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.
I just finished a book about the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald called “Z.” It was interesting. Zelda’shatred for Hemingway came across loud and clear. I know that it’s historically true. However, there’s a claim that Hemingway came on to her, which didn’t strike me as true based on all that I’ve read and Hem’s feelings toward/against her. And there’s another portion in which she wonders if her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Hemingway were closet homosexuals who had an attraction to each other. I don’t know that much about F. Scott Fitzgerald, but there’s not anything in the volumes that I’ve read about Hemingway and his past that would even slightly suggest that. I’ve read all of the hypotheses that Hemingway went ultra-macho to compensate for homosexual feelings. I don’t see that but everyone can have an opinion. Those comments aside, I found that I had sympathy for Zelda’s plight and her frustration in her life with F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I also couldn’t help comparing Fitzgerald, of course, to Hemingway. When Hemingway met Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald was the star, having come off of a great success with The Beautiful and Damned. His short stories were successfully being sold and some were going to Hollywood. F. Scott Fitzgerald was generous with his time and advice to Hemingway and they remained really close friends for a long time before something of quiet falling out occurred, probably due to normal as opposed to cut-throat literary rivalry and partly due to Hemingway’s disgust with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s drinking and Zelda. Whatever else you can say about Hemingway and his later serious problems with the bottle, for most of his career, he was very disciplined when it came to writing. He often stopped drinking for some significant periods of time while writing and he didn’t drink during the day while he was getting his words down on paper. Fitzgerald began to drink daily from morning on and for many years, didn’t even try to write.
I also gathered from “Z” that the ragefulness between Zelda and Fitzgerald went on for years and they both treated each other badly. It was a sort of recreational warfare. That behavior certainly didn’t occur between Hemingway and Hadley. I think there was some bitterness in his fighting with Pauline (second wife) in the end, but not the low blows Zelda and Scott hurled. Hemingway generally felt guilty at the end of a relationship and didn’t rant and rave at his soon to be ex-wife.
His relationship with Martha (third wife) was an exception because it did become volatile. Certainly there was anger and insults with Mary (fourth wife) and they might have divorced had Hem lived longer. With the exception of Martha, Hem’s other three wives never tried to compete with him and perhaps that was what he was looking for in a woman. He tended to prefer stable, smart, but non-challenging women. Further, he was married four times, whereas Fitzgerald and Zelda were only married once, although affairs did occur in the marriage.
I liked the book and I felt for Zelda, which I didn’t expect. It was interesting to read another perspective on the jazz age, and the whole lost generation crowd in Paris, including the Murphys, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Ford Madox Ford, Picasso.
You might try it. It’s an easy read and Hemingway features prominently.
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.
― Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was notoriously generous to young writers and fans seeking his input. A.E. Hotchner who became a good confidante and friend met Hem in the Spring of 1948 when he was dispatched to Cuba on assignment by Cosmopolitan magazine to get an article on Hem about The Future of Literature. The magazine was putting out an issue about “the future” of everything: architecture, cars, art, etc. You get the idea. So why not have the lion of literature give an interview on the future of literature.
Hotchner sent a note to Hem saying that he’d been sent down on “this ridiculous mission but did not want to disturb him, and if he could simply send me a few words of refusal it would be enormously helpful to the The Future of Hotchner.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway. Page 4.
Instead, Hem rang him the next day.
“This Hotchner?” he asked
“Dr. Hemingway here. Got your note. Can’t let you abort your mission or you’ll lose face with the Hearst organization, which is about like getting bounced from a leper colony. You want to have a drink around five? There’s a bar called La Florida. Just tell the taxi.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, page 4.
. And thus began a beautiful friendship.
I recently read an article that detailed how one Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked 2,000 miles, from Minnesota to Florida in 1934 to meet Hemingway. Samuelson was trying to make a go of it as a writer and was so impressed by the short stories that he traveled to get advice from his idol.
Samuelson wrote, “It seemed a damn fool thing to do, but a twenty-two-year-old tramp during the Great Depression didn’t have to have much reason for what he did.”
Ultimately, Samuelson found Hemingway who provided him with insights, and soon hired him on as his assistant. Hem gave him a list of 16 books essential to any complete education. The list is interesting to consider.
Drum roll: the list is:
1. “The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
2. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
3. “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
4.”Dubliners” by James Joyce
5. The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
6. “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham
7. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
8. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
9. “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann
10. “Hail and Farewell” by George Moore
11.”The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
12. “The Oxford Book of English Verse”
13. “The Enormous Room” by E.E. Cummings
14. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
15. “Far Away and Long Ago” by W.H. Hudson
164. “The American” by Henry James
So what would make your list? A few of the above escape me but most have stood the test of time.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The one thing I know is that a woman should never marry a man who hated his mother. Martha Gellhorn.
