I mentioned last post that I’ve been re-reading Hemingway’s novels. I finished A Farewell to Arms and Across the River and into the Woods. I found so much more to love in A Farewell to Arms than my first few times around. While Catherine is dated in her attitude and her fawning for love, she still was working, living on her own, and in love. Frederic goes from looking for a fun time so loving Catherine deeply. I loved the scenes with Rinaldi and when he calls Frederic “baby.” Wonderful novel.
Across the River was not on the “best” list, At times, I found it hard to get through but it picked up in the end and I liked it but didn’t understand what The Colonel saw in Renata. She was young and beautiful but vapid and not even very spirited. However, Hemingway too was in love when writing it and Adriana, his prototype for Renata,was being seen through his eye. Still not a favorite. I liked the sense of Venice but not too much else.
Read “Hemingway’s Best Novels” for yourself. Link below.
This was a fun article to read. The comments were just as much fun because everyone has an opinion. It is interesting to see which novels are preferred, and whether only purists love the short stories best. I found the insights to be illuminating. My favorite novel is For whom the Bell Tolls, and among the short stories, I love The Snows of Kilimanjaro and A Clean Well-Lighted Place. The end of Something is also one I reread often.
As usual, Hemingway is in the news everywhere. So what’s new?
1.) There apparently is news that there is a computer program that can predict whether you or I are the next Hemingway. You can send in a sample of your writing and the computer can tell you if you are in line with his style or just another wannabe.
We all know that there is so much more that went into his writing than on the surface. One of the prime theories that Hem put to the test was the iceberg theory. For every sentence that he wrote on the paper, there were ten that didn’t get down on the paper but that were distilled into making that one sentence. When Hemingway wrote about a waiter, he–in his head–knew the waiter’s whole history and it was his theory that by knowing that history, even though it didn’t make it to the paper and the story, it added some texture to what eventually got into the story. He wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times and he wrote the last sentence of the The Sun Also Rises “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” many, many times until it had the exact inflection he wanted. No program can take that into account. So good luck with that computer
2.) The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library has received a shipment of new documents that it has added to its Hemingway collection. One that is particularly interesting is the telegram by which Hem was advised that he’d won the Nobel Prize for literature. It was sent to him on October 28, 1954 at 11:00 a.m. It said:
At its session today the Swedish Academy decided to award you the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature and I would accordingly request you to notify me if you accept this award and whether in that case it would be possible for you to be present in Stockholm on Nobel Bay December 10 to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King. Anders Obersterling, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, 7:00 p.m.
Hemingway was not in good enough health to go to Sweden. He’d just survived two plane crashes in Africa and, while he put on a brave face, the second crash left him impaired for life with pain that never went away. He wrote a brief statement that was read by John C. Cabot, the then U.S. Ambassador to Sweden.
While Hemingway told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen, and Bernard Berenson were far more deserving of the honor, but he could use the prize money so he accepted, I have to believe he was pleased. He should have won it for For Whom the Bell Tolls and fortunately he won it eventually for The Old Man and the Sea.
It’s wonderful to listen to him making the speech, which he made after the fact and recorded. The beginning of it goes as follows:
“Having no facility for speech making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this prize.
No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the price can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and conscience….Writing, at best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity, or lack of it, each day….I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again, I thank you.”
Earlier this year, a trove of about 2,500 documents from Hemingway’s home in Cuba, Finca Vigia, were shipped to the Hemingway collection in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. They were digitized and many have already been made available. The documents include letters, lists, diaries, telegrams, insurance policies, bank statements, passports, a page of his son, Patrick’s, homework, and many Christmas cards.
For those of us who love and follow all things Hemingway, it’s an enormous boon that he was a packrat. He seems to have saved everything. In 2008, another group of documents and letters were sent to the library, including an alternate ending for For Whom the Bell Tolls. Robert Jordan lives??
In reading about the material that went to Boston, I felt sad all over again. When Hemingway and Mary left, they didn’t know that they would not be going back. Books were left open, shoes were left out, a Glenn Miller record was on the phonograph.
After Hemingway’s death in July of 1961, relations with Cuba could not have been much worse. The Bay of Pigs invasion occurred in April of 1961 and our two countries were not cozy. Nevertheless, John F. Kennedy quietly arranged for Mary Hemingway to travel to Havana and meet with Fidel Castro. They agreed that Mary could take paintings and papers out of the country and in return, she gave the Finca Vigia and its remaining contents to the Cuban people.
The property declined significantly, but due to the efforts of the Finca Vigia Foundation, which was started by Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Maxwell Perkins, Hemingway’s long-time editor, the decline has been arrested. Documents are being preserved and the house has been shored up with some repairs taking place.
It was interesting to read about the documentation and how it came through in a very random way. In the middle of a folder of Christmas cards, a recipe might appear or an important letter about Hemingway’s style. A telegram from Archibald MacLeish congratulating him on For Whom the Bell Tolls is followed by Mary’s hamburger recipes. There are logs from his boat, the Pilar, as well as correspondence that Mary had. According to Susan Wrynn, the curator of the Hemingway collection at the JFK Library, Mary Hemingway, while packing up papers to take back to America also burned some messages which were sent to Mary but were believed not to be written by Hemingway but by a newspaper man named Herb Clark, an old flame of Mary’s in the Paris days. Perhaps she thought that her own correspondence wasn’t important?
Hem at typewriter
There are also stories with edits by Hemingway critiquing his own work, noting “you can phrase things clearer and better.” Or, “you can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.” All in all, it’s quite a find and addition to this amazing collection.
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.
He did it. He should have done it in 1942 for For Whom the Bell Tolls but the committee was divided; some felt the sexual content was “improper”; no prize was awarded at all that year. It’s a bit sad that the award happened when it did, as Hem was not up to accepting it in person at that time and, I think, would have truly appreciated it. He scoffed at the Nobel Prize for Literature calling it the Ignoble Prize but it mattered to him to be passed over.
Well, he won it for The Old Man and the Sea, his little novella that was to be part of a trilogy.
Listen to the speech on the above link (well it’s just the beginning of the speech) in Hem’s voice. He enunciates his “t’s” and I’m not sure if it was for the purpose of being clear in this speech or if that was his mid-western accent. (If anyone out there knows, please let us know.) He could not make it to the actual ceremony due to the two plane crashes he’d been in and other health matters. John Cabot read his acceptance speech in Sweden and Hem made this recording after.
It’s humble and beautiful–and short.
It’s funny. Words are a writer’s craft and lifeline, yet many writers are not outgoing. Hem apparently was actually shy especially when not drinking and he was always reluctant to engage in public speaking.
Today, given the press for writers to be “out there”, I wonder how he would feel about twitter and facebook for himself. He likely would not have done it in the later years. His privacy became more valuable but of course, by then, he was not ernest hemingway but HEMINGWAY so no need to cultivate the masses.
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.
FOR SALE: BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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