Florida Keys News
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Hemingway is focus of literary event

Key West next month will travel back in time to the days of grunts and grizzled fishermen eking a living from a town crippled by the Great Depression.

The Monroe County Public Library's Key West branch is coordinating the first One Island One Book reading program that will focus on Ernest Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not."

The novel focuses on charter boat captain Harry Morgan, "who drank, fought and loved hard," said circulation librarian Kris Neihouse, who is designing the book program.

"To Have and Have Not," Neihouse said, "is the portrait of a family man -- a have-not -- driven to crime by economic disaster."

Key West was filled with have-nots in the 1930s, when 80 percent of the population was on welfare and there was talk of relocating all residents away from the Southernmost City.

Much of the novel takes place in Key West, where residents again are feeling the sting of a failing economy.

Participants are encouraged to attend scheduled movies, lectures and discussions about the book as they read -- or reread -- the Hemingway classic.

Similar programs nationwide have been successful, with Chicagoans reading "Pride and Prejudice" a few years ago. Philadephia residents this year are reading "Perseopolis," a graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran.

The Hemingway novel "is a natural choice for Key West," Neihouse said. "Hemingway himself could be found holding (court) on many Key West bar stools in the 1930s. Hemingway called Key West 'the St. Tropez of the poor.' "

She warns that the author's "shorthand characterizations of women and minorities can sound jarring to the modern ear, but they were the vernacular of his time and place."

Events for One Island One Book begin the first week of March, but library officials are encouraging interested readers to pick up a copy of the novel as soon as possible.

The library has 15 to 20 copies of "To Have and Have Not" in stock, along with some audio books, Branch Manager Christine Dunn said.

Events in March include a screening of the film based on the book.

"But the movie is nothing like the book, so it should be an interesting discussion," Dunn said.

The program also includes a presentation by historian Tom Hambright on the federal Works Progress Administration, which sought to attract tourists to Key West and ultimately saved the island from financial ruin.

Also, on March 14, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum will be dedicated as a Literary Landmark.

For more information about One Island One Book, go to http://www.oneislandonebook.blogspot.com or stop by the Key West library branch at 700 Fleming St., or call 305-292-3595.

mbolen@keysnews.com

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