You love both and you lie and hate it. It destroys you and every day is more dangerous and you work harder and when you come out from your work you know what is happening is impossible, but you live day to day as in a war. Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
It’s a story as old as the ages. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, girl loses boy to other girl. It always seemed to me that Hem loved Hadley best. It could just be that Hem and Hadley were together at the beginning, before he was THE Ernest Hemingway. She loved him when he was just Wemedge, Tatie, and Ernie. She willingly used her modest trust to fund their life in Paris, a truly fruitful time for Hemingway in terms of creativity, useful alliances and friendships, and ambiance. While Hem had been in love before, most notably with Agnes Von Kurowsky, the nurse in Italy (more of her in some other post perhaps), Hadley and Hem seemed connected at the hip in the early years. Even when Hem was not thrilled by the announcement of a baby being on the way, he by all reports adored Jack aka Bumby and was a good father to all three of his boys. His longing for a daughter remained always unfulfilled. But I digress. ( Feel free to guest post, by the way.)
Pauline has been portrayed as a Mata Hari sort of figure in most biographies including the originally edited version of A Moveable Feast. Mary, Hem’s fourth wife, edited the first version and chose the title, which is a tour de force. The first version was published in 1964 just three years after Papa’s death in July 1961 and Mary was known for protecting the Hemingway legacy fiercely—not that that’s a bad thing. It is clear that her view of the past colored the decisions as to which incidents were included in the book and which were not. However, that being said, she also must have had some insight into how Papa experienced those events as they had a long marriage and Papa was a reconteur. I presume Mary heard a lot about the Paris years.
The new version of A Moveable Feast , published by Hemingway’s regular publisher, Scribner’s, was edited by Sean Hemingway, son of Patrick Hemingway, one of Hem’s son with Pauline. It is more generous to Pauline. The new version allegedly presents material in a truer, less edited form and relies on a typed manuscript that is said to have been the last draft that Hem worked on, with his original handwritten notations followed more truly. One famous passage about Hemingway’s pain at still loving loyal Hadley but being in love with Pauline with whom he has just had a tryst reads:
When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her. She was smiling, the sun on her lovely face tanned by the snow and sun, beautifully built, her hair red gold in the sun, grown out all winter awkwardly and beautifully, and Mr. Bumby standing with her, blond and chunky and with winter cheeks looking like a good Vorarlberg boy.
Hemingway did not include this episode in his final manuscript but rather in other notes and it was Mary who included it at the book’s end where it packs a punch.
For those interested in legal “stuff”—and I am—Hem had little in the way of money when he and Hadley divorced. It was 1926 and The Sun Also Rises was about to be published. Hem wrote the first draft in eight weeks and all of his cronies were in it except Hadley–which hurt her. After the divorce hit, Hem wrote to Hadley offering her the royalties for life as alimony and child support for Bumby. At that point, no one knew if the book would flop and earn nothing or . . . be what it ended up being. As it turned out, it was the gift that kept giving. Hadley, ever gracious, accepted with no recriminations. She had faith in him but it also was just not her way to push and accuse. (Hadley went on to have a long, happy marriage but no more children. Margaux and Mariel Hemingway were her grandaughters, Jack’s chidlren. She died in 1979; Pauline passed in 1951 and that’s definitely another post.) The Paris years provided writing material to Hem forever in different iterations.
Hem dedicated The Sun Also Rises to Hadley and John Hadley Nicanor in a final gesture of respect and love, regret and loss. (This book is for Hadley and John Hadley Nicanor.) The “Nicanor” was the name of a Spanish matador Nicanor Villalta y Serris, whom Hem had taken a shine to the year of Jack’s birth.
Hem moved on to a wealthier woman in Pauline who could fund his writing although I never saw Hem as an opportunist in that way. Money was part of Pauline’s package and mystique but he loved her and wanted her not because of that. It just came with her.
There will be more about Hem and his divorces and wives in the future, but the first seems to have been sweeter than the rest, to quote Joan Osborne.
A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not. Ernest Hemingway
Who knows what’s real?
“According to those who knew him well, Hemingway was a sensitive, often shy man whose enthusiasm for life was balanced by his ability to listen intently. . .. That was not the Hemingway of the news stories. The media wanted and encouraged a brawnier Hemingway, a two-fisted man whose life was fraught with dangers. The author, a newspaper man by training, was complicit in this creation of a public persona, a Hemingway that was not without factual basis, but also not the whole man. Critics, especially, but the public as well, Hemingway hinted in his 1933 letter to [Maxwell] Perkins, were eager ‘automatically’ to ‘label’ Hemingway’s characters as himself, which helped establish the Hemingway persona, a media-created Hemingway that would shadow–and overshadow–the man writer.” (Michael Reynolds, “Hemingway in Our Times.” The New York Times, July 11, 1999)
The mask, in fact, seems indicative of a great portion of Hemingway’s life and his characters. We all think of Hemingway as the great hunter, aficionado of bull fighting, guns, and fishing, everything that is macho and, to some extent, in modern culture, these are interests bordering on offensive to many. I think Hemingway would admit readily that his image took over who he was although the image was part of him, too and he mined it regularly.
