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/

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