SIX THOUSAND LETTERS, FOUR WIVES, AND ONE AMERICAN AUTHOR

This is an amazing feat! Read on!

Writing letters

Dr. Sandra Spanier, a Hemingway scholar, is heading the Hemingway letters project. She and her international team have spent the past few years pouring over letters from Hemingway and then cataloguing them and getting them ready for publication. They are currently working to publish every—yes, you read that correctly—letter written by Ernest Hemingway. The collection will span 17 volumes. The letters include those written to his family, to other authors including F. Scott Fitzgerald, and to the women in his life with whom he was romantically involved or with whom he was simply friends. At Penn State alone there are 13 members on staff helping with this massive task. The team currently has 6,000 letters from all over the world. People still continue to send letters from their own private collections to be published. They are being published in chronological order.

He wrote to Aaron Hotchner
Patrick Hemingway

This is very interesting to me. The decision to publish every letter rather than to edit and pick and choose the ones that may seem more significant historically or academically than others, is at the request and insistence of Hemingway’s surviving son, Patrick. Patrick insisted that it was either all or nothing—all letters get published or none get published.

Gertrude Stein and Bumby in Paris. He wrote to gertrude before the falling out.

The scholarly investigation has been painstaking and awe-inspiring. Dr. Spanier noted that, for example, finding out whether or not Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, was with him in Pamplona for the Fiesta Day San Fermin in 1929 was an important part of the annotating process. It is the intent to clarify every detail that can be extracted from these letters.

Pauline when working for Paris Vogue

Kristin Quesenberry, an editorial and researcher associate, has a favorite letter. “There’s a hilarious letter that showed up in the second volume. He just lists off dozens and dozens of things he hates. There was a research worksheet for every single word in the list and this rant was 100 words or so.”

Dr. Spanier estimated that not a month goes by in which she does not hear from someone who has a copy of a letter. The volume the team is working on right now will follow Hemingway from 1929 through 1931. During those years, he lived in Key West and was married to Pauline. That’s about when A Farewell to Arms came out. This is the fourth volume so the task is about a quarter of the way done if 17 volumes are anticipated.

Wedding to Hadley. And he did write to his mother, despite not liking her much.

Another unique aspect of the project that Dr. Spanier noted is the public’s continued interest in Hemingway. The letters have even been featured in an article in Vanity Fair. A Cambridge University press recently advised Dr. Spanier that they picked up the first volume as one of their top holiday gift picks for the season.

Emily Knell of The Daily Collegian, wrote an article from which I’m quoting much of the above from. She noted that, “Public interest could be due to the letters’ ability to by-pass the macho myth surrounding Hemingway and focus more on his life and his work. However, it could also be due to the fact that Hemingway led a life full of love—enough for four wives, adventures, and friendships with people like Gertrude Stein.”

A young Martha

This is me speaking: I don’t know if I’ll get through all 17 volumes, but what a delight and what a treasure-trove of amazing information directly from Hemingway. I think you’ll get to see the blustering side; the sensitive side; empathic side; the funny side; and at times, perhaps, the ugly side. What a treat!

Where he wrote in Paris

 

 

 

 

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/

New Book: During War, Hemingway Was Good at Being Hemingway

New Book

David Hendricks published a review of a new book by Terry Mort, Hemingway At War. He found much to admire. I’ll quote directly from the review:

“The two key words in Terry Mort’s new book—“Hemingway” and “War”—carry equal weight. Although Hemingway is the hook for most readers, Mort’s book has long stretches about World War II that have little to do with the Nobel Prize winning novelist who was also a correspondent in Europe for Colliers Magazine. That’s not a bad thing. Mort’s buildup to the D-Day invasion at Normandy and the allied forces liberating Paris and their deadly struggle to cross into Germany is fascinating.

Hem and Hadley

“The Hemingway narrative in the book starts with his romance and marriage to another war correspondence, Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s third wife. Hemingway himself engaged in the war while living in Cuba as World War II began, patrolling the Cuban shores to hunt down German U-boats. This period was fictionalized in Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream. Gellhorn left Hemingway in Cuba to report news in Europe, a move he ultimately followed in 1944 in time for D-Day. Mort alternates between the war and Hemingway’s exploits as a war correspondent.

