Hemingway Days continues Key West Literary Tradition
Ernest Hemingway’s decade of residence in Key West ended late in 1939, but his literary legacy lives on — both in the island city and in the annual Hemingway Days festival. Scheduled Tuesday through Sunday, July 21-26, Hemingway Days 2009 offers a number of events that celebrate Key West’s rich literary tradition and the talents of contemporary writers.
The festival’s primary literary event is the announcement of the winners of the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, July 24. Now in its 29th year, the annual competition supports the efforts of emerging writers of short fiction.
Its director, Lorian Hemingway, is Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter and a powerful writer whose critically acclaimed books include the memoir “Walk on Water.” A frequent visitor to Key West, she currently is working on an in-depth book on the island and its heritage to be titled “Key West: The Pirate Heart.”
Lorian Hemingway heads a judging panel that reads and evaluates the 800 to 1,100 entries the competition receives each year from U.S. and international writers. During the short story awards reception she plans to announce the winners of the 2009 competition’s $1,000 first prize, $500 second and third prizes, and honorable mentions.
The awards presentations and reading are to be held at Casa Antigua, 314 Simonton St., Ernest Hemingway’s first Key West address. Now beautifully restored with a central atrium, garden and pool, Casa Antigua is the traditional site of the short story events.
The evening is to feature a reading of the winning story and a presentation by Casa Antigua owner Tom Oosterhoudt on the property and its place in Key West’s literary history. Admission is free.
In addition to announcing the short story awards, Lorian Hemingway will be joined Wednesday, July 22, by several renowned writers for an evening of readings, presentations and discussions.
Participants in “Voices, Places, Inspirations” are to include Mark Childress, whose writing credits include the bestselling novel “Crazy in Alabama” and the screenplay of the same name; Tom Corcoran, whose Key West–based Alex Rutledge mystery series is praised for its authentic depiction of the island, and writer/photographer and expert fishing guide Jeffrey Cardenas, whose books include “Marquesa: A Time & Place with Fish.”
Hosted by Wyland Galleries of Key West, the event is scheduled for 8-10 p.m. at Wyland’s 623 Duval St. gallery. The evening is to include a reception where attendees can mingle with the presenters in an intimate, relaxed setting. Admission is free.
The following evening, Lorian Hemingway and Tom Corcoran are to showcase their latest works at a 5:30-7 p.m. book signing and reception at the Key West Art Bar, 901 Caroline St. Corcoran is to sign his latest Alex Rutledge mystery, “Hawk Channel Chase,” while Lorian Hemingway will showcase the anthology “Growing Up in Mississippi” and her contribution to it.
Hemingway Days also is to include the world premiere of a one-man dramatic presentation written and performed by Brian Gordon Sinclair. Sinclair, who has presented segments of his planned six-play cycle on Hemingway at past festivals, has done extensive research into the author’s life, work and motivations.
Focusing on the World War II era, “Hemingway On Stage: The Death Factory” is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, at the Waterfront Playhouse at Mallory Square. A reception for playgoers is to follow at the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House, 281 Front St., featuring a celebration of the 110th anniversary of Hemingway’s July 21 birth.
Sinclair plans a second performance at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 23, as a memorial to the late Jean Klausing of Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a longtime guiding spirit of Hemingway Days.
For ticketing and other information about the “Hemingway On Stage” performances, visit www.kwahs.com. For information about Hemingway Days literary events, visit www.shortstorycompetition.com or call (305) 294-0320. A full schedule of festival events can be found at www.hemingwaydays.net.
On Duval with the Papas
By Sandy Koler
With Hemingway Days approaching, the Weekly hit the street on a quest for local and tourist comments about Key West’s most famous writer, Papa Hemingway.
First stop, Willie T’s on Duval – a good place to watch the foot traffic. While sitting on a stool for a half-hour, sipping a coke, a scant four “Papa look-alikes” were seen walking by. Maybe it’s too soon for spotting contestants.
Barbara, a local customer of Willie T’s, said that the most popular event during Hemingway Days is the look-alike contest at Sloppy Joe’s. Asked to name a Hemingway novel, Barbara chose To Have and Have Not.
Peggy, the bartender, said the Hemingway Days celebration doesn’t have an impact on Willie T’s business because everyone goes to Sloppy Joe’s. Peggy admitted she had never read any of Hemingway’s books, but knew about his background and life in Key West.
Faith Schulz was relaxing after working at Sloppy Joe’s selling T-shirts. Her favorite Hemingway book is To Have and Have Not. Faith said the most popular Hemingway events are the “look-alike” contest and the “Running of the Bulls.” Fans of the novelist, Tim Dorsey, know that he refers to this mad dash out of Sloppy Joe’s and down Duval by the contestants as the “Running of the Hemingways.” Last year saw a lot of new faces among the 130 contestants. Judges for the contest are past winners, as a new winner is chosen each year. Obviously, “Papa’s” have stricter term limits than politicians. Faith said that Sloppy Joe’s is real busy, as the bar is filled with not just the competitors, but their spouses, friends, and relatives from all over the world who come to campaign for votes for their “Papa.”
