Before it is too late, actual collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba is happening regarding the restoration of Hemingway’s beloved Cuban home. He lived there for about twenty years. As mentioned in previous posts, he and Mary left many papers and mementos when they were not allowed to return. Apparently, there remain many writings/notes of historical and literary interest even after Mary was permitted to remove some of them post-Hemingway’s death.
Oh, the fun of this. About half of the items in the exhibit are being borrowed from the Kennedy Library (Boston) Collection. Some were private letters so don’t be too hard on him. If letters you wrote to a close friend or lover were made public .they might not include your most eloquent turns of phrase. If you can manage, this will be a great stroll through Hemingway lore and history.
The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway
It is not my intent to “plug” my novels on this blog but once in a while it fits so I’ll write a bit about my first novel and Hemingway. My book is called Tell Me When It Hurts. La Femme Nikita meetsThe Horse Whisperer. That’s my novel. Healing, second chances with a few horses and a few dogs thrown in for good measure. One Amazon critic noted that it is more horse whisperer than femme nikita although she wrote a favorable review. She just thought the book jacket description suggested an action packed gun-fest. Fair enough comment. It is more romance than thriller. And as for reviews, small –no tiny–fry that I am, it is a rush to read a good review from someone across the country or nearby, and an icepick stab in the heart to read the bad ones. I only have a few of them but they hurt.
A few good dogs
A few good horses.
Hemingway inspired me in a few ways. I don’t think anyone can pull off his style without it reading like an entry into the best of bad Hemingway contest. (Some of the entries in the Best of Bad Hemingway are a hoot and are quite entertaining. Hmm, that’s another post for another day.) Still, here is what wormed its way into my book by osmosis from Ernesto.
1) Hem always worked steadily and with discipline and daily when working on a book. He might get drunk at the end of the day but while working, he worked. He demanded that he write a certain number of words and produce every day. And he revised, revised, revised.
You all know, I’m sure, that he wrote the last line of The Sun Also Rises something like thirty different ways, with slightly different inflection. And it was a short sentence! “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Every word mattered to him and he wasn’t looking for the ten dollar word. It was how he put the simple words together.The point is that even a creative literary genius like Papa had to work it. It didn’t flood down from heaven and then come flowing out. He had to work, rework, revise, cut, add, revise. That was reassuring and inspiring for a mere attemptor like me.
F. Scott Fitzgerald gave him invaluable advice on The Sun Also Rises. He crossed out Hem’s original beginning and said “start it here.” Hem did and the rest is history. As my best writing mentor put it, “New writers are always telling me to stick with their story, that it really gets good. I tell them to start it where it really gets good.” INVALUABLE ADVICE.
2) The main character in my novel is named Archer Loh. She cites Hemingway often and not just the ever popular grace under pressure comment. She has one scene in which she gets drunk and renacts a conversation with Jake Barnes pointing out his lack of empathy for Brett’s point of view and issues. Her dog is named Hadley. I think it works. You be the judge.
3) Hemingway tended to know where his books were going. To even talk about my book and its planning in the same breath as Hemingway is so absurd as to be insane. My only observation is that when I planned my novel, I knew the beginning and the end. I did not have the center all set out in outline form with detail but I did know where I was going. For me, it gave me freedom to see where the writing took me but I always knew where I had to end up. I think Hem knew exactly where he was going if not in every detail.
Many of the finest writers know the entirety of their books before they set it down. I can’t imagine that John Irving doesn’t have the details in mind before starting. If anyone knows if this is so, or not so, I’d be interested. His plots are just so intricate and yet connected despite seemingly random plot elements that to me they must be preordained.
Hemingway is not as prominent in my second novel, with a working title of The Rage of Plum Blossoms. There is one reference to one character collecting Hemingway First Editions but that’s about it. And I of course wish I’d written The Paris Wife before Paula McLain. Sigh sigh. Sigh, sigh. Sigh.
It should have been me
All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened. Ernest Hemingway
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
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
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.
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.