A collection of letters recently presented to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, generously established by his widow Mary, has been cited in several articles recently for their disclosure of a much more tender side of Hemingway. In particular, one letter recounted his grief at the death of one of his cats. In February 1953, Hemingway wrote to an Italian friend about the death of his beloved cat, Uncle Willie. The cat was found with its two right legs broken and Hemingway needed to shoot it to put it out of its misery. The same day, a tourist arrived at his door. “I still had the rifle and explained to them that they had come at a bad time and to please understand and go away,” Hemingway wrote from Cuba. “But the rich Cadillac psycho said, ‘We have come at a most interesting time just in time to see the great Hemingway cry because he has to kill a cat.”
The fifteen new letters in and of themselves have an interesting history. The letters were written to Gianfranca Ivancich, a long-time Italian friend of Hemingway’s and the brother of Adriana Ivancich, who is believed to be Hemingway’s late-in-life muse, particularly for Across the River and into the Trees. The letters have never been published and claim to reveal a gentle side to the writer. The John F. Kennedy Library purchased the letters from Ivancich whom he met in Italy in a hotel bar in Venice in 1949.
“There is this very machismo image of him which is what everyone knows” said Susan Wrynn, the Curator of the Libraries of Ernest Hemingway Collection. “These letters bring a great deal more of depth to his personality. It’s charming.” Hemingway in the letter goes on to note that while he has had to shoot people, it was never anyone “I loved for eleven years nor anyone that purred with two broken legs.” It’s a sad tale but also shows a side of Hemingway that has had little exposure.
John Kennedy was a fan. Although he never met Hemingway, in his Profiles in Courage, Kennedy cited Hemingway’s definition of courage: grace under pressure. Kennedy had invited Hemingway to attend his inaugural but that was in January 1961 and Hemingway was not up to it. He respectfully sent his apologies. He died in July 1961. The library’s Hemingway Collection is the largest repository in the world of his manuscripts and letters with more than 2,500 letters written by him and 7,500 letters written to him. When Wrynn went to Italy to pick up the letters, she had a six hour layover in Heathrow inLondon describes a very nervous experience guarding of the file folders that were in her carry-on. It’s a bit reminiscent–and I’m sure this passed through her mind–of Hadley losing Hemingway’s early manuscripts on the train.
In any event, these letters arrived safely.
All this leads me back to masks. Jake Barnes of The Sun Also Rises had the mask of being able to woo Brett when he couldn’t; Brett had the mask of the philanderer when she yearned for some sort of stability–or did she? Robert Jordan was a warrior in For Whom the Bell Tolls but really all he wanted was to find a little quiet spot inMadrid with Maria. The idea of the persona behind the mask is a recurrent one in Hemingway and is played out in his personal life. Thus, I chose it for my header.
Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Would The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo be the success it was by any other name? What if had been called Ah those Crazy Swedes, or A Winter in Hell? How about The DaVinci Code? What if had been called Beware of Albinos or The Professor and the Pope? Of course not. The actual titles have a cachet that sparkles. The covers didn’t hurt but that’s another post.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to call The Great Gatsby, one of the following: Under the Red White And Blue or Trimalchio’s Banquet, Among the Ash Heaps, The High-Bouncing Lover, or Incident at West Egg, among others. Finally Zelda and Max Perkins, his editor, persuaded him of the ultimate title.
Sometimes it seems that marketing is all. It’s not of course. There has to be a great book under that superb title just like there has to be a great book under a pretty title and cover.
I’m working on my second novel. My first is called Tell Me When It Hurts. It’s about healing and second chances but I was shocked to find that casual perusers thought it was non-fiction and about divorce. (I’m a divorce lawyer). Yes, that would make a good title for a divorce how-to book, but it’s a novel. The title was intended to reference the different capacities that we all have to deal with life pain and the need at some point to say “enough!”
My second novel had a working title The Things That Stick which was changed to The Rage of Plum Blossoms. Editors in the know opined that The Things that Stick does not evoke a picture. I changed it to TheRage of Plum Blossoms to evoke a picture. We’ll see.
The point is that titles are important. Titles attract. The inside needs to be good but first someone has to pick it up. So take a look at my alternate titles and tell me yours.
Here are my alternate titles for Hem’s big four:
The Sun Also Rises:
My Paris Friends
Jake and the Missing Part
The Girl with the Unfortunate Matador
Me and the Guys
For Whom the Bell Tolls:
Death in Spain
Robert and the Magnificent Bridge
A Bridge too far (Oops, taken)
Too Little Too Late
Love is All There is
The Old Man and the Sea:
The Fish is Gone
What’s for Dinner?
Me and My big Fish: Not
A Funny Thing Happened on my way back to the Dock
A Farewell to Arms:
The Girl with the Nurse’s Uniform
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Catherine and the Rain
Say it isn’t so
Life’s a bitch and then you die
Okay, my titles are silly but it just goes to show that it’s not easy to find a title that is fresh, compelling, has gravitas commensurate with the subject matter and that seizes your interest before you crack a page. I still want to rethink the title of my first book.
So tell me your favorite alternate titles? They’ve got to be better than mine.