with the gin.



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