Book Trailer The Noble Train

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Great Quiet of Hemingway's Attic

These days, there is Marcelline's old steamer trunk, a wine bottle from Spain, a cello, two wrought-iron gas stanchions from the late 19th century and National Geographics from 1912, 1915, and 1918 complete with scribbling on the pages from Ernest's father, or perhaps from Ernest himself. There are two small lithographs from 1945 advertising bullfights in Spanish, parts of a Victorian bed and a crib, as well as boxes and boxes of bronze heads that look curiously like the great writer, marked "Hemingway Busts." There are doors propped up that are from the days when a young Ernest Hemingway burst through a screen door on a hot summer day in Oak Park. There's also the normal bric-a-brac of any attic at any time: a wrapped Christmas tree, ornaments, and sheets spread over nondescript boxes. But that is all that remains of the man and his era. The big adventure of the 20th century is drawing to a close and all those larger-than-life writers are making their exit along with it. I came up here to find the ghost of a man who did not grow up on television, a man for whom commerce was a necessary stream, not the flood we find ourselves in now.
I write on Marcelline's stremer trunk. She must have opened it many times while crossing the wide dark seas in the last adventure of our time. Marcelline would open her trunk and sit down to write in a room of wood paneling while the ocean liner crashed throught the stormy night. She may have felt the roll of the seas, and her one lamp was small in the baseless night as a yellow beacon of humanity against the black sea. There was no jet screaming overhead, no disembodied voice instructing her from afar. She was simply writing letters to her brother in Africa, Spain, Paris, and Key West. And while she sat with only the sounds of her pen scratching on paper and the distant howl of the ocean, she possessed what frustratingly eludes us now--the great quiet of the moment.
The trunk no longer makes voyages across seas to an old world. That world has come to rest here among the dusty rafters and the pattering of squirrels across the roof. My mind is not as hers. Mine is cluttered, over instructed, overfed. Flickering ghostly images crowd out the single moment, and at times there seem a hundred different voices competing for my attention.
I realize now, that for all our progress, our technology, we still can't buy passage on that liner crossing the stormy seas of our dying tranquility.

Books by William Hazelgrove