“He also follows the novelist as Hemingway’s marriage to Gellhorn dissolves and he romances Mary Welsh, yet another foreign correspondent who became his fourth wife.

Caribbean surveillance
Martha and Hem shortly after their marriage

“Mort does not idealize Hemingway and the main point of the book’s first half is to demonstrate that Hemingway was a poor war correspondent, at least in comparison with others such as Ernie Pyle, Edward R. Murrow, and Walter Cronkite.

 

Hem and Mary

“He did show bravery in certain episodes and suffered several head injuries. Hemingway actually landed with allied troops on D-Day at Omaha Beach, certainly a courageous act.

Hemingway At War, demonstrates a trend that seems to have no end—that as meritorious as some of Hemingway’s novels are, it is his vigorous life and outsized personality, more than his books, that provide continuous grist for interesting history books.”

Working

So, I would say that Mr. Hendricks enjoyed the book and feels that it added to the Hemingway legend and full involvement in the second war.

Kirkus felt it was too short on facts. So take a look and you decide.

Hemingway At War: Hemingway’s Adventures as a World War II Correspondent, by Terry Mort.

Zelda: Scott and Hemingway

I always think of Hemingway and Fitzgerald somewhat together because of their beginning in Paris. They had a falling out early on in their relationship and Fitzgerald died in 1940 at the age of 44, well before Hemingway’s who died in 1961. However, it is hard to avoid thinking of the early years, the promise, the romance, the excitement of a new direction in writing. Both were originals and true to their visions (well for the most part. Fitzgerald was not happy with writing for Hollywood in lieu of penning a great novel.) And you can’t think of Scott without Zelda. There is a new series about Zelda. Please read Ms. Felsenthal’s take on it all. The article was printed in Vogue and i have lifted only the first third. There is also an interview with Christina Ricci. And I added the photos. Love, Christine

by JULIA FELSENTHAL

You probably have some less-than-flattering preconceived notions of Zelda Fitzgerald, and there’s a good chance you cribbed them, at least indirectly, from Ernest Hemingway. In A Moveable Feast, his posthumously published (1964), now-beloved memoir of ex-patriot life in 1920s Paris, Hemingway wrote extensively about his good friend, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and about Fitzgerald’s muse, his wife Zelda, the entrancing, free-spirited flapper extraordinaire. Except in Hemingway’s telling, she was actually a cruel, frivolous, controlling harpy who jealously undermined her husband’s success, manipulated him into a life of hard-drinking, and even convinced him he was too poorly endowed to keep a woman happy. When Zelda’s erratic behavior landed her in an institution (her diagnosis was schizophrenia, though we now speculate she might have been bipolar), Hemingway was pleased that it meant his poor put-upon buddy could finally get some real writing done.

Scott and Zelda

The first season of Z takes place years before all that: Zelda is the belle of the ball in Montgomery, Alabama, less the wild child we’ve read about, and more an actual child testing out the boundaries of her rebelliousness. Then she meets a very young, enlisted F. Scott Fitzgerald (David Hoflin), stationed near Montgomery before shipping off overseas (the war would end before he had to), a Minnesota-born Princetonian who dreams of becoming a great writer and who has already incubated a not-so-great drinking problem.

Hem and Scott

The first few episodes of Z feel a little bit like Roaring ’20s Muppet Babies: a sunny, sanitized, myopic romp through the scrappy early years of a pair who would one day become icons of their age. But as the skies darken over the Fitzgeralds’ charmed life, the show becomes an unremitting examination of a complicated marriage in the early stages of curdling, and a kind, but not wholly apologetic spotlight on Zelda, who is struggling in real time to keep up bon vivant appearances, to keep her husband productive, and to locate any sense of personal creativity within a partnership that’s proving as stifling as Montgomery ever was.

