The Styles of the Novelists

I just read an article by Kevin Knudson, which appeared on April 30 in Forbes Magazine. It was a book review of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, by Ben Blatt. Noting that famous novelists write in their own particular style: Hemingway and the short sentences, Henry James and the longer ones, Virginia Woolf in the free-flowing stream of consciousness, Mr. Blatt, who’s a scientist, wanted to determine if you could figure out who the author was just by examining the pattern of his or her words.

Nabokov

 

The first chapter tackles the rule that all of us writers learned early, i.e. to use adverbs sparingly. Blatt took it to the scientific level. He took a corpus of novels written by a broad spectrum of famous writers and counts the “LY” adverbs. Here’s what you’ve got:

 

Author                           Books looked at          Adverbs per 10,000 words

Hemingway                    10                                      80

Mark Twain                    13                                      81

Amy Tan                          6                                      83

Steinbeck                        19                                      93

Vonnegut                       14                                      101

Updike                          26                                      102

Rushdie                          9                                      101

King                               51                                      105

Dickens                         20                                      108

Virginia Woolf              9                                      116

 

Blatt goes on to determine if each author is uniformly efficient or does it vary from book to book. Bringing it home to this blog, the question is:  Hemingway the most efficient or just the most efficient on average. It turns out that William Faulkner wrote three books with a lower adverb rate (As I Lay Dying, The Sound And The Fury, The Unvanquished), than Hemingway’s lowest count, To Have and Have Not.

 

Blatt also looks at the number of exclamation points per 100,000 words. Elmore Leonard once said, “You are allowed no more than 2 or 3 per 100,000 words.” He actually used 49 per 100,000, but that still made him “one of the stingiest.” Tom Wolfe used 929 per 100,000. But the “winner” is James Joyce’s 1105 per 100,000. Most clichés? James Patterson the highest; Jane Austin the lowest. In addition, Blatt looks at what words an author uses more often than the average. He set out the following requirements to judge this issue:

LOS ANGELES – MAY 24: Author Elmore Leonard poses during a portrait session prior to a reading and signing of his latest novel “Up In Honey’s Room” on May 24, 2007 at Book Soup in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Elmore Leonard

 

  1. The word must be used in at least half of the author’s books.

 

  1. It must be used at a rate of at least once per 100,000 words.

 

  1. It must be obscure in the sense that it is not commonly used.

 

  1. It is not a proper noun.

 

Based on those criteria, Ray Bradbury’s favorite words are: icebox, dammit, exhaled. Nabokov’s favorite word was, in fact, mauve.

Ray Bradbury

 

So, some scientists have really buckled down and used their training to illuminate, and to have a bit of fun! Interesting data that’s not quite trivia.

 

Love,

Christine

 

How to Tell if You are in a Hemingway Novel

This is part of a series that Mallory Ortberg has done (how to tell if you are in a Bronte novel, etc.) I read it in THE TOAST.  I found it hilarious.  If you don’t, you probably don’t read enough Hemingway. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Best, Christine

1. Everyone you know respects you. This disgusts you.

2. The door is white and the day is hot. This pleases you.

3. A Jewish man believes you are his friend. This disgusts you.

4. You are a man. A man! A man is a man like a tree is a tree.

5. A Greek man is shouting incomprehensibly at you. This is why you are drunk.

6. You have lost something in a war. This is why you are drunk.

7. A woman is looking at you. She is wearing her hat in a manner you find unbearably independent and mannish. You despise her.

Marlene Dietrich, great pal of Hemingway

8. You are standing on top of a mountain. The mountain admires you for climbing it. You do not care what the mountain thinks of you, and you light a cigar. The cigar admires you for smoking it. You sneer casually at the sun. Somewhere there is a white door.

9. You are shooting a large animal but thinking about a woman. You cannot shoot her. This infuriates you.

10. You met a homosexual once in Paris. It took you two years snowshoeing across the backcountry in Michigan to recover.

11. You have said goodbye to a young girl with a white face on a black train. You are ready to die.

12. Waiter bring me another rum

13. You hate every single one of your friends. You have no friends. You are alone at sea. How you hate the sea, but how you respect the fish inside of it. How you hate the kelp. How indifferent you are to the coral.

