HEMINGWAY AS LETTER WRITER

Last several years
Last several years

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 Some have been published despite his request that they not be published.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.Hem's Dining room Dining room in Key West

Hem writing a letter maybe?
Hem writing a letter maybe?

 

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.

Where he wrote in the 1920's in Paris
Where he wrote in the 1920’s in Paris

 

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.

Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro

 

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.”

the Sun Also Rises
the Sun Also Rises

 

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.

 

I'm about to write a letter--by hand as in the earlier times.
I’m about to write a letter–by hand as in the earlier times.

 

Letters to Martha?
Letters to Martha?

Hemingway’s Seminal Novel issued with new Beginning

The Sun Also Rises did have a different beginning when Hemingway first wrote it. Apparently, Scott Fitzgerald suggested that Hemingway begin later in the story and crossed out the beginning Hem had slated for the novel. He followed that advice and the rest is history.

Or not. A new edition shows Hemingway’s original placement of paragraphs. For background, please see  Hemingway reworked.

Hemingway Places

Nice article about places to visit and feel Papa’s memories. I did not know that his usual seat at La Flordita in Havana was blocked off and a daiquiri placed on the counter daily near his statue. I have it on good authority that his favorite drink however was a mega-cold Martini. However, a daiquiri will do. Hem Places

Okay, now i’ve seen almost everything! It’s called BRANDING!

http://theblogalsorises.com/2014/03/17/okay-now-ive-seen-almost-everything-its-called-branding/

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/04/the-bellboy-tolls-for-thee-ernest-hemingway-estate-announces-hotel-chain

 

A hotel chain wants to have Hemingway themed hotels focusing on adventure and lust for life, I guess. The Hemingway Estate is working with them in this endeavor. Not sure what I think of this at the moment. ET TU?

 

Favorite Lines: What are yours? Part 2

13.)      There’s no one thing that’s true, it’s all true.  For Whom the Bell Tolls.

For whom the bell tolls in Polish
For whom the bell tolls in Polish

14.)      If we win here, we will win everywhere.  The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.  For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Maria and Robert in For whom the Bell Tolls
Maria and Robert in For whom the Bell Tolls

 

15.)      But did thee feel the earth move?  For Whom the Bell Tolls.

16.)      Do know how an ugly woman feels?  Do you know what it is to be ugly all your life and inside to feel that you are beautiful?  Pilar in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

17.)      He was violating the second rule of the two rules for getting on well with people that speak Spanish; give the men tobacco and leave the women alone.  For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Anger
Anger

18.)      Thou wilt go, rabbit.  But I go with thee.  As long as there is one of us, there is both of us.  For Whom the Bell Tolls.

19.)      Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.  A Moveable Feast.

20.)      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 wintery light.  A Moveable Feast.

Love is the answer
Love is the answer

 

Hemingway’s Death: July 1, 1961

It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it. Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises

Hemingway killed himself on July 1, 1961.  It’s sad to think about but I think we can say that he was true to himself to the end.  His great companion, A. E. Hotchner, wrote an essay about the death and I attach the link here.

Ketchum Idaho home where Hem died
Ketchum Idaho home where Hem died

 

Hotchner met Hemingway while doing a story for Cosmopolitan, which was about the future of everything: art, music, theater, and literature.  They asked a young journalist to go down to Cuba and interview Hemingway.  I won’t repeat what I’ve written before about their meeting.

Suffice to say for this post that Hotchner remained to the end a trusted confidant, hell-raiser when necessary, collaborator on projects, and loyal friend.  As he notes in his article, he dramatized many of Hemingway’s stories and novels for TV and the movies, and they traveled through Europe together often.

Mary's book about Papa
Mary’s book about Papa

Hotchner, in his article, notes that Hemingway called him in May of 1960 from Cuba.  Hem had been asked by Life magazine to cut a 92,000 word article down to 40,000.  A month later, Hem had only cut out about 534 words.  He asked Hotchner to come to Cuba to help him.  He did go and got the job done, but Hotchner noted that Hem was “bone tired and very beat up.”  He assumed that after a period of rest, Hem would be back to his hale old self.

 

Much has been written about Hemingway’s paranoia and the last year of his life.  He felt that the feds, the FBI, the IRS or all were following him and out to get him.  During dinner with Hem and Mary (Hemingway’s fourth wife), Hem indicated halfway through the meal that they had to leave because two FBI agents at the bar were watching him.  At the time Hemingway was working on A Moveable Feast, having difficultly, although most of the Paris sketches were all set and down on paper.  He often spoke of suicide.  His father had killed himself.