Zelda in ballet slippers

We watch as Scott nixes Zelda’s acting aspirations and unabashedly mines her diaries for his own fiction. (Literary history goes that he would also later publish her stories under his name—he commanded the bigger paycheck—and that he excised from her only novel, Save Me the Waltz, biographical material that he wanted for his Tender Is the Night.) We also watch as Zelda’s unrealistic lifestyle-demands and ravenous appetite for novelty keep her husband away from his work.

Was F. Scott Fitzgerald the domineering husband who squashed his wife’s potential, or was she the succubus who ruined him? In the first season of Z it’s too early to tell, though the show seems far more interested in exploring the murky corners of their flawed coupling—the very definition of can’t live with/can’t live without—than it does in issuing a final verdict.

Scott
Max perkins, shared editor at Scribners

When her novel came out, The New Yorker criticized Fowler for smoothing out her character’s rough edges. Her Zelda was “easy to relate to even as she runs wild, sensible while allegedly insane.”

Ricci’s Zelda is no less relatable. We are, after all, in the age of the anti-heroine, when empathizing with women behaving badly is a thing. But in the actress’s hands, the character is also enigmatically feral. Her Zelda is unpredictable to a fault, a prisoner of her own racing mind, whose vagaries often lead her into situations she’s ill-equipped to handle. There’s always something roiling behind the actress’s eyes, a charge that makes her electric to watch.

Zelda and Scott, Midnight in Paris

“Our hope is that this for people is almost like a first-person experience,” Ricci told me over the phone. “It really gives you the time to go through her life with her. You feel more intimacy.”

Hem and Scott

 

Happy 90th to THE SUN ALSO RISES

Lovely article by Juan Vidal and what Hemingway’s debut novel meant to him. Best, Christine

From Pamplona, With Love: ‘The Sun Also’ Turns 90

The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises

by Ernest Hemingway

Paperback, 251 pages |

But in my early 20s, someone mailed me a dusty copy of Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. I’d never read anything quite like it — and haven’t since.

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the publication of that book. A masterpiece of the form, The Sun Also Rises is a rare feat in its power and restraint, its terse yet evocative sentences making a strong impression as I was beginning to hone in on my own love of words: “Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it?” one character asks narrator Jake, an American newspaper reporter. “Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?”

 

Ernest Hemingway: Not just some old white guy going on about a crusty fisherman.

Lloyd Arnold/Getty Images

Related NPR Stories

None of Hemingway’s other works, though some were good and even great, quite captured the idea of desire and longing that his debut does. But there’s also a blatant sadness that permeates the entire novel, which, in truth, is what attracted me more than anything. How could these depressed and oftentimes insufferable socialites be drawn so beautifully? And how on earth could such simple, stripped down prose carry this kind of emotional weight? Nathaniel Hawthorne says it best: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

But for me, it’s much more than that. When I read The Sun Also Rises – and I go back to it every few years — I’m instantly transported to Pamplona, where Hemingway’s characters go to watch the bullfights. I visited Pamplona as a kid with my family, and I too watched the bullfights, with my father — who in all honesty doesn’t deserve any more mention than that.

Except for the fact that he was the one who randomly sent me this wonderful book, more than a decade after we’d lost touch.

The Sun Also Rises, a title taken from Ecclesiastes, is like its author in that it means different things to different people. Sure, some might say that A Farewell to Arms is a better book, or that For Whom the Bell Tolls is a more sophisticated piece of literature, but they are wrong. And that’s in part because they didn’t visit Pamplona at a certain age, nor receive a random gift when they were young and impressionable, or they simply weren’t open enough to be floored by what Hemingway was doing with language and, dear God, dialogue.

The Sun Also Rises centers on the inner lives of that now-infamous group Gertrude Stein called the “Lost Generation,” but like all books it also holds personal meaning for each reader. Its pages make me recall the noise of a crowd cheering on a brave matador, the expectation I felt as a boy, even the dizzying smell of blood in the air. They remind me of my father, who never gave me much more than this perfect novel, which you might say is a hell of a lot.

Pamplona
Pamplona

 

 

 

Hemingway as Opera or Broadway Musical?