Spencer Tracy as Santiago

14. Your stomach hurts; that is how you know you are alive.

15. You are standing in a river and something is coming to kill you. You will welcome it with open arms and a booming laugh when it comes.

Hemingway and Fitzgerald: more thoughts

An interesting article on Hem and Fitz

Zelda dancing

By ANDRIA DIAMOND  April 22, 2017

If you’ve ever seen the movie Midnight in Paris then you are familiar with the rose colored glasses romanticists often wear when thinking of the past. In the film, writer Gill Pender (played by Owen Wilson), somehow manages to travel back in time to 1920s Paris and meet many of the greatest minds in literature, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this particular movie, the two historical writers seem to be cordial, Fitzgerald is handsome and sociable while Hemingway is philosophical and intense. Though Midnight in Paris is immensely enjoyable, it may not be wholly accurate in it’s portrayal of the relationship between these two phenomenal writers. History would suggest that their relationship was much more complex.

Midnight in Paris

Hemingway and Fitzgerald first met in May of 1925, two men with extraordinary talent who were both battling their respective demons. Though they originally were good friends, their interactions later turned less amicable. Hemingway, though impressed with Fitzgerald’s writing, never seemed to respect the writer himself. He was wary of Fitzgerald’s need for validation, his tumultuous relationship with Zelda, and his self-destructive drinking habits. In a letter to Arthur Mizener (Fitzgerald’s biographer) dated April 5, 1950, Hemingway wrote:

Hem and Scott

“I believe that basically you write for two people; yourself to try to make it absolutely perfect; or if not that then wonderful; Then you write for who you love whether she can read or write or not and whether she is alive or dead. I think Scott in his strange mixed-up Irish catholic monogamy wrote for Zelda and when he lost all hope in her and she destroyed his confidence in himself he was through.”

Although Hemingway’s feelings toward Fitzgerald are clear, the facts with which he fuels them are decidedly less so.

zelda and scott

Hemingway_Vs_Fitzgerald.pngHemingway had a flair for the dramatics, and his accounts of people and experiences could rarely be relied upon as gospel truth. Hemingway denounces Fitzgerald in his posthumously published memoir, A Moveable Feast (1964), and also deals roughly with the likes of Gertrude Stein and Ford Maddox Ford. In fact, we’ve recently documented Hemingway’s distaste for Ford Maddox Ford. While history shows it is not uncommon for writers to take issue with other creative minds, Hemingway had a lengthy track record for doing just that. It is speculated by literary devotees and historians alike that Hemingway’s harsh opinion of others was an act of self-preservation, as he seemed to be a man with a big ego and an even bigger chip on his shoulder. He was sensitive to the slightest condescension (which Fitzgerald did not mind providing) and often reacted with a sharp tongue.

Hem and Scott

While I would love nothing more than to imagine Hemingway and Fitzgerald—these two great minds—strolling through the 1920s as comrades, success rarely comes without sacrifice. Hemingway’s stubbornness and brash masculinity were essential in his work, just as Fitzgerald’s social perspectives and charm were essential in his. The very personalities and behaviors that made for different men are the same that made for great writers, and the world is a better place for it.

Scott and Zelda from Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen

Romance: Hemingway and Marlene Dietrich

Hemingway was a romantic.  Sure, he was macho and tough and a man’s man in many ways, but he enjoyed women greatly and always had a close and loving relationship with Marlene Dietrich.  One of Hemingway’s love letters to her is going up for auction.  It is expected it will garner something in the vicinity of $30 – $40,000.

 

This particular letter is dated August 12, 1952 – a year after Dietrich had confessed to keeping the author’s photograph by her bedside.  They met in 1934 and became quite infatuated with each other but never consummated the attraction because, as Hemingway put it, they were “victims of unsynchronized passion.”  He noted that whenever one of them was out of a relationship the other one was in one and the timing never worked out.

marlene

Hemingway writes in the letter to Marlene “I always love you and admire you and I have all sorts of mixed up feelings about you.”  Later in the letter he declares that while “you are beautiful…I am ugly…please know I love you always and I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats.  But it beats always.”

