So, what could be controversial about some multi-toed cats living peacefully in Key West? Well a lot apparently. For four years the Hemingway Museum has been in litigation with the town which wanted the cats caged saying they exceeded limits and thus constituted an animal exhibit and needed to be licensed and caged. Hmm. That seems a stretch. I am happy to report that the Hemingway Museum won the case and an exception/exemption was noted by the Key West City Commission, which voted to exempt the Hemingway cats from federal rules, calling them “animals of historic, social and tourism significance.” They are, said city officials, “an integral part of the history and ambiance of the Hemingway House.” Well, who didn’t know that? Full article below.
This is pretty interesting. It’s an app for $ 6.99 that you apply to your writing and it tells you which sentences are too wordy; whether or not you need to eliminate some adverbs and find a more precise word; and the “readability” of your writing, such as is it readable on an 8th grade level or more likely on a college level. It’s aptly called the “Hemingway app.”.
When some drafts of a few of Hemingway’s stories were found scattered about his Cuban home, there were often notations on them saying such things as “this prose can be tightened,” or “find a better word here.” He was his own best editor and toughest critic until Max Perkins got his hands on it, anyway. Anyway, this is fun to contemplate.
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 Some have been published despite his request that they not be published.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.
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
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
It’s the beginning of a very rugged winter—or so it seems—in Connecticut. Yesterday the winds were grueling and temps were in the twenties. I’m writing this in November as I have a busy December and a trial in January so things will be even worse here by the time this is printed..
I’m sustaining myself by planning my springtime trip to Paris. I’ve never been to Paris unless you count passing through it one day in college. On that trip I stayed outside of the city of Paris in a little town called Meaux. I don’t know if I was particularly hungry but the restaurant in the small hotel that I stayed in was one of the best I’d ever had. I’ve always carried that fond memory of France with me.
For my June trip, I’ve rented an apartment for eight days. It’s located in the Marais district on a quiet street. I’ve heard that the Marais is quaint, has lots of boutiques and restaurants, and encompasses both the gay district and the Jewish district, an interesting juxtaposition.
I’ve looked on the internet and found suggested Hemingway walks and tours. I’m sure that many of Hemingway’s places are no longer there but I can imagine. I’ll check out Shakespeare and Company, Montparnasse, the old home of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the apartment where Hemingway and Hadley lived and the separate place where Hemingway rented a room to write. I know that we all romanticize Paris of that era and it doesn’t exist anymore except with the help of Woody Allen’s admirable efforts to revive it in Midnight In Paris. However, I’m still looking forward to the trip.
I’ve heard that Paris is the most magical city in the world. I’ve also heard that it’s just one more big, dirty city. I want to decide for myself.
If anyone has great ideas about places I should go or must see places that are Hemingway-related or just great places, please do let me know.
I’ve already booked dinner at a place that is featured in my new book. It’s a restaurant called Dans Le Noir where dinner is served completely in the dark. I’m told that it is really completely dark. The waiters and waitresses are blind and it’s supposed to be an amazing experience of your senses. In my new book, I’ve renamed it En La Obscuridad and made it a Spanish restaurant in New York City. A dramatic scene takes place there so I must try the original. As I’m clumsy anyway, this should be good: eating in the dark.
Anyway, let me know your thoughts on “must see” and “must do” events in Paris.
A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning how to relate my trip to Ireland in May to my Hemingway obsession and I just came across an article about a new biography of Maeve Binchy, the great Irish novelist who cultivated the cozy neighborhood story to high art and who passed away recently. She wrote many novels, usually about the west country of Ireland which is where I was. Her writing style, her topics, and her resolutions are/were about as far from Hemingway as you can get but the article was fun and began with a famous Hemingway belief.
“It was famously laid down by Ernest Hemingway that the first condition for a writer is to have an unhappy childhood. I assumed that Maeve Binchy was the exception to the Hemingway principle, as she always spoke about the idyllic nature of her childhood.”
So, I qualify! My childhood is a story for some other longer post, probably in some other blog that focuses on Dickensian beginnings. I was born in NJ; my parents died 5 months apart when I was seven; the court became involved, and the story goes downhill from there in certain ways but also uphill in other ways.
Hem in some ways had a good childhood in the sense that his family was large; his father took him hunting and fishing; and there were family vacations at a lake in Michigan yearly that formed the basis of many of the short stories. Hem got his love of the outdoors and nature while on the lake in Michigan with many friends and family. However, Hem’s relationship with his mother was always a struggle and his father was a more shadowy figure in Hem’s life, who ultimately killed himself. His mother later sent the gun to Ernest as a gift. Huh? .
So tell me about a great writer who had a great Rockwellian childhood! I’d like to hear about it.