Hemingway Myth #2: Mr. Hemingway Drinks a little

Harry's Bar
Harry’s Bar

Actually he drank a lot but it didn’t start out that way.  He drank socially although significantly.  He did not drink while working.  On one occasion when asked by a journalist if he drank while writing his novels and short stories, he said,

Drinking and working with cat

“Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”

William Faulkner
William Faulkner

Hi favorite drink, contrary to some claims, was not the mojito, but a very dry martini, very very cold. He also, contrary to other claims, did not invent the Bloody Mary (the claim being that it was named after his fourth wife, Mary), during what was to be the equivalent of a period of drinking celibacy and that he used the tomato base to disguise the vodka. Good story but not true.

Drinking began early, probably at age 17 and then more drinking while in Italy during the war. Then, once he moved to Paris with Hadley, “the cafes, bars and bal musets became rallying points, look around the table and you might see the brightest minds of the Lost Generation—F. Scott Fitzgerald insanely drunk on champagne, Ezra Pound sipping absinthe, Gertrude Stein enjoying a fine red, James Joyce savoring scotch and Ford Maddox Ford sending back a brandy for the fourth time. They drank up liquor, they drank up life, they drank up each other.” Quote from Hooching with Hemingway by Frank Rich.

Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Fitzgerald

 

Scott and Zelda from Midnight in Paris
Scott and Zelda from Midnight in Paris

Hem was highly critical of Scott Fitzgerald’s drinking in their salad days, claiming it sapped Scott’s creativity, in addition to Zelda doing the same. He was annoyed by Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and occasionally criticized his writing in public. Hem and Zelda hated each other and there was never a détente in those feelings. Hem clearly did not see himself falling deeper into the alcoholic lifestyle as the years passed.

By the time Hem left Paris, his drinking habits had changed.  “Where before he’d been a classic binge drinker, he now kept a steady bottle-killing pace. The transition had taken place just months earlier, after Hadley had lost a trunk containing most of his early work, literally years of labor. Crushed, Hemingway turned to alcohol as a means of drowning his bitter rage—when the anger came, he would slip down to the cafe and drink brandy and carouse with friends until happiness seeped back in. Quote from Hooching with Hemingway by Frank Rich

Martini: drink of choice
Martini: drink of choice

 

Hem also had fun with it.  When Jigee Viertel revealed one evening that she had never had a drink of hard liquor, Hem was astounded. When she indicated a desire to try one, he suspended all that he was doing to consider whether Jigee— now in her mid-thirties— should end her tee totaling and if so, what the proper first drink was. Hem thought she should at least try a drink. He ran down options from a Bloody Mary, to a Manhattan to various gimlets. Finally he decided only a Scotch Sour would do.  Jigee broke into a smile at the first sip, and Hem said, “It’s a good omen.”  (A.E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway Page 60-61)

A Scotch sour and a breeze!
A Scotch sour and a breeze!

Hem brought his own booze to Spain or had it supplied; he kept it on his boat in great abundance.  While he went through periods of abstinence, it never lasted and it was his pacifier of choice.  My own reading leads me to think that initially, he became even more gregarious than he normally was when he drank. Once a certain point was passed, he perhaps became overly verbose and cantankerous.  There is that thin line between wonderful raconteur and domineering ego-maniac who keeps going to the point of becoming a boor and a bore.. I don’t know if that was so in Hem’s case but I think it happened in the later years.

Drunken people crossing
Drunken people crossing

 

Sadly, alcoholism did play its role in Hem’s demise and decline. It appears to have ravaged other relatives after him too. Sad to consider other works that Hemingway may have written absent depression and alcoholism.

 

The below site talks about Hem’s drinking and some specifics.  Interesting article. Check it out.

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/10/30/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-ernest-hemingways-dr

http://austin.eater.com/archives/2013/04/10/modern-mixologist-tony-abouganim-on-hemingways-cocktails-brazilian-boozing-at-the-austin-food-wine-f.php

 

 

Mariel Hemingway’s “Running from Crazy”

About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after. Ernest Hemingway

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, winter light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

Mariel Hemingway has written a new movie called “Running from Crazy.” It’s her documentary about the Hemingway legacy of mental illness and its common outcome: suicide.

Mariel
Mariel

I have not seen it yet. I’m feeling hostile to it although I’m not sure why. I like Mariel Hemingway very much.  She perseveres; she tries to live healthy; she seems honest. Perhaps I’m feeling the negative vibe of this movie and not liking that. It’s about bad stuff that seems inescapable, predestined.

