WCMU holds virtual event focusing on Ernest Hemingway's time in Michigan

Ernest Hemingway's scrapbook in the Ernest Hemingway exhibit in the Park Library.

WCMU public media held a virtual event over Zoom that focused on the writer, Ernest Hemingway, March 31. 

Frank Bowles, director of Park Library, and Michael Federspiel, historian and author of Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan, were featured speakers at the event. Lynn Novick, director of the new documentary coming out, Hemingway, and Sarah Botstein, producer of Hemingway, also spoke at the event. 

Hemingway’s life was talked about throughout the event, including facts about his childhood, his family and his career as an author. 

Federspiel mentioned how, as a child, Hemingway would go up to Northern Michigan to stay at their family’s summer cottage. They would fish, go on boat rides and hang out by the water. 

Bowles and Federspiel talked about how some of Hemingway’s short stories and novels were set in Northern Michigan. That place gave a lot of impressions and memories for Hemingway to write about. 

“Michigan is the place that seems to be the center of his literary imagination,” Novick said. “It shaped his world.”

After Federspiel and Bowles spoke, there was a question and answer portion of the event. Questions were asked about the connections between the stories Hemingway wrote about and his summers spent in Northern Michigan.

Novick and Botstein came next, discussing their time working on the documentary and working with the people in it. Both discovered new things about Hemingway and the characters he created in his stories. 

“He came up with a world and I didn’t realize it was so real,” Novick said. “All of the sudden, they became real people.” 

Botstein discussed how every day, she learned something new about Hemingway’s life and his work. One of her jobs during the filmmaking process was to figure out what was real about his stories and what wasn’t.

“He is constantly toying with the audience,” Botstein said.

Clips from the Hemingway documentary were featured during the discussion with Novick and Botstein. The film comes out on Monday, April 5 on PBS.

The audience also had time to ask any questions they had for Novick and Botstein, like what surprised them the most while unwrapping the life of Hemingway for the documentary and why is Hemingway still relevant today.

“From the little that we understand, Hemingway has gone in and out of fashion at different times in terms of how often he is taught. That seems not quite generational but it does change over time,” Botstein said. I think the writers that we met with and writers that we interviewed who are of different ages, different genders and from around the world, all say that he has a lasting influence on the craft of writing.”

The event wrapped up with Novick and Botstein talking about their favorite novel written by Hemingway titled, Farewell to Arms and how they both developed a deeper appreciation for this book and the rest of his writing.