Years ago, I read “The Old Man and the Sea.” It’s about an elderly Cuban fisherman named Santiago, who is in a huge battle with an enormous marlin. It is truly a Big Fish Story, but it’s probably the best written Big Fish Story that I’ve ever read. Although I haven’t read very many Big Fish Stories, I consider myself to be a fan of that genre. I think that it’s very delightful and fun. This story, however, was not meant to be merely delightful and fun. It really told something about the human condition, about how we struggle mightily for that big prize and then, through no fault of our own, we lose it. And Santiago did lose it, although I won’t say how, just in case you haven’t read the book yet.
In the course of the story, we come to care deeply for Santiago. Because the writer, Ernest Hemingway, leaves much to the imagination, Santiago becomes the hero that we want him to be. Ernest Heminway wrote in a sparse style, which included something that he called the “iceberg theory” or the “theory of omission.” According to a Wikipedia article, the goal of the iceberg theory, which Hemingway created when he was a young journalist, is to not overtly talk about any underlying themes in the story. He believed that readers would understand these unstated themes through reading the story. I would also add that by the author leaving out so much, it helps readers go deeper in the story. They need to fill in the gaps left by the author and, as a result, people’s interpretation of the story is very unique to them.
So you’re asking… how does this all connect with “today in history”? You’re probably thinking that this goes beyond the theory of omission to outright vagueness. Well, yes, that’s true. Maybe I should just tell you. Today is…
Ernest Hemingway’s 124th birthday!!!
Happy birthday to a great writer who understood how to write economically! He passed away 62 years ago, but his books will be read for many years to come.
Recently, I was talking to a man who told me that my newspaper articles are written in a style very much like Ernest Hemingway’s. I have to admit that made me really happy, even though my natural style is exceptionally verbose. I edit down quite a bit to get my articles to be spare and not rambly, yet tell a story. I felt very honored and flattered to be compared to such a great writer, and I will try to live up to that in my future writings!