This is too funny. A Farewell to Arms in a 15 second cartoon. Hmmm.
Hemingway was a prolific letter writer. Some say that he left behind 8,000 to 10,000 letters. Some have been published despite his request that they not be published. I have to say though that reading his letters is really fun and interesting and gives me insight into his humor, what’s important to him, and the cadence of his voice.Dining room in Key West
Published letters have been accumulated from the “senders.” Hemingway did not keep copies of his own letters to others, but he did keep letters he received from other writers, from family members, and from his wives. Upon his death, he had stacks of letters he had received from his first wife Hadley. Mary, his last wife, was kind enough to return them to Hadley. Hadley had not kept Hemingway’s letters to her.
Sometimes Hemingway kept letters that he had drafted out, but never sent for one reason or another. He may have thought better of it; he may have thought it was too harsh; those also have been collected. Fortunately for all of us, Hemingway was a notorious packrat. When Mary went to collect some of their things after Hemingway’s death and she was permitted access to the Cuban house for the sole purpose of getting her belongings, she also retrieved letters, recipes, cards received, all were scattered together. They were turned over to the Hemingway Collection in Boston at the JFK Library. People who sorted through them found little notes, drafted pages and among his historically valuable letters, they also found recipes, doodles, Christmas cards. Carlos Baker, one of the early Hemingway biographers and scholar from Princeton, and the one selected by his fourth wife Mary, published a volume of 600 letters 20 years after Hemingway’s death. The rest of his letters were scattered about and in some cases held back by family members.
Some of the letters have shed light on a different side of Hemingway. Sandra Spanier, an associate professor of English at Penn State University was also, the editor of one of the early projects for publishing some of Hemingway’s letters. She noted that in letters to Martha Gelhorn, Hemingway’s third wife, Hemingway emerges as far more supportive of Martha’s career than was earlier assumed. An uglier side also did emerge at times, but there were many kind letter showing the tenderness that he was capable of, the loving husband who took care of household details, his great pride in Martha’s work, and descriptions of Hemingway advising Martha that he was reading drafts of her novel to his sons. These letters only became available after Martha Gelhorn’s death in 1998.
Correspondence with Jane Mason, a Havana socialite with whom it’s believed he had an affair, weren’t discovered until 1999 in a trunk by Jane Mason’s granddaughter. These also shed light on his wit and character.
I highly recommend reading some of these letters. They are extremely funny, self-deprecating, unguarded, and blunt. In one letter, Hemingway invited Senator Joseph R. McCarthy to Cuba to “Duke it out.” There was another letter that Hemingway wrote to his mother who notoriously disapproved of his subject matter and whom he notoriously disliked. When his mother told him that her book club disapproved of his 1926 The Sun Also Rises, he told her in this letter that he would have been worried if they had not disapproved and he advised his mother to read his future works with “a little shot of loyalty as an anesthetic.”
Reading Hemingway’s own words not in a novel, but in his correspondence with friends, family, enemies, and rivals, gives a much more rounded picture of him and it’s just plain fun.
Who knew? Orson Welles inspired by Hemingway and their scuffle.
In the new movie (Colin Firth as Perkins, Michael Fassbender as Tom Wolfe), Hemingway has a supporting role. Should be good!
As I noted in an earlier post, I had been reading more about Hemingway, than reading Hemingway. I reread A Farewell to Arms and loved it more than on any previous reading. I reread Across the River and Into the Trees and saw more in it than on original reading but still did not really “get” it. I liked the Colonel but didn’t get the attraction to Renata or what was special about her. Still I enjoyed it. I read several of the most prominent short stories and relistened to For Whom the Bell Tolls on Audio tape. It has been my favorite and remains so.
I also gave thought to why I like Hemingway so much. Is it him or his writing? As a person, he was wonderful and awful. However, aren’t all of our heroes that mixed bag? John Kennedy? Churchill? Roosevelt? Mother Teresa and Gandhi seem to be a few of those who are not assailable on some level for bad behavior. For me, the good and the noble outweigh the bad. I also wondered if we give more latitude to the artistic sort or the heroic person and allow that they may be more finely tuned than the rest of us. Or is that giving them a pass that is undeserved and unfair? I don’t know. I don’t think they get a license to be mean and kick the dog and shove aside little old ladies and men in a line waiting for the bus, but if they do more damage to themselves and behave badly in a restaurant in New York or Paris, or drink too much to stop the racing mind or to relieve stress, do we give them a little extra space or is that uncalled for?