 

            I’ve always wondered myself why no Broadway shows or musicals have ever been made of Hemingway’s work.  It seems that some of them would lend themselves well.  A Farewell to Arms certainly could be a tragic, beautiful story with music – as it is even without the music.

A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms

             I just read an article by an opera lover opining on this same issue.  Fred Plotkin wrote an article after his visit to Ketchum, Idaho, which inspired him to do more thinking about Hemingway.  He noted that Hemingway wrote little about Idaho, where he spent many years and where he worked on For Whom The Bell Tolls, A Moveable Feast, The Dangerous Summer, Islands In The Stream, A Garden of Eden, and The Shot.  

Ketchum Idaho home where Hem died
Ketchum Idaho home where Hem died

            Hemingway is buried in the local cemetery where his fourth wife, Mary, and his sons Gregory and Jack, are also buried.   

            Hemingway first went to Ketchum, Idaho in 1939 at the invitation of the Sun Valley Resort.  Sun Valley was trying to gain some acceptance as a visitor’s holiday center.  As part of a promotional invitation, the resort also invited movie stars Lucille Ball, Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.  Hemingway was not only known in 1939 as a superb writer but also as an outdoorsman, a hunter and a fisherman, all of which would be attractions for visitors to the Ketchum area. 

            In exchange for some promotional photographs, Hemingway was offered a two year stay.  He ended up dividing those years between Idaho and his home in Cuba.  

            He wrote a great deal of For Whom The Bell Tolls in 1940 when he stayed in a cabin in Sun Valley with Martha Gellhorn and his three sons, Jack, Patrick and Gregory. 

Idaho
Idaho

            In 1946, Hemingway returned with his fourth wife Mary and stayed in various cabins in the area.  He returned for good –well for good part-time – in 1958.  Ultimately, when it appeared that it was prudent to leave Cuba and the FBI would not let him return to get his things, he and Mary settled permanently in Ketchum, although they kept an apartment in New York City for a while.  

Ketchum
Ketchum

            During the intervening years, he had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for Old Man In The Sea and the following year the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

            His health also was in decline. 

            Never a snob, Hemingway mingled easily with the local people in Ketchum as he had done in Spain and Cuba.  He was well liked and upon his death, the locals did their best to keep the press out at Mary Hemingway’s request. 

Mary
Mary

            Fred Plotkin notes that he created a list of operas that have been based on American writers’ novels.  Those included An American Tragedy (Dreiser), The Aspern Papers, (Henry James), Bel Canto (Ann Patchett), The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), Little Women (Alcott), McTeague (Frank Noris), Moby Dick (Melville), Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck), The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain), The Scarlett Letter (Hawthorne), and Willy Stark (based on Robert Penwarren’s All The King’s Men).   

            It turns out that there is a one act opera version of The Sun Also Rises written by Webster Young.  It premiered at Long Island Opera in 2000.   

            A two act opera, written by a man in the Soviet Union, was composed of Hemingway’s life.   

            Mr. Plotkin would chose The Old Man and the Sea as a chamber opera.  I don’t know much about opera, but he is suggesting that Santiago be sung by an older bass, such as Samuel Ramey or Ferruccio Furlanetto.

            Please read this article directly at this link.  The photos of Hemingway’s view from his porch in Ketchum and his home are well worth looking at:  an inspiration to an amazing writer who used just enough words to say what he wanted to say.

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/operatic-ernest-hemingway/

 

 

 

ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES

  •         across-the-river-and-into-the-trees    One of Hemingway’s least popular and most poorly received novels, Across the River and Into the Trees, is being adapted for film.  Pierce Brosnan is going to play the colonel and Maria Valverde will play Renata.  Many years ago, Gary Cooper, who had been in two of Hemingway’s films already and who was a close friend of Hemingway’s, considered playing the colonel if it were ever adapted.  It never came to pass and has never happened since. 
  • pierce-brosnan
  •             For those unfamiliar with this novel, published in 1950, it tells the story of an American colonel, Richard Cantwell, who is in Italy right after World War II.  He has just learned that he has a terminal illness yet he carries on without telling anyone, with a stoic disregard of his fate.  I haven’t read the novel in a while but my recollection is that the colonel was in his mid to late fifties and embittered by life.  He decides to spend a weekend in quiet solitude. To that end, he grabs a military driver to take him on a duck hunting trip as well as to enjoy a visit to his old haunts in Venice.  As his plans unravel, he meets a young countess, Renata, by chance and he begins to rekindle hope for a future possibly and he becomes less eager to die. Clearly infatuated with her, Cantwell dreams that he may have life left in him yet.
    Maria Valverde
    Maria Valverde

                The inspiration for the novel was Hemingway’s love/infatuation for eighteen-year-old Adriana Ivancich. He met her in a rain storm. She was a bit bedraggled and Hemingway took his comb and broke it in half, giving her one half. The book became something of a scandal, more for her than for him, as the implication was that she and Hemingway were lovers. He would have wanted that but it appears that that did not happen. Adriana created the first cover art for the book, which was also widely criticized as amateurish.  Hemingway’s fourth wife, Mary, also was none too keen on this book for many reasons. The reviews were brutal. Still it became a best seller within 7 weeks of its release in America.  

    on his boat with Adriana
    EH2841P nd.
    Ernest Hemingway and Adriana Ivancich with stuffed lion. Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Copyright unknown in the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

                Isabella Rosallini has signed on as the countess’s mother.   

    Isabella Rossellini
    Isabella Rossellini

                Filming is supposed to start in January on location in Venice and Trieste.across-the-river

     

                So we’ll see.

     

Instagram of The Old Man and the Sea

15 seconds of your time!

young Ernie fishing
young Ernie fishing

 

Is This a Smart Move or Dumbing It all Down? (5 minutes after this see my next post)

Four classics so far have been made child friendly by KinderGuides: On The Road, by Jack Kerouac; Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote; Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey—and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. The stories have been dramatically abbreviated and have large, colorful illustrations. Among the next four classics to be published by KinderGuides are Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Bear in mind, these are being read to 6 to 12-year olds. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, blessedly omits the drugs, prostitutes and wild parties.

Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
Spencer Tracy as Santiago
Spencer Tracy as Santiago

Forbes just published an article by Frank Miniter entitled “A Startling Example of How the Politically Correct Currents Pull Strongly Toward Mediocrity.” It starts out asking if Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, actually can be watered down for young readers, noting that the great dumbing down of the American mind isn’t just underway, but has become a parody of itself.

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea

The KinderGuides’ version of The Old Man and the Sea begins with, “Santiago is an old fisherman who lives in a small village by the sea, on an island called Cuba. Every day he takes his boat far out into the ocean to catch fish. But after 84 days of trolling, he hasn’t caught any fish at all. He is sad.”

Frank Miniter’s article notes further that The Old Man and the Sea is a concise novella as it is, exploring man’s struggle, not just with a fish, but with his mortality. The prose in the original is hardly difficult. The real Hemingway begins, “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the gulfstream and he had gone eighty-four days now without a fish.” If the word ‘skiff’ is a new and challenging word, there is always the dictionary. At the Forbes article goes on to note, the theme of a man’s struggling, knowing his body is failing him and that inevitably he will be a tragic figure, but that nevertheless he must face his mortality with grace, regardless, is lost in the KinderGuides’ version.

Miniter writes, “Instead of raising children’s knowledge and understanding of these things, this is another example of watering down the education of our youth. Should great paintings also be simplified into cartoon characters? How about plays and music?”

This reminds me of the cartoons—which were designed to be ironic and funny—of condensing of Hemingway’s books into one-minute cartoons. I’ll repost A Farewell to Arms below. (IN FIFTEEN MINUTES SEE INSTAGRAM NOVEL.)

Do you think this is a smart way to introduce children to the classics or just plain ridiculous?

Best to all for the New Year!

Hem in Cuba
Hem in Cuba
Hem's living room in Cuba
Hem’s living room in Cuba

 

Love, Christine