Mariel never knew her grandfather and there is no question that depression was a part of his make-up.  Suicide seems not only to run in the family but in those around Hem. Martha Gellhorn killed herself when in ill health. Adriana Ivancich, his muse, killed herself in despair. Siblings of Hem killed themselves. But is depression “crazy”?   Is not suicide perhaps the recognition that for yourself, tomorrow is just not bearable? It’s as sad as sad gets, but is it crazy? I don’t know. Maybe. Mental illness covers a broad spectrum.

Depressed or crazy?
Depressed or crazy?

I also read that Mariel is claiming in this movie documentary that her father, Jack, may have molested her older sisters, Muffet and Margaux. She then notes that he likely would not remember due to alcohol use/abuse and that he is not evil.(Apparently, Mariel’s mother also was an alcohol abuser.) I don’t know what to make of this: benign abuser/ non-evil molester?

Jack Hemingway
Jack Hemingway

Muffet has manic schizophrenia and is institutionalized; Margaux killed herself. There is apparently extraordinary video footage of Margaux as she made a documentary about her famous grandfather including interviews of her father. Those videos are movies within a movie in Mariel’s film.

Margaux Hemingway
Margaux Hemingway

By all accounts, Jack was a very nice man–outdoorsy, fisherman. I’ve heard the alcoholic portion before but not the abuser accusation. I’ll need to see the film to see if there is proof or some vague speculation. It’s unfair to the film to critique it without a viewing. I will see it and report back.  Anyone who has seen it already, jump in please.

It is all unsettling. Family secrets are damaging and if Mariel has the proof, and wishes to expose, then I say expose away. There is little more heinous than child molesting. I’ll see the movie and hope you do. Come to your own conclusions. I hope it sheds light on the Hemingway history and true story of their saga and curse. Let me know what you thought.

Margaux and Mariel in Lipstick (the movie)
Margaux and Mariel in Lipstick (the movie)

HEMINGWAY’S IPOD

Josephine BakerI love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?    Ernest Hemingway

Sinatra
Sinatra

http://8tracks.com/certain_songs/ernest-hemingway-s-ipod

The above cite purports to know what should/would be on Hem’s ipod.  Hmm, being a skeptic, I have to ask, “How do they know?”  Still we can speculate.

I see Hem listening to Sinatra.  I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s so 30’s and 40’s elegant. Hemingway called Josephine Baker, the African-American entertainer who emigrated to France around the same time as Hemingway was there,  “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.”

the elegant Ms. Baker
the elegant Ms. Baker

Hem claims he met Josephine Baker in Paris at the best jazz club ever called Le Jockey and that she was there one night:  “tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, legs of paradise, a smile to end all smiles.  Very hot night but she was wearing a coat of black fur. She turned her eyes on me and I cut in.  Everything under that fur communicated with me.  I introduced myself and asked her name.  “Josephine Baker,” she said.  We danced nonstop for the rest of the night. She never took off her fur coat.  Wasn’t until the joint closed she told me she had nothing on underneath.” (Papa Hemingway, A.E. Hotchner)

Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker

So I think we can presume that there is some great jazz on his ipod. I’ve seen photos of Papa dancing with Martha so he did enjoy music and dancing, it seems. That was the early 40’s.

In The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Harry references a 1933 Cole Porter tune called “It’s Bad for Me”. I have to think that if he referenced it, he was familiar with Cole Porter’s music and he admired it.  In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris,Cole Porter is present at one of the impromptu parties all of which suggests that Cole Porter and Hem crossed paths in a good way in Paris and maybe in NY, although Hem didn’t love NY.Cole Porter

From Hem’s love of Cuba, I see a love of the Spanish blend with Jazz.  So what do you think is on Hem’s ipod?  some cat songs? Speaking of which I’m in the middle of reading Hemingway’s Cats.  Loving it, honestly.  There is also mention of his dogs. I’ll post on this subject some other day.

Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana

We know that Hemingway’s mother had him playing the cello–badly if he is to be believed–and I’m sure chamber music was  prevalent in the Hemingway household of his youth. Perhaps, in light of Hem’s dislike of his mother, he never listened to classical music after he left the family womb.

A little Norah Jones?
A little Norah Jones?