According to Faith, the Papa look-alikes don’t just party, but raise a lot of money for scholarships given to local students. Their fund-raising includes selling red berets and raffle tickets. She added that she expected this 29th annual event to be somewhat somber, as it will be the first one without John Clausen, and integral part of Hemingway Days.
Eureka! – a Papa “look-alike” sitting at the bar in Margaretville. When asked if he was here for the contest, Johnny Wilkinson, from Kannapolis, North Carolina, was surprised and laughed. He said, “I get called Santa a lot, but this is a first as Hemingway.”
Wilkinson said he thought of Hemingway as a “cool, laid-back guy,” but as for reading his novels, he admitted, “only in school when I had to.” His wife, Debbie, said she had never made a visual connection between her husband and Hemingway.
Next to Margaretville, the Fast Buck Freddie’s window display is a cornucopia of Hemingway information – posters, photos, and quotes from his novels. One quote reads, “Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.” – The Old Man and the Sea
Next stop for the Weekly – The Tree Bar. Donny, bartending, said that because they’re so close to Sloppy Joe’s, they get a pretty good increase in business. During Hemingway Days the bar is so busy that he isn’t able to attend any of the events. Donny’s favorite Hemingway book is The Old Man and the Sea, describing it as a “good book, great read. I read it in college.”
A Hemingway fan was found at the next stop. “The Unknown Cowboy” at Cowboy Bill’s stated he has read most of the novels, his favorite being The Old Man and the Sea. The “Unknown Cowboy” mused, “Hemingway’s individual spirit is very much alive here, but present day reality tries to make people conform to the almighty dollar.” He then added that he was considering putting a sign out front of Cowboy Bill’s to read, “I don’t look like Hemingway, so I’m drinking here!”
On to Capt. Tony’s, site of the original Sloppy Joe’s. Two sisters from Indiana were relaxing with their husbands. Of the four, three agreed The Old Man and the Sea was their favorite. Erik Witherly said, “I got halfway through A Farewell to Arms, but couldn’t finish it. As far as I’m concerned, it was like The Old Man and the Sea with a PhD.” Marty Ruiz said that the first thing he associates with Hemmingway is the fact that “he had cool cats,” adding that “I have learned more about Hemingway while here on vacation than I ever did in school.”
Next (and final) stop, Sunset Pier where we found the McRae and Gann families vacationing from Jacksonville. Seventh-grader Mackenzie McRae was puzzled when asked about Hemingway. “Heming what?”, she asked. Her mom, Tracie said, “I think of cats when I hear his name.”
Ashlee Gann, a high-school senior, on her second trip to Key West, has heard of The Old Man and the Sea, and asked, “Wasn’t he friends with F. Scoot Fitzgerald?” Robin Gann thinks of Hemingway as “having been a quiet soul, who sat and reflected a lot.”
The last encounter of the day was with Key West’s version of “The Three Amigos” – three guys who work at Bagatelles (from left); Shaun Corcoran, Tamas Czomvos, and Clayton Chelley. Shaun’s favorite Hemingway novel is The Old Man and the Sea. Tamas offered, “I know he had many cats.” The surprising bit of information came from Clayton, who said, “I know the daughter of the guy who built the brick wall around Hemingway’s house.”
Editor’s Note: Who better to cover Hemingway Days than the woman who taught us to read? Sandy Koler, a high school English teacher, recently hit the southernmost streets with pen and paper to uncover the mystique of famous writer. She received a crash course on journalism, sunburn, and interesting stories from locals and tourists alike!
A Home for Papa?
By Sandy Koler
Sam Nuckols is dejected. For years, the 79 year old man has tried in vain to find affordable accommodations to Hemingway Days. His lifelong goal is to compete in the Look Alike Contest, but says the only rooms he has found are out of his price range.
“It is on my Bucket List!”
Nuckols (like the joints in your hand) hails from California, but is convinced his niece cannot be alone during the South Florida hurricane season, so he spends the summer “looking after” her.
Their traditional summertime vacation also includes a trek to the southernmost city to celebrate the most prolific writer of the 20th century – Ernest Hemingway, and even though the old man has not turned a single page penned by Hemingway, “I have seen the movies.”
*Editor’s Note: The Weekly suggests all Hemingway participants read at least one line… here is a good one:
“He had loved too much, demanded too much, and he wore it all out.” – The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1938)
When the Weekly offered to help the duo find affordable accommodations, Sam perked up with a winkle in his eye.
“That would be great, let me tell you how to contact me,” adding he would like accommodations for (2) from Tuesday thru Saturday with an ice maker, blender, mini bar, private dock, with an outfitted catamaran set up for night diving and sword fishing.
“I could probably afford a $100 a night,” said Nuckols. “Staying on Sunset Key would be nice. Heck I am willing to parasail or even swim to Key West for the competition or events.”
Sam Nuckols needs your help! “I just may stay here on this barstool until I find a room.”