Ernest Hemingway

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Cub reporter, The Kansas City Star, WWII, Red Cross, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell To Arms, Iceberg Theory




illustration by Jimmy Grist
illustration by Jimmy Grist


Ernest Miller Hemingway, famed modernist short story writer and novelist spent from Oct. 17, 1917 to April 30, 1918 working at The Kansas City Star when he was 17 years old. Below are five passages from his short stories, letters and novels, which are said to be inspired by his stay in Kansas City:


“In those days, the distances were all very different, the dirt blew off the hills that now have been cut down and Kansas City was very like Constantinople.”-God Rest You Merry Gentlemen


“We’ll stay at the Muehlebach Hotel, which has the biggest beds in the world and we’ll pretend we are oil millionaires.”-Across the River and Into the Trees


“She handed him The Kansas City Star and he shucked off its brown wrapper and opened it to the sporting page.”                   -Soldier’s Home


“It was very cold in Kansas City and he was in no hurry to go out.  He did not like Kansas City.  He reached under the bed for a bottle and drank…” -A Pursuit Race


Hemingway claims to have learned his iconic “Iceberg Theory” from his stint at The Star.  His copy editor, Pete Wellington, employed a style book that simply stated: “Use short sentences and short first paragraphs; be positive, not negative, and use vigorous English.”  “Those were the best rules I ever learned,” says Hemingway, “for the business of writing.”


While in Kansas City, Hemingway responded to the recruitment of the Red Cross to become an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I.  While wounded, he fell in love and decided to marry Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, whom later devastated him by choosing an Italian officer as her husband instead of Hemingway, presumably hurling Hemingway down a rocky path to seek true love.  He went on to marry Hadley Richardson, whom he met in Chicago.  The two had a son, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway.  Around this time, Hemingway became part of the “Lost Generation,” with Gertrude Stein at the helm. This collection of artists and writers included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. Hemingway soon divorced Hadley to marry Pauline Pfeiffer. Predictably, the second marriage failed, and Hemingway found solace in a fellow war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn, whom he soon married–and soon divorced.  He eventually met another war correspondent, Mary Welsh, whom he married in Cuba in 1946. Hemingway committed suicide in Idaho in 1961, after years of depression. Welsh  lived on as his literary executor; she is responsible for the posthumous publication of A Moveable Feast.


Hemingway’s most famous novels include The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1952), which won him a Pulitzer Prize.


RIP, Old Man