I just read a great article in The Paris Review describing Hem’s work room in Cuba.  He stood up to write most of the time, with Black Dog sleeping at his feet for as long as it took. I believe the standing up thing was due to his bad back from the crazy plane crashes he was in.  The article describes the room in great detail down to the book cases, the desk, the shutters but no mention is made of a radio or a phonograph.  I can only conclude that Hem wrote with no accompaniement.  Actually, I just read that although he built himself that studio at the Finca (as part of the cat house) to write (the cats occupied the second floor, his studio was on the third floor), in actuality, he reverted to writing in the house.  He missed the animals and was more comfortable there.

Hem’s great pal, A.E.Hotchner, recalls Hem liking music but does not recall him going to concerts or music events. “He did not like theater, opera or ballet, and although he liked to listen to music he rarely, to my knowledge, attended a concert or any other musicial presentation, longhair or jazz.” A.E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway Page. 28.
Still he frequented many a jazz bar with Hem in Cuba.

My life falls apart when I'm awake!
My life falls apart when I’m awake!

Hem liked cigars, women, booze, and pals.  He was a great raconteur. I have to think that music went with it all. I see his ipod being loaded with Sinatra, Santana (if he were around then), Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and Duke Ellington. What do you think?  He might even go for a bit of Tim McGraw while out in Ketchum.  Then again, I sure can see a bit of Parrot Head music while in Key West and Cuba. Take it away, Jimmy Buffett. Wasting away again in Margaritaville, looking for . . . .
Cuban JazzWho do you think is on Papa’s Ipod?

Music at Harry's Bar
Music at Harry’s Bar

 

 

Death in the Afternoon: What do we do about this?

In order to write about life first you must live it.
Ernest Hemingway

We don’t like bull fighting. It’s cruel. We care for and hope the bull will win. We, meaning Americans in general, don’t get it or understand how any civilized people could watch such a sport and actually sit through it and even applaud. I adore animals. I cannot watch the maiming and killings. So what did Hem see that we don’t?  He loved animals and he had great heart and empathy.

Matador
Matador

I have to start by noting that I have always found The Dangerous Summer, Hemingway’s chronicle of a summer following two competing bullfighters, to be a wonderful, original and absorbing book. It started as an Esquire article and expanded to the book. I really loved it but for the killing of the bull scenes.  I even understand and can accept the drama of the matadors, their dignity and honor.  As much as all of us shun this sport, please take a chance and read the book for the saga and adventure that it was.  It is excellent writing and you become part of the pageantry, of the training, and of the honor of being a bullfighter.

Spanish Civil war
Spanish Civil war

Pamplona of course is a key portion of The Sun Also Rises and Brett runs off temporarily with the young matador.  She then does her noble act of leaving him so as not to ruin him.  Because Spain and Pamplona are so wrapped in the Hemingway image and lore, it is important to know a bit about it, although not imperative to accept that bullfighting is in fact noble in its enactment of the life and death cycle.

So that brings us back to the old philosophical question: Must we avoid a writer because we hate his subject matter? My first post talks about how I don’t like hunting, fishing, war, bullfighting, heavy drinking and yet I love Hemingway.  How is that possible?  Because in the fewest words possible, Hemingway gets to the heart of what matters, what makes all of us tick, what it means to die and to live.  The arena may be war or fishing or bullfighting but it’s about love, hate, living and dying. Thus you don’t have to love his forums to love his books.

dog laughingdog laughedI just read in Hemingway’s Cats, a truly lovely book by the way, that Papa lost his love for big game hunting as well as for bull fighting in his last years. He chose later in life to photograph animals in Africa, not shoot them, and felt that bullfighting had become a commericial and depressing spectacle. I admire people who can change opinions and he could. Ah, just more for me to like.

By the way, I just came across the below which is some footage of Hem that I enjoyed. Please don’t take offence by the title of the link. I just copied it!  But it is a treat to see Hemingway moving, walking, in his home. Take a look. I loved it.

http://fuckyeahhemingway.tumblr.com/post/44461799990/literaryartifacts-ernest-hemingway

 

 

 

I LIKE it!
I LIKE it!

IS IT TRUE?

 Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.   Ernest Hemingway

It has been said someone bet Hemingway that he couldn’t write a story in six words that would make you cry.  Try this on for size, ye of little faith.

Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris

 

 

FOR SALE: BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.

 dog and baby

I am souless
I am souless

If that doesn’t tear your heart out from the inside out and make you gasp for breath, then you have no soul.

 

Hemingway was complicated.  For those of you who’ve read this blog from the beginning, and especialy the Mask post, the Hemingway bluster and the macho “stuff” were both real and a mask for what Hemingway felt he should be.  Please remember his devastation at the death of his cat, Willie.