Marlene and Hemingway corresponded over several decades.  Marlene Dietrich’s daughter wrote a book noting that after Hemingway’s death, her mother wore widow’s weeds for quite a while and she always believed that had he been with her, instead of his then wife, Mary, he wouldn’t have killed himself.

So, if I had $30,000+ just sitting around, I might enter the fray and bid on this letter, but I fear I’m going to have to let it go to some other fervent Hemingway fan.

I’ve read many of Hemingway’s letters. They are fun and he is quite funny and clever in them.  His humor rarely comes through in his novels.

 

I think the line that I’ve quoted above – I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats.  But it beats always – is so him.  It’s very simple and yet it speaks volumes.

Hemingway’s Brain

A new book is coming out by Andrew Farah, called Hemingway’s Brain. Dr.
Farah is Chief of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina Health Care System. Treading on new territory, Dr. Farah highlights these little-known facts.

on the Pilar

1. The only variety of mental illness for which Hemingway seemed to
have compassion was shell-shock. Those of you who’ve read For Whom the Bell Tolls know that Robert Jordan – the main character – condemns his own father’s suicide, saying it’s the easy way out for cowards.

Haircut by Pauline

2. Hemingway’s depression was noted in his own letters as early as 1903
(he was 4 years old in 1903! so I would love to see the letter) and that he
required a “rest cure.” I’m thinking it’s a letter that Hemingway must have written later in life describing himself at 4? I’m not sure but I will read the book and find out.

Young Ernest

3. The original manuscript of The Garden of Eden is 200,000 words and
it was edited down posthumously to 70,000 words by Scribner’s. Hemingway worked on The Garden of Eden for quite a number of years. He’d put it on the back burner and then bring it out. It dealt with what we call today a threesome – two women and a man – and sexual ambiguity and was well ahead of its time. A very interesting book.

(AP Photo) gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald once described Hemingway as having the quality
of a stick that has been hardened in a fire. I’m not quite sure what to
make of that. Did Fitzgerald mean that Hemingway was really tough or that he had been burned and became brittle as a result? Food for thought.

While injured in WW I

5. In 1936, Hemingway told Archibald MacLeish that he would never kill himself because of what the trauma might do to his sons. While we can all comment on that one and how he was not true to that narrative, I have to say that by the time he did kill himself, he was debilitated after electric
shock treatments and ongoing mental health/depressive issues.

1954: American novelist Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) on safari in Africa. (Photo by Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

So, we will all have to read the book to get more of the details.

Best,

Christine

HOW DRIVING AMBULANCES IN WW I INSPIRED HEMINGWAY

Hospital after mortar injury

How driving ambulances during World War I inspired Hemingway
By Michael Riedel March 19, 2017 

Several major artists and innovators of the 20th century served as volunteer ambulance drivers during World War I, shaping their experiences on the battlefield into groundbreaking works.

The carnage horrified poet E.E. Cummings, who drove an ambulance in France. He would go on to fracture his verse the way bodies were fractured in the trenches. He poured his anger at the senselessness of war into letters back to the United States — and found himself in a detention camp for subversives. He recounted his imprisonment in his novel “The Enormous Room.”

W. Somerset Maugham, who trained as a doctor, did not flinch from the horror. He picked up body parts and treated gaping wounds with cool detachment, the kind of detachment he would later use to dissect the emotional lives of his characters in novels such as “The Painted Veil.”

Somerset Maugham

At 16, Walt Disney was too young to enlist, so he volunteered for the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. He was sent to France and had little contact with the wounded. He spent most of his time drawing. “I found out that inside or outside of an ambulance is as good a place as any to draw,” he said.

While training to be a driver, Disney befriended Ray Kroc, another patriot who was too young to enlist and had chosen to be an ambulance driver instead. In the 1950s, Kroc would become one of the country’s best known businessmen when he turned McDonald’s into a fast-food empire.

But the deepest friendship to develop in the ambulance-driver ranks was between Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. They shared not only an occupation but a desire to revolutionize American writing — that would last until the ideological battles of the 1930s tore it apart.

the young author

Their relationship is detailed in James McGrath Morris’ new book, “The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War.”

