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!

IS IT TRUE?

 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.

Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris

 

 

FOR SALE: BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.

 dog and baby

I am souless
I am souless

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.

Devastated
Devastated

 

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.

Hem, boys, and cat
Hem, boys, and cat
The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises

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!

 

Hemingway Myths: MYTH ONE

Gellhorn and Hemingway
Gellhorn and Hemingway

Hemingway Myths

 

Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.  Ernest Hemingway

Drunken people crossing
Drunken people crossing

 

MYTH 1  Hemingway cultivated the macho image because he wasn’t really.

 

Actually he really was all that and more. Macho that is. While we can quibble about what macho means, for the purpose of this post, I’m defining it as what is typically deemed manly, not terribly sensitive, and swaggering. Webster’s defines it as ” characterized by qualities considered manly, especially  when manifested in an assertive, self-conscious, or dominating way.”

He was all of that although Hem had tons of sensitivity or he could not have written as he did.

I'm sensitive and macho.
I’m sensitive and macho.

There is no doubt that Hem was brave. In book after book that I’ve read, Hemingway is admired and lauded for true bravery. He was self-sacrificing in Italy as an ambulance driver going back for the wounded when he could have chosen not to. The wounds from Italy stayed with him all of his life.

He was crazy but courageous in Pamplona.  That was all in youthful fun. it was more serious in Spain.  While a journalist in Spain, during the civil war, his steadfast nerves during bombings and his intent focus on getting the story out in as true a form as possible, and helping others who were in jeoparday, are all legendary. (Martha Gellhorn by the way was equally brave. She was in the thick of it and a stalwart. Hem loved that about her and their love truly blossomed while in Spain and in the midst of war. Both behaved beyond admirably.)

Pamplona
Pamplona

While living in Key West and then Cuba, Hem ran the “Crook Factory” and trolled the Carribean with his cronies for German subs and bombs.  They could have been blown up themselves. While perhaps Hemingway was always a bit of a boy looking for adventure, he was anything but a coward. What I’ve always liked about Hemingway is he walked the walk.  Even when he had money and could afford the easy way out, he rarely took it (although he did like his comforts and his booze while braving the elements and the enemy. When in China with Martha on a trip he had not wanted to take, Martha hated the dirt, the rustic accomodations, but that did not bother Hem at all. He was happiest talking to the locals at a pub, or simple home. He was no snob. Usually by the time Martha got home,  an entourage was assembled and drinking, much to her distress)

Still he was real, strong, and brave. No phoney there. Other myths will be discussed although not necessarily next week.  I’ll surprise you. Write to me please about your favorite myths.  Also many of you out there know more than I do so chime in if I’ve got it wrong or if you think he was a phony.  I’m interested.

The real deal
The real deal

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

 

 

Is Hemingway making a Comeback?

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don’t cheat with it.   Ernest Hemingway

Is it just me or are we seeing Hemingway everywhere?

 

In the movies: Hemingway and Gellhorn

Hemingway and Gellhorn

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

 

In books:  The Paris Wife

 

In the news: Alternate endings to A Farewell to Arms

The Cats in Key West

The Revised Moveable Feast

His Great Grand-daughter who is modeling

Dree Hemingway

The Ethan Allen collection

 

But is anyone reading him?  Is his image yet again over-shadowing his writing?

 

As Roger Ebert wrote in an article about being well-read or actually on the tragedy of not being well-read:

 

Consider: who at this hour (apart from some professorial specialist currying his “field”) is reading Mary McCarthy, James T. Farrell, John Berryman, Allan Bloom, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Edmund Wilson, Anne Sexton, Alice Adams, Robert Lowell, Grace Paley, Owen Barfield, Stanley Elkin, Robert Penn Warren, Norman Mailer, Leslie Fiedler, R.P. Blackmur, Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag, Lillian Hellman, John Crowe Ransom, Stephen Spender, Daniel Fuchs, Hugh Kenner, Seymour Krim, J.F. Powers, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Rahv, Jack Richardson, John Auerbach, Harvey Swados–or Trilling himself?”

Ebert went on to talk about a professor and his last legacy:

I’ve written before about the mentor of my undergraduate years, Daniel Curley, he of the corduroy pants, Sears boots and rucksack. In English 101 he assigned us Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, James, Forster, Cather, Wharton, Joyce, Hemingway. I still read all of them. In 1960, he told us, ‘What will last of Hemingway’s work are the short stories and The Sun Also Rises.’Half a century later, I would say he was correct.

Scott and Zelda

 

I have to disagree.  I think that For Whom the Bell Tolls is his masterpiece; I think The Dangerous Summer remains an amazing memoir of a summer following the bullfight circuit; and while not his best writing (and I have a peeve about critiquing writers who are published posthumously when by definition, the writer DID NOT intend the book for consumption in its abandoned form), A Moveable Feast is fun, fascinating, and interesting. Is The Snows of Kilimanjaro counted as a short story?  I’m not sure but it stands the test of time for impact and weight.

I am sorry if no one is reading Hemingway anymore because he is the source and core of much of the writing at the end of the twentieth Century.

Hem and The other woman