Devastated
Devastated

 

The above, for me, says so much. Can you in six words sum up anything?  In my women’s group, we did a similar exercise. In six words, sum up your life.  We had three tries ( three versions) if so inspired. It’s not easy. Mine were something like: ” Good Girl, Bad Girl, Okay Woman” and “Love as the answer, not sure.”

This will be a short post.  I find the above so thought-provoking and devastating that I think it’s enough.  Hemingway is anything but a one-trick pony.

Hem, boys, and cat
Hem, boys, and cat
The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises

Favorite Lines from Hemingway books: Part 3

Scott
Scott
Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
Catherine and Frederic
Catherine and Frederic

 

 

21.)      If you were lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.  A Moveable Feast.

22.)      You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil. A Moveable Feast.

23.)      Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.  A Moveable Feast.

A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast

24.)      If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction.  But there is always a chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.  A Moveable Feast.

25.)      I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day.  A Moveable Feast.

Working at the Finca
Working at the Finca

Hemingway and his “thing” for Women’s Hair

Famous Couple
Maria and her Robert

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Everyone’s commented on it:  Hemingway’s preoccupation with women’s hair.  Hemingway’s mother, Grace, whom he purported to hate, had auburn hair that was her pride and joy.  She wore it often in the Gibson girl style of the day and was quite proud of it.  In almost every work of fiction that Hemingway has written–and nonfiction if you want to count A Moveable Feast–the time spent on the description of any of the main woman’s character’s hair is significant.

Martha's blond hair
Martha’s blond hair

Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises had short, swept back hair.  She wears it cut “short like a man.”   Catherine Barclay had soft hair and “wonderfully beautiful hair.  I would lie sometimes watching her twist it up in the in the light that came in the open door and it shone even in the night as water shines sometimes just before it is really daylight.”

Maria, whom Robert Jordan called the rabbit because of her short-cropped hair cut off by the Fascists who gagged her with her own braids which was growing out, had hair the “color of wheat.” See above, Ingrid Bergman as Maria. Gary Cooper as Robert Jordan. In The Garden of Eden, the wife cuts her hair to match her husband’s and they both are attracted to the same woman.  The Garden of Eden, however, was published posthumously and as I’ve noted in earlier posts, I don’t think the same standards can be applied to something published after the author’s death since clearly he hadn’t felt it was ready to be published at the time of his death.  A huge editing may have been in the offing.L2008.87 025

In his actual life, Hadley had lovely red hair.  Shortly after their marriage she cut it short.  It’s not clear whether she did so to please Hemingway or just for ease of care after she had Bumby.  Hemingway seems to be one of the few men who prefer women with short hair.

Hadley
Hadley

 

Pauline had a boyishly short pixie cut.  She had very dark hair and it was quite stylish on her.  Hemingway liked it.  At one point during their marriage, when he was clearly attracted to Jane Mason, a socialite and a stunning, legendary strawberry blond, Pauline dyed her hair blond and arrived home with this completely new look.  There is no record of whether Hemingway liked it or reacted to it but she didn’t keep it blond for very long.

Hem, boys, and cat
Hem, boys, and cat
Sara Murphy and Pauline Hemingway
Sara Murphy and Pauline Hemingway

Martha had swinging long, blond hair when Hem met her which at times was shorter.   Mary had short, swept back curly blond hair that framed her face.

Martha
Martha in short hair

 

From their first meeting, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were simpatico.  They did have a falling out several years later and despite the fact that Gertrude Stein clearly was living in a lesbian relationship with Alice B. Toklas, he maintained that there was a true animal attraction and that at least from his end he would have liked to have consummated the relationship had the situation been different.  He describes Gertrude as having lovely dark immigrant hair and the sentiment is one of admiration.  Her hair also was short and swept back at times, a style Hem favored, and at other times, longer and pinned up.Gertrude Stein and Bumby

 

Scholars have pondered for years about whether this preoccupation came from the fact that Hemingway’s mother dressed him in girl’s clothes from a young age.  She often represented to outsiders that he and his sister, Marcelline, were twins (they were about a year apart) and Grace maintained his hair at a feminine length.  On occasion she called him Ernestine until he was about 6-years old.  At that point he rebelled and demanded a hair cut and boy’s clothes as well as to be called by his real name.  We can get psychological about the implications but as we all know, he grew up to be the icon of masculine virility.

Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale

 

While too much can be made of this element of Hemingway’s writing, it is something to think about and it is an interesting theme that runs through the novels in particular.