John Dos Passos

“The world was shattered, and Hemingway and Dos Passos explicitly felt they would have to write about life in a different way,” Morris told The Post.

Dos Passos had poor eyesight that made him unfit for combat, so he joined the volunteer ambulance corps. He had to pick his way through corpse-filled trenches at Verdun, writing in his diary, “Horror is so piled on horror there can be no more.”

Hemingway tried to enlist in the army, but he, too, failed vision tests. He joined the Red Cross and was dispatched to an ambulance unit on the Italian front. He met Dos Passos over a dinner of rabbit stew and red wine at a hospital near Schio.

A mortar cut short Hemingway’s service. He spent the rest of the war in a hospital, where he fell in love with a nurse who inspired the character of Catherine Barkley in “A Farewell to Arms.”

Agnes and Hem

Dos Passos had a very different experience. “[He] carried buckets of body parts and suffered a mustard-gas attack. For him war was senseless and crushing and must be opposed,” Morris said.

After the war they both lived in Paris, spending hours in Left Bank cafes discussing art, books and their desire to revolutionize American literature.

The friendship showed signs of fraying, especially when Dos Passos urged Hemingway to join left-wing causes that Hemingway eschewed. But they continued to spend a lot of time together fishing — and drinking — in Cuba and the Florida Keys.

key west house

The break came during the Spanish Civil War. Dos Passos, while staunchly anti-fascist, began to sour on the left-wing government of Spain, whose main ally was the Soviet Union. Hemingway supported the government in its battle against General Franco and the ­fascists.

When a friend was killed in the war, Dos Passos suspected (with good reason) that the communists had murdered him. Hemingway told him, “Don’t ask questions,” Morris writes.

In 1964, decades after the Spanish Civil War and three years after his own death, Hemingway exacted revenge on Dos Passos with the posthumous publishing of his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.” He depicted Dos Passos as a parasite who lived off rich friends.

As Morris writes, “War forged their friendship, but in the end ­another war took it from them.”

Young man with all of it ahead

Letters published that he didn’t want published

This is an article by Alexander Fiske-Harrison as published in The Spectator.

Do we really need 17 volumes of letters especially when Hemingway specifically requested in his will that his personal letters not be published?

‘In the years since 1961 Hemingway’s reputation as “the outstanding author since the death of Shakespeare” shrank to the extent that many critics, as well as some fellow writers, felt obliged to go on record that they, and the literary world at large had been bamboozled, somehow.’ So wrote Raymond Carver in the New York Times in 1981. My, how times have changed.

Writing a letter perhaps

In the past 12 months alone this reviewer has seen Hemingway elegantly caricatured in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, strut the West End stage thinly disguised as Jake Barnes in an adaptation of his novel The Sun Also Rises (a production on which I was pleasingly credited as ‘bullfighting consultant’), be traduced with neither art nor foundation in Paula McLain’s novel about his first marriage, The Paris Wife, and fascinatingly explicated in the monograph, Beyond Death in the Afternoon by Allen Josephs (who, unlike McLain, knows well the difference between a banderillero and a picador.)

The Paris Wife

And I wasn’t even in England for most of the year. Orson Welles had it right when he said in his interview with Michael Parkinson in 1974 that although Hemingway ‘was in total eclipse for the last ten years, the sun is rising again critically for him. He’s been dead long enough.’

Playful with Martha

However, one wonders how long do you have to be dead for, and how good a writer do you have to be, for 17 volumes of collected letters to be too much of a good thing. The first volume begins when the author was seven years old, for Christ’s sake. Indeed, that it is a good thing at all is in serious doubt: in the introduction to this volume Hemingway himself is quoted, from a letter to his executors three years before his death, quite explicitly:

It is my wish that none of the letters written by me during my lifetime shall be published. Accordingly, I hereby request and direct to you not to publish, or consent to the publication by others, of any such letters.

