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Sun rises on Hemingway's centennial
July 21, 1999
From staff and wire reports
"Ernest Hemingway used to go like this -- just like this," Forbes, now 83, said as he mimicked the legendary writer's moves. "He wasn't good. But he was big man, and he could take the licks."
Forbes used to spar with Hemingway around the pool at his home in Key West, where the author lived from 1928 to 1939.
Hemingway was born July 21, 1899, and created a new American literary archetype in his four-decade career -- a conjunction of literary talent, iconic personality and restless pursuit of adventure.
Two of his novels -- "A Farewell to Arms" and "The Sun Also Rises" were included among a 1998 list of critics' and authors' top 100 novels of the 20th century, and he won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1954
Hemingway died in 1961 by his own hand in Ketchum, Idaho, after a battle with depression and high blood pressure.
Fans and scholars are marking the anniversary with events ranging from a commemorative luncheon and party in his childhood hometown of Oak Park, Illinois, to academic and literary events around the world.
But in Key West, the center of the action in this resort town at Florida's southwestern tip will be Sloppy Joe's bar, billed as "Hemingway's Favorite."
"They all want to know, 'Where did he sit?' In all the pictures I've seen of him, he's standing up," said bar manager John Klausing, keeper of the Hemingway legend at Sloppy Joe's.
The bar hosts an annual birthday party for the author, whose drinking expeditions were sometimes as famous as his African safaris or Spanish Civil War reporting. Sloppy Joe's also hosts a Hemingway look-alike contest -- "a beauty contest for portly old men with grey beards," quips Fred Johnson, president of the Hemingway Look-Alike Society.
The Hemingway legend is one of Key West's greatest attractions, as people reflect on a larger-than-life legacy that lives on. Among writers in English, only Agatha Christie's work has been translated into more languages.
His publisher, Scribner, has 29 titles in print, including "True At First Light," the latest to be published from unfinished manuscripts after the writer's death.
"Hemingway's short fiction is what changed American literature," biographer Michael Reynolds said. "It changed the way characters talk, changed the way dialogue is written.
"You just couldn't write short stories after Hemingway in the 19th-century manner, which is what American writers did until the 1920s."
And Hemingway's outdoorsy life in the Keys, among other places, has contributed as much to the legend as any of his written work.
"There are people who venerate Hemingway who have never read Hemingway. It's not Hemingway the writer they're in love with, it's the active outdoorsman," Reynolds said.
Correspondent Pat Neal and Reuters contributed to this report.
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