 

My new puppy on a good hair day
My new puppy on a good hair day
Not a great hair day
Not a great hair day
I have beautiful hair!
I have beautiful hair!

 

Hemingway Myths: MYTH ONE

Gellhorn and Hemingway
Gellhorn and Hemingway

Hemingway Myths

 

Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.  Ernest Hemingway

Drunken people crossing
Drunken people crossing

 

MYTH 1  Hemingway cultivated the macho image because he wasn’t really.

 

Actually he really was all that and more. Macho that is. While we can quibble about what macho means, for the purpose of this post, I’m defining it as what is typically deemed manly, not terribly sensitive, and swaggering. Webster’s defines it as ” characterized by qualities considered manly, especially  when manifested in an assertive, self-conscious, or dominating way.”

He was all of that although Hem had tons of sensitivity or he could not have written as he did.

I'm sensitive and macho.
I’m sensitive and macho.

There is no doubt that Hem was brave. In book after book that I’ve read, Hemingway is admired and lauded for true bravery. He was self-sacrificing in Italy as an ambulance driver going back for the wounded when he could have chosen not to. The wounds from Italy stayed with him all of his life.

He was crazy but courageous in Pamplona.  That was all in youthful fun. it was more serious in Spain.  While a journalist in Spain, during the civil war, his steadfast nerves during bombings and his intent focus on getting the story out in as true a form as possible, and helping others who were in jeoparday, are all legendary. (Martha Gellhorn by the way was equally brave. She was in the thick of it and a stalwart. Hem loved that about her and their love truly blossomed while in Spain and in the midst of war. Both behaved beyond admirably.)

Pamplona
Pamplona

While living in Key West and then Cuba, Hem ran the “Crook Factory” and trolled the Carribean with his cronies for German subs and bombs.  They could have been blown up themselves. While perhaps Hemingway was always a bit of a boy looking for adventure, he was anything but a coward. What I’ve always liked about Hemingway is he walked the walk.  Even when he had money and could afford the easy way out, he rarely took it (although he did like his comforts and his booze while braving the elements and the enemy. When in China with Martha on a trip he had not wanted to take, Martha hated the dirt, the rustic accomodations, but that did not bother Hem at all. He was happiest talking to the locals at a pub, or simple home. He was no snob. Usually by the time Martha got home,  an entourage was assembled and drinking, much to her distress)

Still he was real, strong, and brave. No phoney there. Other myths will be discussed although not necessarily next week.  I’ll surprise you. Write to me please about your favorite myths.  Also many of you out there know more than I do so chime in if I’ve got it wrong or if you think he was a phony.  I’m interested.

The real deal
The real deal

WAS LOSING THE VALISE GOOD OR BAD OR . . . SOMETHING ELSE?

 

In 1922, Hadley did the only thing that Hemingway has ever seriously criticized her for:  She lost the valise that had his early manuscripts.  Hadley was heading out on a train at the Gare de Lyon Paris railway station to meet Hemingway for vacation of skiing.  She filled a valise with his early manuscripts, parts of short stories and all notes that she could find, in the belief that he could work on them while they were away.Valise

 

When she got off of the train, she realized that she didn’t have the valise.  To say that she was horrified doesn’t begin to describe how she felt.  Hem found her in tears, totally inconsolable, and while on the surface he took it better than anyone ever could have thought he would, it’s the one thing that rankled for just about forever.

He was more than jolly on the holiday but was devastated when talking to his writer friends.  Hemingway went back to Paris immediately and a reward was offered for the manuscripts return but they never were found.  The early works would have given great insight into the development and evolution of Hemingway’s writing style.Gertrude Stein and Bumby

All that was salvaged was an early version of Up in Michigan and My Old Man, some sketches, and some notes for short stories.  What were lost were 11 stories and 20 poems that Hemingway wrote between 1921 and 1922.  Ezra Pound suggested that since Hem knew what he was writing about, he should be able to recreate the stories in a better way.  However, as most writers believe, your first efforts capture the raw power of your intent and then it’s refined.  I know from my own writing that it’s rare that I can recreate the vision of the first draft, even if the first draft is not very good.

It should have been me

 

Hem tried to be cheerful despite this catastrophe but he did not write on the trip and it’s likely due to the incessant pain of this loss of his works. A publisher however wanted to publish My Old Man and he did begin to write after that. The shocking Up In Michigan was always a tough sell, particularly in the twenties, and his parents found it almost too upsetting to read. His mother’s criticism of it for its sexual themes was especially biting when Hen sought her approval despite his disdain for her.

