Off the Porch: The torrents of spring
Few people consider Ernest Hemingway as a humorist, but those who’ve read all his work know he had a great capability for whimsey. The little known fact is that Papa’s second book, after the small collection of short stories titled In Our Time, was a parody of the writing styles of the time. It was also part of a scheme to get out of a publishing contract with the New York company, Boni & Liveright, who published his first book.
Officially his second book was The Torrents of Spring, and it makes a joke of Boni & Liveright’s star writer, Sherwood Anderson, though it also pokes some fun at other novelists of the time, like D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and John Dos Passos. The story was that Hemingway had established a relationship with Max Perkins, of Scribner and Sons, and wanted to do business with Scribner instead of Boni & Liveright. Unfortunately, he was bound by contract to give first refusal of his next book to Boni & Liveright as part of the publishing deal of In Our Time.
His breakout novel, The Sun Also Rises, was finished, but he didn’t want Boni & Liveright as the publisher. In order to break the contract, Hemningway wrote a parody of Sherwood Anderson’s work, knowing Boni & Liveright couldn’t publish it without making Anderson angry and possibly losing him as a writer. Boni & Liveright refused The Torrents of Spring, and paved the way for Hemingway to go to Scribner and Sons. If you’d like a little insight into the man Hemingway really was, as opposed to what those he called the “effeminate literary critics” said about him, you might want to read The Torrents of Spring.
In North Carolina, we’ve been experiencing our own torrents of spring with winter desperately and violently trying to maintain its grip. The late part of winter has made us suffer, but I think spring has finally prevailed, and I for one, am ready to celebrate it.
Other than October and November, April and May are the finest months of the year for the outdoorsman in North Carolina. We’re just a week away from the youth wild turkey season. The surf zone is warming up and the spots, flounder, speckled trout, puppy drum, and big red drum are once again feeding in the sloughs. By early May, the bluefish, Spanish mackerel and cobia will be running the beaches. White bass are ready to make their run up the creeks, the stripers are staging in the Albermarle Sound, and the bass and bream are on the bed. The mountain trout anglers are also awakening, and they’re tying flies, packing their pipes, and scraping the river bottoms to match the hatch.
Last week, Cherie and I spent a few days in the Great State of Texas, shooting hogs. When we got home, I caught up my writing and spent Tuesday outdoors with my grandsons, Charlie and Parker. We ate breakfast together at Tommy’s Barbeque, and spent the rest of the day having fun. We celebrated spring by doing some shooting, riding the golf cart, and had a little fishing trip at Oak Hollow.
Sure, there’ll probably be some more cool weather, but I believe Old Man Winter has been beaten back. Now is the best time of year to lose your jacket. You need it in the morning and need shorts by afternoon. Winter builds up stress in us. We’ve had a rough one here in the Triad. February is the blackest month in the year for outdoor folks, but February is past, March is gone, and sweet April is here. Get out and enjoy her.
As I’ve reported before, I got my degree in literature in Mrs. Elizabeth Hayworth’s Senior English class, at Ledford High School, and I learned my lessons on symbolism well. In Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring, the hero, Yogi Johnson, suffered great stress through the pains of winter. His mood was as dark as midnight in a Midwest blizzard. His hopes were smothered in his concerns, and he was about to give up when the warm rains of spring came and melted the ice and snow. The river broke loose and overflowed its banks, giving sweet release to the pent up waters.
That, my friends was the literary genius of Papa Hemingway. At the tender age of his mid-twenties, he realized the stresses a long winter can pile up on our souls. In the end of the book, Yogi, freed from the forces of winter, forgets his winter woes, and heads down the railroad tracks, shedding his clothing as he goes.
I’m keeping most of my clothes on, and I’m staying off the railroad tracks, but I plan to enjoy my release from the woes of winter. Won’t you join me?
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for national magazines and websites. He recently finished his first book, Off the Porch. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, or would like a copy of his book, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or offtheporchmedia.com.