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!

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!

 

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

 

 

 

 

Wife # 5? Adriana Ivancich. Giveaway details at end!

 

Adriana look alike

Hem was infatuated with Adriana. She seems to have been fond of him but did not return love. In fact, at times, it seems that his interest embarrassed her and she turned from it. It was an open secret that he modeled Renata in Across the River and into the Woods after Adriana. Hemingway delayed its publication for ten years to avoid any scandal.

Hem and Adriana met when she was an ingénue of nineteen and he an icon of forty-nine. She was lovely in an old world Venetian way, not a modern girl look. From an aristocratic family in Italy that was no longer wealthy, Adriana met Hem through her brother who hooked up with Hem at a bar and they struck up a friendship.

Harry’s Bar

 

As is to be expected, Mary came to resent Renata.  She and her mother visited them in Cuba and stayed quite a number of months. Mary first tried to be motherly and charming until she saw that Hem’s interest was more than casual. He became abusive to her, as if wanting her to leave.  Mary however was made of stronger stuff. She liked being Mrs. Ernest Hemingway but not just for the reflected glory.  She loved him.  She loved him and their life. She made clear that she wasn’t leaving and he needed to deal with this girl.

Hem is reported to have told more than one person that he was too old to divorce again and it would cost him too much. Adriana had no interest in marrying Hem but she seemed to like the attention and adoration.  In 1980, some nineteen years after Hem’s suicide, Adriana wrote a book called The White Tower ostensibly to tell her story of the relationship. She said,

Venice

 

“I let the scandal freeze into oblivion and my sons grow up but I owe this book to Papa. This was a responsibility I had to face. I am the missing link in his life.” With all due respect to Adriana, I don’t think she was the missing link in his life.  It’s a bit grandiose to think so.

The book did hit the best seller list in Italy with the omnipresent photo of Adriana leaning into Hem’s chest shyly.  At the age of fifty, she claimed,

“What happened when we met is a little more than a romance. I broke down his defenses; he even stopped drinking when I asked him to. I’m proud to remember I led him to write The Old Man and the Sea.”

Across the River has long been considered Hemingway’s worst novel. “Yes, naturally he wrote it for me, thinking of me, but I didn’t like the book and I told him so,” Adriana says. “I always criticized him when I felt something was wrong, and he changed, and something in me changed too. I shall never stop being grateful to Papa for that.”

Thinking about implications

 

Adriana committed suicide in 1983. Are you seeing a theme here?

Okay, Happy thoughts. THE COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY! The first and fifth comments on the next blog post will be two of the winners of the Hemingway cookbook. If you are one of those two, I’ll announce that here and ask that you provide your email address and I’ll get your mailing address when I email you. Seriously, the cookbook is hard to get .  It has anecdotes and great stuff in it!

Mary Welch Wife # 4

As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand. Ernest Heminway

Mary’s book about Papa

 

Mary Welch was the only one of Hemingway’s wives who was not from the St. Louis area. She was from Minnesota, was a journalist in her own right, had been married twice and was married to Noel Monks when she met Ernest Hemingway in London.  Ernest was still married to Martha but things were not good.  Martha often referred to him as “the pig.”

 

Mary was not tall, about 5’2, stocky, brown hair, and blue eyes. Her features were sharp and she was smart.  As usual, the relationship started out well and full of laughs and fun.  Hem still could be biting and sarcastically caustic when all was not going well.  Mary took it all.

GRRRR!

 

Hem took her to the finca in Cuba, a bit awkwardly since it had been his place with Martha.  Gigi was cool to her initially. He loved Martha. Patrick also loved Martha and found it hard to adjust to another new love. However, he liked seeing his father have some order in his life and Mary was nice.  Jack, charming and adaptable, found Mary easy company and could fit in well with her without compromising his loyalties to Pauline and Martha as well as to his own mother, Hadley.

Hem with boys and cat

 

Hem filed for divorce against Martha on grounds of desertion and the divorce went through on December 21, 1945.  The sting of her rejection stayed with him always.  Martha read about the divorce in the newspaper, although she didn’t care. She was anxious for the divorce to begin and be done.  No alimony, no financial orders.

 

Mary had doubts about marrying Hem.  He was . . . not easy.  And yet . . . he could be wonderful.  Hem, sensing her drift away, sent flowers and love note. They married in Cuba on March 14, 1946.  Fights ensued as did a pregnancy at Mary’s age 38, advanced age for 1946.  She longed for a daughter for Hem. An ectopic pregnancy with crisis and quick, brave action by Hem ended with Mary surviving, and owing that survival to Hem.

Mary in older age
dog and baby

 

 

Mary was with him in Ketchum and suffered through Papa’s health declines, his paranoia, his slump and success with The Old Man and the Sea, his rejection, his calling her a scavenger and that she had the face of Torquemada. She suffered through the whole Adriana infatuation. Both however reported an excellent sex life and Hem had earlier complained of Pauline and Martha in that department.

Contentment

 

At times, Hem’s drinking increased, then he’d stop for a while on doctor’s orders. Mary was bewildered and badly hurt. However, she wanted to continue to be Mrs. Hemingway for mostly good reasons. She loved his children; she loved him; she loved the position; she was dependent on him financially. Still, she was protective to the end of Hem and his legend.

 

As Papa became more mentally unstable, Mary did her best. At the end, Hemingway was released from the Mayo Clinic against Mary’s wishes.  The day after his release, Hem got up early, got his favorite gun, and shot himself in the head.  Mary reported it as an accident while cleaning a gun.  It clearly wasn’t.  She nurtured the Hemingway legacy as long as she lived and set up the Hemingway collection in the Kennedy Library.  She did her best under trying circumstances with little complaint and with dignity.

Ketchum, Idaho