Some critics and Hemingway scholars believe that since the first drafts were Hemingway’s first efforts at the economy of style that he developed over time, his use of simple language, the idea of leaving out as much as you put in, the loss may have benefited him by letting him begin afresh with the knowledge he’d learned.  That’s putting a kind spin on it all.  There is no way the loss was good but it was not, perhaps, devastating.  Since Hemingway went on to have a career that’s unparalleled in literary history, it wasn’t crippling.

Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris

 

Those who knew Hemingway said he mentioned this incident often in later years.  In early years he didn’t talk about it and preferred that no one else talk about it.  It was just that painful.  The incident was discussed in A Moveable Feast.  Hemingway’s sister and some of his friends believe that this event was the beginning of the breakup of the marriage and ­ that Hem never forgave Hadley.  As cantankerous as Hemingway could be, I think he did forgive her since in essence A Movable Feast is a love poem to her and their life in Paris in the 1920s.Paris train

 

 

My novel and Hemingway

My first draft is shit
Tell Me when It Hurts

The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway

 

It is not my intent to “plug” my novels on this blog but once in a while it fits so I’ll write a bit about my first novel and Hemingway.  My book is called Tell Me When It Hurts. La Femme Nikita meetsThe Horse Whisperer. That’s my novel. Healing, second chances with a few horses and a few dogs thrown in for good measure.  One Amazon critic noted that it is more horse whisperer than femme nikita although she wrote a favorable review. She just thought the book jacket description suggested an action packed gun-fest.  Fair enough comment. It is more romance than thriller. And as for reviews, small –no tiny–fry that I am, it is a rush to read a good review from someone across the country or nearby, and an icepick stab in the heart to read the bad ones. I only have a few of them but they hurt.

A few good dogs

A few good horses.

Hemingway inspired me in a few ways. I don’t think anyone can pull off his style without it reading like an entry into the best of bad Hemingway contest. (Some of the entries in the Best of Bad Hemingway are a hoot and are quite entertaining.  Hmm, that’s another post for another day.) Still, here is what wormed its way into my book by osmosis from Ernesto.

1)      Hem always worked steadily and with discipline and daily when working on a book. He might get drunk at the end of the day but while working, he worked.  He demanded that he write a certain number of words and produce every day.  And he revised, revised, revised.

Drinking and working with cat

 

You all know, I’m sure, that he wrote the last line of The Sun Also Rises something like thirty different ways, with slightly different inflection. And it was a short sentence!  “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”  Every word mattered to him and he wasn’t looking for the ten dollar word.  It was how he put the simple words together.The point is that even a creative literary genius like Papa had to work it.  It didn’t flood down from heaven and then come flowing out. He had to work, rework, revise, cut, add, revise. That was reassuring and inspiring for a mere attemptor like me.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave him invaluable advice on The Sun Also Rises.  He crossed out Hem’s original beginning and said “start it here.” Hem did and the rest is history. As my best writing mentor put it, “New writers are always telling me to stick with their story, that it really gets good. I tell them to start it where it really gets good.” INVALUABLE ADVICE.

Me in Palm Beach:  Just finished first draft of second novel.

 

2)      The main character in my novel is named Archer Loh.  She cites Hemingway often and not just the ever popular grace under pressure comment. She has one scene in which she gets drunk and renacts a conversation with Jake Barnes pointing out his lack of empathy for Brett’s point of view and issues. Her dog is named Hadley. I think it works. You be the judge.

 

3)      Hemingway tended to know where his books were going. To even talk about my book and its planning in the same breath as Hemingway is so absurd as to be insane.   My only observation is that when I planned my novel, I knew the beginning and the end. I did not have the center all set out in outline form with detail but I did know where I was going. For me, it gave me freedom to see where the writing took me but I always knew where I had to end up. I think Hem knew exactly where he was going if not in every detail.

Midnight in Paris

Many of the finest writers know the entirety of their books before they set it down.  I can’t imagine that John Irving doesn’t have the details in mind before starting. If anyone knows if this is so, or not so, I’d be interested.  His plots are just so intricate and yet connected despite seemingly random plot elements that to me they must be preordained.

Hemingway is not as prominent in my second novel, with a working title of The Rage of Plum Blossoms. There is one reference to one character collecting Hemingway First Editions but that’s about it. And I of course wish I’d written The Paris Wife before Paula McLain. Sigh sigh. Sigh, sigh. Sigh.

It should have been me

 

All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened. Ernest Hemingway