He said NO

This is followed by some rather sketchy and self-serving argument by the editors — along with his only surviving son, Patrick — that his correspondence is owed to posterity, to scholarship, and that anyway, if he didn’t want them published, he should have burned them. One wonders, in this age of total information, whether just such an argument won’t be used to publish the credit- card statements of, say, Saul Bellow or John Updike, ‘so we can more accurately know the writer as he actually lived, rather than the mask he wrote for himself’. If the academics are after you, God forbid they find your email password after you’re gone.

Son, Patrick Hemingway

Whatever the rights and wrongs, there is no denying that the letters are of interest, although the interest is necessarily patchy, given the inclusion of everything from financial instructions to stockbrokers to artistic advice to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Scholars will undoubtedly find the minutiae fascinating, while literary gossips will focus on familiar names such as Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford and Gertude Stein.

Gertrude Stein and Bumby in Paris. He wrote to gertrude before the falling out.

My own interest was piqued, admittedly, by Hemingway’s discovery of bullfighting and Spain during these years, his reaction to which was the inspiration for my stint as an amateur torero in 2010. So I was intrigued to see quite how little hispanophilia and tauromania impinged on his everyday life and professional thoughts, given what some would have us believe. That a man of an aesthetically sensitive temperament who survived gruesome wounds, psychological and physical, in the first world war should be drawn to the gore of the corrida de toros is not exactly surprising; but those who try to make it central to Hemingway’s intellectual development will be disappointed by this evidence. As A Moveable Feast made clear, someone like Pound, who impressed so hard on his protégé a combination of minimalism and le mot juste, was far more important to the development of Hemingway’s mid-1920s style of ‘omission’ than his infrequent, though devout, hero-worship of matadores including Juan Belmonte, El Niño de la Palma and Maera.

However developmentally intriguing such speculations may be, one still has to ask oneself why one is reading someone’s letters without their permission in the first place. In Hemingway’s case it could be because he developed a style within his métier as powerful, innovative and influential as, say Marlon Brando’s in acting or, indeed, Belmonte’s in toreo. But this is the very thing that is not in the letters. Apart from a few flashes of distinctly mannered rhythms, the style is warmly unpretentious and frequently playful.

Young man with all of it ahead

What is most striking is how accurately he assessed his own worth and impact; that if he wrote ‘awfully well’ it would ‘last right on through’. It didn’t just last, but changed literature ever after — although not all would say for the better.

And this is not restricted to literature: in July this year, while participating in my 19th ‘running of the bulls’ in Pamplona, I was tripped and trampled by a rampaging herd of drunken tourists, 5,000 of whom were crowded into the half-mile that comprise the world’s most famous encierro. After I was dragged to safety before a group of bulls could add their weight to the melée, I discovered that my saviour was none other than John Hemingway, Ernest’s grandson. As we later shared a drink, I half-jokingly remarked: ‘You know it’s you Hemingways’ fault that all of us idiots are here in the first place.’ There are more than a few novelists — Norman Mailer and Elmore Leonard spring immediately to mind — who could say the same thing.

Hemingway and the Russians

With all of the talk about politicians and Russian connections, there has also been in the news recently much discussion of Hemingway’s Russian connections. It’s interesting to me since this information has been around, open, and in all biographies, yet seems to be presented as a new finding. I’m an amateur student of Hemingway and this is what I’ve known:

On Pilar
  1. From 1942 through the end of the war, Hemingway conducted a furtive group, which he in Hemingway self-mocking fashion, called the Crook Factory. It was established with the permission American diplomat Robert Joyce. In essence, Hemingway and buddies observed local happenings that might be tied to German subversion, submarines, surveillance. It was observed by Spruill Braiden, also a diplomat, that Hemingway had a knack for “charismatic convincing, an astonishing ability to recruit to the cause local folks you might understatedly call mixed company, i.e. bartenders, wharf rats, down-at-heel pelota players and former bullfighters, Basque priests, assorted exiled counts and dukes, several Spanish loyalists.”His wife at the time, Martha Gellhorn, wanted him to be more importantly and directly reporting on the war. She saw the “Crook Factory” as an opportunity for Hemingway to go out on his boat and get drunk with his pals. However, this is not exactly news.