Not sure. I just know that I wish Hem who would have been 115 (HA!) on July 21 this year had not died so soon but he went on his terms. I think we all can relate to that and hope to be able to do the same.
New FREE contest for writers of women’s fiction. Check it out.
Judged by agent @PaulaSMunier-via @chucksambuchino
So it is fall and I am contemplative. I have been reading a lot of Hemingway lately and just finished the new book by Naomi Woods called Mrs. Hemingway, a well-researched novel/history of Hemingway’s four wives. I liked it. It’s a subject I’ve read much about and recommend Bernice Kert’s Book The Hemingway Women highly.
I am now enmeshed in my own novel about Hemingway. I finished it, it’s being edited as I write, and I’m taking it to a writer’s pitch conference at the end of September. I am hoping that someone loves it and wants to publish it. I am delaying the publication of my second book to see if this one can leap frog over book two.
For those of you reading this who also write, I know you can appreciate the anxiety that comes with the task. We all write because we have to. It clearly is not paying any bills. We write because we need to get the story, the history, the concept down. But then we bounce from thinking it is a fantastic book to thinking it is nothing, less than nothing, a waste of time.
My first novel is called Tell me When it Hurts. Most Amazon reviews have been very good but there are a few that were not. THOSE are somehow the ones you remember. So you soul search. Could I have done a better job? Did that part lag? Then you realize that 10% of readers of any book will not like it. It’s not their sort of book; they were in a bad patch; they don’t like your subject matter; they like sci fi but someone gave them your literary novel of 18th century love. Still, it smarts.
So I am heading on Sept 25 to tough love in NYC and we’ll see what happens. Stay posted because if you love Hemingway, you may like my novel. More on title and next steps.
Thank you for reading. Love, Christine
This is a really fun article. Read it and laugh, I hope.
More photos: Some repeat background. Forgive me! But much is new!
We had rented an apartment in the Marais district and it was perfect. It had a security code to get into a beautiful flowered courtyard and then it was two flights up by foot. The apartment itself was quaint, although modern, bright, and sunny.
Efficient use of space was inspiring and I took photos because I was very impressed at how comfortable it was despite its small footprint. The neighborhood was very walkable. If you are not familiar with the Marais district, it is full of narrow roads, two to three story buildings only, the old Jewish district, and boutiques that are open even on Sundays. One street is closed to traffic and it has Jewish/Middle Eastern influence with gourmet falafel creation raised to a fine competitive art.
I would get up early each morning quite early, take a walk around several blocks, stop at a patisserie to get a fresh loaf of bread and croissants, and then buy cheeses at a nearby grocery. It was wonderful to have coffee and breakfast right in the apartment.
Paris, of course, has changed vastly since Hemingway’s days there. Nevertheless, I walked through the areas that he walked through and saw what I could. Shakespeare & Company is still there. The cafes in Saint Germaine dePres may have different names, but they are similar. Les Deux Magotz is still there on a busy corner. I had fun pretending that I could see Hemingway sitting at a corner table, deep in thought, and writing the book that ultimately became The Sun Also Rises. Alternatively, I could imagine him writing one of his reporting pieces that paid bills along with Hadley’s trust while he waited for his big break.
I walked along the Seine, up to Montmartre, and I saw the first apartment that he and Hadley shared. Of course, we didn’t go in it since it’s occupied but I saw the neighborhood.
I was recently listening to some tapes that Alice Sokoloff made of her friend, Hadley Hemingway Mowrer. All of these tapes ultimately became the book that Alice wrote about Hadley. Hadley was describing in this particular conversation the bad neighborhood that she and Ernest had lived in, its unpleasant smell since they were near a lumberyard, and her loneliness in Paris initially. I’d never been aware of that loneliness prior to listening to the tape. I had always had the impression that Hadley was happy in Paris from day one because Hemingway was happy. In this tape, she described how difficult it was without knowing the language, and, given the fact that he was away during the day writing, she felt like an outsider who did not yet have friends. She was quite homesick.
