I just read an article about a man who liked to visit literary places and relate them to the writings. This is an article about his visit to upper Michigan and some Hemingway places there. I liked the last line, something to the effect that he’ll always think of Hem in the sand dunes, crystal lake, beautiful colors of that place.
There are so many places that Hemingway has touched or that have touched him: Paris, Key West, Cuba, Ketchum, Michigan, Spain, Illinois, Kansas City, Toronto, Italy,
Africa. I’m heading to Paris for the first time in June 2014 and will see as many of his places as I can manage. It all sounds so romantic with cafes, languid river boats, elegant boulevards. I’ll report back and let you know if it’s all that or if I was disappointed. Friends seem to either love Paris or shrug at the fuss. I wish I could take my two quasi-Gallic dogs with me but alas, they must stay home.
It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it. Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway killed himself on July 1, 1961. It’s sad to think about but I think we can say that he was true to himself to the end. His great companion, A. E. Hotchner, wrote an essay about the death and I attach the link here.
Hotchner met Hemingway while doing a story for Cosmopolitan, which was about the future of everything: art, music, theater, and literature. They asked a young journalist to go down to Cuba and interview Hemingway. I won’t repeat what I’ve written before about their meeting.
Suffice to say for this post that Hotchner remained to the end a trusted confidant, hell-raiser when necessary, collaborator on projects, and loyal friend. As he notes in his article, he dramatized many of Hemingway’s stories and novels for TV and the movies, and they traveled through Europe together often.
Hotchner, in his article, notes that Hemingway called him in May of 1960 from Cuba. Hem had been asked by Life magazine to cut a 92,000 word article down to 40,000. A month later, Hem had only cut out about 534 words. He asked Hotchner to come to Cuba to help him. He did go and got the job done, but Hotchner noted that Hem was “bone tired and very beat up.” He assumed that after a period of rest, Hem would be back to his hale old self.
Much has been written about Hemingway’s paranoia and the last year of his life. He felt that the feds, the FBI, the IRS or all were following him and out to get him. During dinner with Hem and Mary (Hemingway’s fourth wife), Hem indicated halfway through the meal that they had to leave because two FBI agents at the bar were watching him. At the time Hemingway was working on A Moveable Feast, having difficultly, although most of the Paris sketches were all set and down on paper. He often spoke of suicide. His father had killed himself.
During the last eight months of Hemingway’s life, he received eleven electric shock treatments at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. During a short release, he attempted suicide twice with a gun; on a flight to the Mayo Clinic, he tried to jump from the plane. When it stopped in Casper, Wyoming, for repairs, he tried to walk into the moving propeller.
When Hotchner visited him in June, he’d been given a new series of shock treatments and insisted that his room was bugged. When Hochner asked him, “Papa, why do you want to kill yourself,” he replied, “What do you think happens to a man going on 62 when he realizes that he can never write the books and stories he promised himself? And do any of the other things he promised himself on the good days?” Hotchner noted that he’d written a beautiful book about Paris and Hem replied, “The best of that I wrote before. And now I can’t finish it.”
When Hotch suggested he could relax or retire, Hem noted, “How does a writer retire? Everywhere he goes he hears the same damn question: what are you working on?”
The irony is that decades later in response to a Freedom of Information petition, the FBI released its Hemingway file. J. Edgar Hoover had placed Hemingway under surveillance because he was suspicious of his activities in Cuba. Agents filed reports and tapped his phones. The surveillance continued all through his confinement at St. Mary’s Hospital and it’s likely that the phone outside of his room was tapped after all.
Hotch ends the article noting that he believes Hemingway truly sensed the surveillance and that it contributed to his anguish and his suicide.
The above borrows heavily from the article by A. E. Hotchner, so I urge you to read it directly. Hotchner also wrote the wonderful book “Papa Hemingway” and “Hemingway and His World.” I love his writing and his view of Hem as a true friend, not just as “Hemingway.” There’s not a better source, in my opinion, for getting a real flavor of what it was like to be part of Hemingway’s posse and inner circle.
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.
I’ll be posting about the Hemingway/Fitzgerald connection in a few weeks. However, this is timely.
I just read the above review in the New York Times. I’m a few weeks behind on my reading but this is the review of a play depicting a last meeting between Hemingway and Fitzgerald. It’s fictional and takes place in 1937, about 4 years before Fitzgerald died of a heart attack and Hem was working fairly well around that time. There is a comment that Hemingway is “slyly” trying to undermine Scott’s comeback. I don’t know why so many commentators feel the need to emphasize–unfairly and incorrectly, in my opinion–Hemingway’s bluster and dominance. He was all that but I see little effort to equally point out his generosity and kindness. And while there is no question that he felt literary rivalry with Scott, there is little if any evidence that he tried to undermine him or sabotage his success. While he took a swipe at Scott in A Moveable Feast, let’s recall that Hem never edited or finished it. It was published post-humously and edited first by Mary and a subsequent edition by his grandson. That whole section may have gone out or been amended significantly had Hemingway lived to complete it himself.
Anyway, both Hemingway and Fitzgerald continue to be a draw and to fascinate the next generation, perhaps equally for their lives and their legend as for their writing.