    Happier days, Hem and Martha
  1. Hemingway was left-leaning. In the Spanish Civil War, he wrote and contributed financially to the opposition to Franco, which just happened to be the leftists and Russians, who were fighting against Franco.

    Hem and Martha
  1. Prior to 1935, Hemingway was not particularly politically active or vocal. He was moved to the left when in the aftermath of a hurricane in Florida (he was still in Key West in 1935), he saw World War I vets living nearby and doing construction under Roosevelt’s New Deal. Very bad conditions became worse when the hurricane hit. He observed that “heroes were dead and left half-naked to float in the Atlantic.” He felt the government should be doing more for its people.

    on the Pilar

For some reason, the recent writings have put some sinister cast on Hemingway’s activism. In terms of the times, the Russians were our allies in World War II, and there was nothing sinister about it, although Hemingway did get on the FBI watch list as a result. He was not a fan of Fidel Castro, although he did hope for the best and tried to keep a low profile so that he could remain in Cuba unmolested. Ultimately, that turned out to be impossible.

In August 1944, Hemingway was in Paris during the liberation and his ego made him unpopular at times with some. He did join the tank line heading toward Paris in Rambouillet and was present at the liberation of Paris. Although he went to France as a war correspondent for Colliers, he didn’t have to put himself in any danger but he did. There have been criticisms that he took too much control at times, and/or that he had a disproportionate amount of liquor available to him. Andy Rooney, who was also in France covering the allied efforts as a foreign correspondent for Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper, disliked him. He called him a “jerk.” Hemingway was like that. Either his bigger than life presentations inspired you and was fun or it turned you off and you were wary.

Paris liberation

Still, I’m not quite sure why Hemingway is now portrayed as some sort of collaborator in a bad way. At that time, you were for or against the Nazis, and he was against them. So please read about it and decide for yourself.

Hem on beach

 

SIX THOUSAND LETTERS, FOUR WIVES, AND ONE AMERICAN AUTHOR

This is an amazing feat! Read on!

Writing letters

Dr. Sandra Spanier, a Hemingway scholar, is heading the Hemingway letters project. She and her international team have spent the past few years pouring over letters from Hemingway and then cataloguing them and getting them ready for publication. They are currently working to publish every—yes, you read that correctly—letter written by Ernest Hemingway. The collection will span 17 volumes. The letters include those written to his family, to other authors including F. Scott Fitzgerald, and to the women in his life with whom he was romantically involved or with whom he was simply friends. At Penn State alone there are 13 members on staff helping with this massive task. The team currently has 6,000 letters from all over the world. People still continue to send letters from their own private collections to be published. They are being published in chronological order.

He wrote to Aaron Hotchner
Patrick Hemingway

This is very interesting to me. The decision to publish every letter rather than to edit and pick and choose the ones that may seem more significant historically or academically than others, is at the request and insistence of Hemingway’s surviving son, Patrick. Patrick insisted that it was either all or nothing—all letters get published or none get published.

Gertrude Stein and Bumby in Paris. He wrote to gertrude before the falling out.

The scholarly investigation has been painstaking and awe-inspiring. Dr. Spanier noted that, for example, finding out whether or not Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, was with him in Pamplona for the Fiesta Day San Fermin in 1929 was an important part of the annotating process. It is the intent to clarify every detail that can be extracted from these letters.

Pauline when working for Paris Vogue

Kristin Quesenberry, an editorial and researcher associate, has a favorite letter. “There’s a hilarious letter that showed up in the second volume. He just lists off dozens and dozens of things he hates. There was a research worksheet for every single word in the list and this rant was 100 words or so.”

Dr. Spanier estimated that not a month goes by in which she does not hear from someone who has a copy of a letter. The volume the team is working on right now will follow Hemingway from 1929 through 1931. During those years, he lived in Key West and was married to Pauline. That’s about when A Farewell to Arms came out. This is the fourth volume so the task is about a quarter of the way done if 17 volumes are anticipated.

Wedding to Hadley. And he did write to his mother, despite not liking her much.