AE Hotchner's book about Hemingway
AE Hotchner’s book about Hemingway

 

During the last eight months of Hemingway’s life, he received eleven electric shock treatments at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.  During a short release, he attempted suicide twice with a gun; on a flight to the Mayo Clinic, he tried to jump from the plane.  When it stopped in Casper, Wyoming, for repairs, he tried to walk into the moving propeller.

 

When Hotchner visited him in June, he’d been given a new series of shock treatments and insisted that his room was bugged.  When Hochner asked him, “Papa, why do you want to kill yourself,” he replied, “What do you think happens to a man going on 62 when he realizes that he can never write the books and stories he promised himself? And do any of the other things he promised himself on the good days?”  Hotchner noted that he’d written a beautiful book about Paris and Hem replied, “The best of that I wrote before.  And now I can’t finish it.”

Hem writing
Hem writing

 

When Hotch suggested he could relax or retire, Hem noted, “How does a writer retire?  Everywhere he goes he hears the same damn question:  what are you working on?”

 

The irony is that decades later in response to a Freedom of Information petition, the FBI released its Hemingway file.  J. Edgar Hoover had placed Hemingway under surveillance because he was suspicious of his activities in Cuba.  Agents filed reports and tapped his phones.  The surveillance continued all through his confinement at St. Mary’s Hospital and it’s likely that the phone outside of his room was tapped after all.

 

Hotch ends the article noting that he believes Hemingway truly sensed the surveillance and that it contributed to his anguish and his suicide.

 

The above borrows heavily from the article by A. E. Hotchner, so I urge you to read it directly.  Hotchner also wrote the wonderful book “Papa Hemingway” and “Hemingway and His World.”  I love his writing and his view of Hem as a true friend, not just as “Hemingway.”  There’s not a better source, in my opinion, for getting a real flavor of what it was like to be part of Hemingway’s posse and inner circle.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/opinion/02hotchner.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

My next post will be about Hemingway’s birthday, which is a must happier topic to write about.

 

RIP, Hem.

Why the Hemingway Collection is in Boston–of all Places.

The largest collection of Hemingway letters and memorabilia is in Boston, Massachusetts at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.  Mary Welch Hemingway, Hem’s fourth wife, made that selection. While Hemingway and John Kennedy never met, Kennedy respected Hemingway’s writing and person. In his own Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, Kennedy cited Hemingway’s description of courage, writing that, “This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues — courage. ‘Grace under pressure,’ Ernest Hemingway defined it.”

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

Hemingway was invited to President Kennedy’s inaugural address but he had to decline due to ill health. The inauguration was in January 1961 and Hem died in July 1961.  While there was a ban on travel to Cuba in 1961 due to the tension from the Bay of Pigs incident, Mary was permitted to return to the Finca, their home in Cuba, to retrieve papers and personal possessions.  The Kennedy Administration worked to make this possible. Fidel Castro personally promised safe passage for Mary so that she could collect and ship artwork, notes, letters, and beloved possessions.

Working at the Finca
Working at the Finca

There were many suitors for these prized items.  Mary maintained her connection with the White House and was the guest of President and Mrs. Kennedy at the White House dinner for the Nobel Prize winners in April, 1962. Hem was honored as one of America’s distinguished Nobel laureates and Frederic March read excerpts from the works of three previous Nobel Prize winners, Sinclair Lewis, George C. Marshall, and Hemingway – the opening pages from his then-unpublished Islands in the Stream.

Jacqueline Kennedy
Jacqueline Kennedy

In 1964, Mary contacted Jacqueline Kennedy and offered her husband’s collection to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which was still in the planning stage with the intent that it be a national memorial to John F. Kennedy. The collection included drafts of various novels of Hemingway, rewrites, and a sense of how he wrote and revised.

In 1972, Mrs. Hemingway deeded the collection to the Kennedy Presidential Library and began depositing papers in its Archives.

On July 18, 1980, Patrick Hemingway, Hem’s older son with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dedicated the Hemingway Room in the JFK Library.

Patrick Hemingway 2013
Patrick Hemingway 2012 at Hemingway library

I’m going to visit it again in a few weeks. If any of you have been, I’d love to hear your impressions.  I always get a thrill seeing a photo that I haven’t seen before. It makes it all come alive for me anew.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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!