Ernest Hemingway is often painted as a brutish man, marked by machismo and narcissism. He suffered multiple concussions during his life, became a diabetic, and, influenced by these issues, was also depressed. A keen drinker to boot, it’s not difficult to imagine Hemingway given to episodes of cruelty and insensitivity. Whatever is surmised about the man, his literary legacy is undisputed.
As a writer, Hemingway was remarkable. Easy to read, his plain use of language was deceptive. The prose drew on the kind of every man language you might hear on the street, but behind it was the writer’s fierce intellect. From almost nowhere—a series of eloquent yet un-embellished passages—came a mighty sucker punch of emotional understatement written in a minimalist style.
During his lifetime, Ernest Hemingway traveled a lot. Shortly after his First World War service in Italy, he was offered a job in Toronto and later became a writer there for the Toronto Star Weekly. As a young man before the war, he’d worked as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star: a newspaper that shaped his to-the-point technique with its writing style guide.
Hemingway wrote for The Toronto Star Weekly from 1920 to 1924. In a high society column in 1920, he wrote an article about craps and how it had been taken up by “Toronto’s smart set”. The dice game, craps, is considered by most as a game of pure chance, but Hemingway claimed otherwise. “If you don’t believe this”, he said, “try your luck against an experienced manipulator of the ivories. It shouldn’t take him longer than about six passes to convince you that craps is a game of skill.”
Though he worked for the Toronto Star, Hemingway didn’t live in Toronto for long. He was away to Paris in the early 1920’s, which at the time was the greatest artistic city in the world and a focal point for the literati. In Paris, Hemingway met Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and, a little later, F. Scott Fitzgerald. His destiny was sealed.