Another unique aspect of the project that Dr. Spanier noted is the public’s continued interest in Hemingway. The letters have even been featured in an article in Vanity Fair. A Cambridge University press recently advised Dr. Spanier that they picked up the first volume as one of their top holiday gift picks for the season.

Emily Knell of The Daily Collegian, wrote an article from which I’m quoting much of the above from. She noted that, “Public interest could be due to the letters’ ability to by-pass the macho myth surrounding Hemingway and focus more on his life and his work. However, it could also be due to the fact that Hemingway led a life full of love—enough for four wives, adventures, and friendships with people like Gertrude Stein.”

A young Martha

This is me speaking: I don’t know if I’ll get through all 17 volumes, but what a delight and what a treasure-trove of amazing information directly from Hemingway. I think you’ll get to see the blustering side; the sensitive side; empathic side; the funny side; and at times, perhaps, the ugly side. What a treat!

Where he wrote in Paris

 

 

 

 

Hem in Rapallo or The Cat in the Rain

The Cat in the Rain writing place

Please forgive this reprint from 2012.  I re-read it and felt it was worthy of a second look.  I added some new media. Thank you all!  Best, Christine

 

 

I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back I can feel… I want to have a kitty… I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. 

The Cat In The Rain, Ernest Hemingway

 

I never take vacations. Seriously, never. (I do now! Didn’t then. C) But last Spring, I decided, when nursing my lame broken clavicle from a fall off my horse, that I needed to see Italy soon, before something else broke and I wasn’t able to stroll up all those hills to all those hill towns.

I’ve avoided Tuscany for years because I found it repetitive to hear everyone talking about Tuscany, like they’d single-handedly discovered the place.  But I succumbed when I saw a photo of the skyline of San Gimignano. It was romantic and lovely. I  booked the trip

Tuscany and me

So I was strolling in Rapallo, after the Tuscan portion of the trip, and what do I see but a sign, about one third obscured by shrubbery proclaiming that this was the hotel in which Hemingway wrote The Cat in the Rain.  I hadn’t gone looking for it—although I should have—but there it was. When I read the note displayed proudly in front of the hotel, I envisioned Hem and Hadley seeing that view, just as I was seeing it.

Rapallo

The days I was there were all gorgeous, sunny and warm with sparkling deep blue water. The day Hem wrote about was dank, gloomy, and stormy

I then had to run out to reread The Cat in the Rain, a short story I’d always liked.

Portofino

You can read this story literally: a lonely wife seeking attention from her dullard husband and asking to retrieve and keep the cat stuck outside under the park bench, seeking sanctuary from the buckets of rain. Or you can go further. Analyses range from the sexual (Husband dry and desiccated; wife wanting the dripping kitty cat: need I say more?) to the psychological (wife who feels abandoned; husband/psuedo father figure who is withholding; cat as child figure) to the political (the Americans are unhappy while the Italians appreciate the nature outside and the sacrifices made during the war; the Italian concierge listens to the whining nameless American wife while her American husband just reads blindly. By the end of the story, wifey is known only as the American girl–no longer even the American wife. She’s been demoted further.)

I think the wife deserves a name–perhaps Kate. (And, by the way, do we know if the big tortoise cat brought to Kate by the kind Italian chambermaid is the cat under the bench getting drenched or a substitute cat?)

I didn’t expect to discuss The Cat in the Rain in this post but since seeing the plaque in Rapallo, I was drawn to it.  So what do you think? Do you love that story; hate it; is it clear to you what it’s about? I’m pretty literal and read it as the lonely, a bit childish wife, trying to get attention from her distracted husband and wanting something to nurture. I just read another analysis by a guy who thinks the wife is just a brat, end of analysis. But heck, that’s the fun of the short story. A lot is packed into a small package. Kind of like my beagle. (My beagle, Vilulah, has since passed away but I still have two large dogs ready to fill in for her. She was the best.)

Big ideas, small container

 

P.S. See the link below. I just found this sacrilegious but hilarious take on Hem’s whole life. beware obscenities. If you can’t deal with that, please skip. it is laden with them. But still so funny. Really, it’s not to be missed if you love Hemingway.

http://historicalscandals.wordpress.com/tag/adriana-ivancich/