I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway Misogynist (Definition) – noun, jargon. A male heterosexual individual whose misogynistic beliefs are seen predominantly when he is in a relationship with a strong, independent female who is, most likely, smarter than him. The Hemingway Misogynist is capable of having powerful lifelong friendship bonds with a few strong, independent women smarter than him, but only if he never enters into a sexual relationship with them. He will often say and believe hateful things about women in general, citing his own female friends as individual exceptions. Don’t sleep with this dude, because he will leave tire marks on your lawn when you publish your dissertation to rave critical reviews.Hemingway misogynists, Hemingway cats. Andrea Grimes
Hmm. May I protest?? Pauline, Martha, and Mary were all smart strong women. And Hadley was no dope. And he seems to have slept with all of his wives. Pauline and Mary did tend to defer to Hem but I’d say he liked that both were smart. Martha did challenge him and he did like his wives to be home with life revolving around him. However, I never saw him as disliking women. He just liked his life the way he liked it.
If we look at his literary women, what can we see? Brett, from The Sun Also Rises was smart and strong although troubled. Jake presumably slept with Brett before his injury. Catherine, from A Farewell to Arms, was a career woman before her time and she drove a good amount of that relationship. Maria, in For Whom the Bell Tolls, was young but strong. Pilar was a mountain of a woman, brave, and a hero in my book. Not one was a wimp or simpering girly-girl who just wanted to be dominated. Falling in love is not the same as wanting to be subservient.
Yup, there were many manipulative bitchy women in the short stories and novellas but many of the men were no prizes either. Helen in the Snows of Kilimanjaro and Margo in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were wealthy, entitled, and limited. Still Harry in The Snows freely admitted his weaknesses and Helen’s efforts to help him as a writer. When honest, he admitted it was he who chose to be seduced by the easy life more than it was Helen forcing his hand. Margo was not easy in her condescending way but Francis was without backbone until the tragic end.
Hemingway was attracted to women with spirit: Marlene Dietrich, Jane Mason, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Adriana. All had opinions, attitude, and grace. Yes, Hem hated his mother but he didn’t hate women-kind. In fact, there is ample evidence that he enjoyed women quite a bit not just as lovers but as friends and sounding boards. But, hey, what do I know? Do you think he did?
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,
“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?”
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, “thecafes, 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.
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
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)
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.
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.
The above cite purports to know what should/would be on Hem’s ipod. Hmm, being a skeptic, I have to ask, “How do they know?” Still we can speculate.
I see Hem listening to Sinatra. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s so 30’s and 40’s elegant. Hemingway called Josephine Baker, the African-American entertainer who emigrated to France around the same time as Hemingway was there, “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.”
Hem claims he met Josephine Baker in Paris at the best jazz club ever called Le Jockey and that she was there one night: “tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, legs of paradise, a smile to end all smiles. Very hot night but she was wearing a coat of black fur. She turned her eyes on me and I cut in. Everything under that fur communicated with me. I introduced myself and asked her name. “Josephine Baker,” she said. We danced nonstop for the rest of the night. She never took off her fur coat. Wasn’t until the joint closed she told me she had nothing on underneath.” (Papa Hemingway, A.E. Hotchner)
So I think we can presume that there is some great jazz on his ipod. I’ve seen photos of Papa dancing with Martha so he did enjoy music and dancing, it seems. That was the early 40’s.
In The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Harry references a 1933 Cole Porter tune called “It’s Bad for Me”. I have to think that if he referenced it, he was familiar with Cole Porter’s music and he admired it. In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris,Cole Porter is present at one of the impromptu parties all of which suggests that Cole Porter and Hem crossed paths in a good way in Paris and maybe in NY, although Hem didn’t love NY.
From Hem’s love of Cuba, I see a love of the Spanish blend with Jazz. So what do you think is on Hem’s ipod? some cat songs? Speaking of which I’m in the middle of reading Hemingway’s Cats. Loving it, honestly. There is also mention of his dogs. I’ll post on this subject some other day.
We know that Hemingway’s mother had him playing the cello–badly if he is to be believed–and I’m sure chamber music was prevalent in the Hemingway household of his youth. Perhaps, in light of Hem’s dislike of his mother, he never listened to classical music after he left the family womb.
I just read a great article in The Paris Review describing Hem’s work room in Cuba. He stood up to write most of the time, with Black Dog sleeping at his feet for as long as it took. I believe the standing up thing was due to his bad back from the crazy plane crashes he was in. The article describes the room in great detail down to the book cases, the desk, the shutters but no mention is made of a radio or a phonograph. I can only conclude that Hem wrote with no accompaniement. Actually, I just read that although he built himself that studio at the Finca (as part of the cat house) to write (the cats occupied the second floor, his studio was on the third floor), in actuality, he reverted to writing in the house. He missed the animals and was more comfortable there.
Hem’s great pal, A.E.Hotchner, recalls Hem liking music but does not recall him going to concerts or music events. “He did not like theater, opera or ballet, and although he liked to listen to music he rarely, to my knowledge, attended a concert or any other musicial presentation, longhair or jazz.” A.E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway Page. 28.
Still he frequented many a jazz bar with Hem in Cuba.
Hem liked cigars, women, booze, and pals. He was a great raconteur. I have to think that music went with it all. I see his ipod being loaded with Sinatra, Santana (if he were around then), Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and Duke Ellington. What do you think? He might even go for a bit of Tim McGraw while out in Ketchum. Then again, I sure can see a bit of Parrot Head music while in Key West and Cuba. Take it away, Jimmy Buffett. Wasting away again in Margaritaville, looking for . . . . Who do you think is on Papa’s Ipod?
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.