On Monday, July 20, local author and educator Phil Huss will release his new book, “Hemingway’s Sun Valley: Local Stories Behind His Code, Characters and Crisis.” To mark the book’s release, Huss will be speaking at The Community Library on Tuesday, July 21.
The program will be outside on the plaza outside the Children’s Library entrance at the corner of Fourth Street and Walnut Avenue. Masks and social distancing will be required. A book signing will follow.
The volume situates the Nobel Prize-winning author and his creations in the context of his time spent in Idaho, particularly in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, where he kept a home and found his final resting place.
Each chapter uses an element of Hemingway’s personal heroic code as a thematic anchor through which to examine the author’s work. Huss then uses a mix of close literary reading and local stories exemplifying these ideals to curate a unique analysis of the author, his writings and his legacy.
In addition to attending the Hemingway Seminar every year, Huss has taught at The Community School for 20 years, frequently featuring Hemingway on his syllabi. He said a favorite assignment of his is to have his students research one of the six local Hemingway memorial sites—Trail Creek, Silver Creek, Room 206 at the Sun Valley Lodge, his grave and his house—and consider the author through the lens of his local connections to learn how his time here, both with reference to the landscape and the people, informed much of his writing.
“Understanding the people he spent time with and the things he valued helps us understand the text better,” Huss said.
The concept of Hemingway’s heroic code has been popular among Hemingway scholars since first proposed by Robert Penn Warren in his seminal paper “Hemingway.” This code is central to the formation of Hemingway’s protagonists. Despite being a frequent topic of discussion, however, no one has very clearly defined the principles that make up the code.
Through research and teaching, Huss has determined each principle for the book, and has identified experiences Hemingway had in Idaho that influenced, exemplified and informed his values.
Huss handily avoids the pitfalls of hagiography, though, acknowledging Hemingway’s weaknesses and personal flaws alongside his strengths.
“The characters are obviously better role models than the author. He did not always live up to these noble, virtuous principles,” Huss said. “People will inevitably come to this book or the talk questioning, ‘If he so admired this code, how come he failed to live up it?’ That’s where the humanity comes in. We often fail to live up to the ideals of who we want to be.”
During his research, Huss was able to draw upon a number of previously unpublished oral histories housed in The Community Library’s Center for Regional History.
“These are unpublished local stories that never made it into a book before. I was really grateful I had the opportunity work with Mary [Tyson, director of the regional history department] and her staff to read these histories from people who knew Hemingway well,” Huss said. “That’s rich ore in there. They’re stories you don’t hear and sides of Hemingway you never see or read about.”
“Hemingway’s Sun Valley: Local Stories Behind His Code, Characters and Crisis” will be available at Iconoclast, Chapter One, Lost River Outfitters, Silver Creek Outfitters, the Regional History Museum in Ketchum’s Forest Service Park and the Nature Conservancy.
Visit comlib.org/event/hemingways-sv/ to learn more about Tuesday’s event at the library.