Petoskey Will Host International Hemingway Conference

May 29, 2012

Growing up, Ernest Hemingway spent many summers in northern Michigan, hunting and fishing with his father.  Those years had a great influence on his work, especially the Nick Adams stories.  While the International Hemingway Society often holds their conferences in Hemingway haunts such as Paris and Key West,  this year, for the first time, it will be held in Petoskey, starting June 17th.

WKAR’s Gretchen Millich spoke with Michael Federspiel president of the Michigan Hemingway Society.

MICHAEL FEDERSPIEL:   Hemingway has significant Michigan ties, and most often, when people hear the name Hemingway they think of Cuba and Marlin, and Paris in the 20’s.  They think of these exotic locations around the world, and they don’t remember or don’t know that the exotic location for Ernest Hemingway as a young man , and as a beginning writer, was northern Michigan.  So, the International Hemingway Society coming to northern Michigan is a great way to celebrate his personal ties and those literary ties to our state.

GRETCHEN MILLICH:  That really begs the question:  why hasn’t the conference been held here before?  It seems it would be important for a Hemingway scholar to know firsthand the woods and waters of northern Michigan.  

FEDERSPIEL:  Scholars have been coming for decades.  It’s a pretty regular happening to see people on the Hemingway trail, so to speak, up here with a copy of Nick Adams stories in one hand and one of the biographies in another, finding on their own the places that he wrote about and the places that he stayed.  But Petoskey is a small town, and this conference that’s coming in June will bring about  300 scholars to town for about a week.  So, the logistics have played against it a little bit.  Plus, you need a pretty solid structure for an organization to pull it off.  In this case, the Michigan Hemingway Society is providing that service for this international crowd.

MILLICH:  Most of us have read Hemingway.  We read him in school.  What moves somebody from someone who appreciates his work to becoming a Hemingway Nerd, as you call them?

FEDERSPIEL:  The people who appreciate Hemingway fall into two camps.  There are those that are admirers of the literature.  Those are the people that want to see the places that he describes so realistically.  They want to know what that Horton Bay store actually looked like.  They want to know what the streets of Petoskey are like.  But they’re interested in the literary aspects of it.  Then you have the people who are interested in Ernest Hemingway as a person and the cult of Hemingway, this famous, internationally-known figure of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  They are people who want to see how he started out, as a person and as a boy.  In northern Michigan, we have the nexus of those two things.  We have the places that he knew, and those same places are described in his early literature.  Those two things pull together, and they bring people here.

MILLICH:   As you mentioned, there are so many places in northern Michigan that are associated with Hemingway.  Which ones specifically will you be visiting during the conference?

 FEDERSPIEL:   Attendees at the conference will be taking two different tours.  One of them is a bus tour, and we’re talking them to Horton Bay and around Walloon Lake.  We’re showing them the places that he wrote about in Walloon, the location of the church where he was married, showing them the places that he would have known with his friends here.  A separate trip that’s available to conference-goers is an actual tour of the Hemingway cottage, Windemere, on Walloon Lake.   Actually, there are three.  The third thing that people can do is a brand new, self-guided Hemingway walking tour and guided tour of northern Michigan that has locations with bronze plaques.  So, people can walk the streets of Petoskey and know that they are in the right spot where Hemingway would have lived or where he would have written.

MILLICH:  Is there also a drinking hole where you can tie one on regularly?

FEDERSPIEL:  People can’t think about Hemingway without thinking about drinking, it seems.  There are indeed local bars where legend has it that Hemingway drank.  City Park Grill is in particular a place.  But the cruel truth is that during Hemingway’s adult years here in northern Michigan, prohibition was in effect.  Certainly Hemingway would have enjoyed a drink in Petoskey and in the region, but most often, that was under the radar, and it was quietly.  So, I think any street and any location in town would probably be as good a choice as any other for a spot where Hemingway might have had a drink.