Ultimately, Hadley came to love Paris and willingly stayed there. Even after she and Paul Mowrer moved back to Chicago, they ultimately returned to Paris for a few years after the war. A Moveable Feast describes well the foods, the sights, and the smells in Paris in those early years. It was my dream to go and see these places while knowing that they had all changed. Paris truly exceeded my expectations in most every way.
Aside from the Hemingway connection, I found Paris to be the loveliest city I’ve ever been in. I can’t wait to return. I fell in love with it. I did not meet one surly French person–and I was braced for it. I speak a little bit of French but my vocabulary is so rusty that I struggled. Still, everyone was simply wonderful; the food in the smallest cafés was terrific. We weren’t eating in five-star restaurants, and although I had done some research and set up a few reservations, when we were delayed in taking off, I cancelled everything. In any event, we felt very welcome in Paris and everyone we met was very friendly. I would go back in a split second.
Merci, et bon soir, Monsieur Hemingway.
I finally made it to Paris after a bit of drama in getting away. Due to a family illness, the trip was touch and go as to whether or not we were going to get there at all. Emergency rooms, doctor appointments (not for me; I was packed and set to board that plane) but two days later, after a doctor cleared the trip, we arrived in Paris.
We had rented an apartment in the Marais district and it was perfect. There were two flights of stairs to lug baggage up but it was not too tough and the climb was worth it. The apartment was both quaint and modern. It was bright and sunny with a wonderful galley kitchen. We marveled over the storage in the modest space. I immediately checked out the WIFI and it worked as if I were home in Connecticut. I’d brought my own hotspot anticipating a glitch but there was none.
The neighborhood was very walkable. Once outside our lovely garden courtyard, I strolled narrow streets, ducked into little hidden parks, heard a band playing in the street in the middle of the day. Better yet, couples took to the street dancing and an old lady danced solo up near the band. It was at that moment that after being in Paris one hour that I knew it would capture my soul.
It was just a few steps around the corner to a bakery with fresh baguettes and croissants. Cheese and supplies were handy from a nearby small grocery.
I launched my Hemingway search on day one. While, of course, Paris has changed vastly since Hemingway was there, but still there are some memorable spots that are not much changed. Shakespeare & Company is still there minus Sylvia Beach. Les Deux Magots is still there, although it’s now a very busy corner. I had fun pretending that Hemingway was sitting at a corner table, deep in thought and writing what ultimately became The Sun Also Rises or one of his reporting pieces that kept the family afloat while he waited for his big break.
I walked the Hemingway walk along the Seine, up to Montmartre and saw the first apartment that he and Hadley shared. Obviously it’s occupied but I saw where it was. I was recently listening to some tapes that Alice Sokoloff had made of conversations with Hadley and which ultimately went into her book about Hadley. Hadley described in this conversation the bad neighborhood that she and Hemingway lived in when they first arrived in Paris, the unpleasant smells from the nearby businesses, and her loneliness in Paris. I’d never been as aware of that fact prior to listening to the tape. I had the impression that Hadley was happy in Paris because Hemingway was happy, but she described how difficult it was without knowing the language and given the fact that he was away during the day writing. She felt alone and an outsider. She was very homesick. She ultimately came to love Paris and willingly stayed there and even after moving back to Chicago with her second husband Paul Mowrer, she and Paul went back to live in Paris for a few years after the war. A Moveable Feast describes well the foods, the sights, and the smells in Paris in those early years. It was my dream to go and see these places while knowing they had changed, and it exceeded my expectation.
Aside from the Hemingway connection, I found Paris to be the most lovely city I’ve ever been in and I can’t wait to go back. I truly fell in love with it. I did not meet one surly French person. I speak a little French but far from well. Still, everyone was simply wonderful; the food was terrific and we weren’t eating at five-star restaurants and I felt welcome and everyone we met was very friendly. I am obsessed with the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Love Lock Bridge, the Pont Neuf, the Rodin Museum. I would go back in a split second and I will. To Hemingway’s Paris, then and now. Below: me at the Place des Voges.