Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. Ernest Hemingway
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.
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 the Spanish Civil War. 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 very admirably.)
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 a bit of a boy looking for adventure, he was not a coward. He liked his comforts but was ok roughing it too. 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 in a simple home. He was no snob. Usually by the time Martha got home, an entourage was assembled and drinking, much to her distress. And then there were the plane crashes. More on that in another post.
Still he was real, strong, and brave. No phoney there although he could exaggerate. 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.
Hemingway’s big novels have all been made into movies, some several times. He
claims to have hated to go to see his books as cinema. Aside from enjoying the paycheck that came with the adaptations, (he was paid $ 80,000 for A Farewell to Arms in 1932, which was an enormous sum in those day and $ 150,000 for the rights to The Old Man and the Sea in 1958) he was disturbed to see the ending of A Farewell to Arms altered in the first movie version. Death is apparently unacceptable and well, a downer, we know, but that was the true ending. David O. Selznick did better in the 1955 version but Hem was still not thrilled. The entire production of The Old Man and the Sea was a frightening tug of war among all involved.
“Hollywood only made the kind of pictures that people wanted to see and the public had bad taste”, Hem opined.
Still, over fifteen of his short stories and novels were adapted for movies, and Hemingway became a Hollywood star leading to a major gripe he had with Hollywood: that it had no respect for his need for privacy and he became a product available for marketing or, put less benignly, image exploitation. He did not like that one bit.
A few of the novels/short stories that were made into film were:
A Farewell to Arms (1932): Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes ( The ending was changed so that Catherine lived. More recent adaptation called InLove and War with Sandra Bullock and Chris O’Donnell.
For Whom the Bell Tolls(1943): Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman
To Have and Have Not (1944): Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952): Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward. Ending changed so that Gregory Peck lives.
The Sun Also Rises (1957): Ava Gardner, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn.
The Old Man and the Sea(1958): Spencer Tracy. Anthony Quinn and Tracy had lobbied hard for the role and Tracy won out. Hemingway thought he was too portly for the role of the gaunt Santiago. This movie was two years in development and another two years in production. It was beset with troubles upon troubles despite being a one character story. Hemingway’s contempt for Hollywood was well known but he reacted badly to the first screenplay by Paul Osborn which eliminated all flashbacks and narration and added whole new scenes. Hemingway insisted that Osborn be replaced by Peter Viertel, who had adapted the Sun Also Rises to the screen. Hemingway was named technical advisor. The movie ultimately garnered respect and Academy Award nominations but not before Spencer Tracy almost walked off the set, started drinking during the filming, and tore up a bar with Hemingway.
Ultimately, Hemingway was cynical about Hollywood and his literature. He once said “that the best way for a writer to deal with Hollywood was to meet the producers at the California state line, throw them your book, they throw you the money. Then you jump into your car and drive like hell back the way you came.” Oliver. A Hemingway Retrospective.
All was not a loss however. He met Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Gary Cooper, Howard Hawkes, and Ingrid Bergman, who all became close friends, especially Gary Cooper.
Next post, I’m going to suggest who could play these roles in modern versions. I have ideas and am interested in yours!
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. I always knew 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.
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 Aaron Hotchner 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. 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 raconteur. 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 the offer as a settlement 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, apparently happy marriage but no more children but she always seemed to have a love for Hemingway. Margaux and Mariel Hemingway were her grandaughters, Jack’s children. Hadley 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.
“There are two equally serious reasons why it isn’t worth any adult reader’s attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive.”
“The author’s probable intention was to exhibit a unique development in this little asylum waif, but there is no real difference between the girl at the end of the story and the one at the beginning of it.”
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
“It is a book one can very well get along without reading.”
A version of this article appears in print on March 11, 2019, Section C, Page 5 of the New York edition with the headline: Oops! Scalding Reviews of Some Classics Bubble Up. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
He did it. He should have done it in 1942 for For Whom the Bell Tolls but the committee was divided; some felt the sexual content was “improper”; no prize was awarded at all that year. It’s a bit sad that the award happened when it did, as Hem was not up to accepting it in person at that time and, I think, would have truly appreciated it. He scoffed at the Nobel Prize for Literature calling it the Ignoble Prize but it mattered to him to be passed over.
Well, he won it for The Old Man and the Sea, his little novella that was to be part of a trilogy.
Listen to the speech on the above link (well it’s just the beginning of the speech) in Hem’s voice. He enunciates his “t’s” and I’m not sure if it was for the purpose of being clear in this speech or if that was his mid-western accent. (If anyone out there knows, please let us know.) He could not make it to the actual ceremony due to the two plane crashes he’d been in and other health matters. John Cabot read his acceptance speech in Sweden and Hem made this recording after.
It’s humble and beautiful–and short.
It’s funny. Words are a writer’s craft and lifeline, yet many writers are not outgoing. Hem apparently was actually shy especially when not drinking and he was always reluctant to engage in public speaking.
Today, given the press for writers to be “out there”, I wonder how he would feel about twitter and facebook for himself. He likely would not have done it in the later years. His privacy became more valuable but of course, by then, he was not ernest hemingway but HEMINGWAY so no need to cultivate the masses.
If not for Charlevoix, the trajectory of Ernest Hemingway’s life would have been very different, according to Charlevoix historian David Miles.
In 1920 when renowned author Ernest Hemingway was in his late teens, he won money at a Charlevoix gambling house that prevented him from having to work at the cement plant located at what’s now Bay Harbor, said Miles.
John Koch founded the Colonial Club, an illegal gambling house, at 209 Meech St. in Charlevoix around 1916. “It was a high-class gambling club and gourmet restaurant,” said Miles.
Koch apparently had enough clout in Lansing so he was able to stay open year after year into the 1930s in an era where gambling was illegal, said Miles.
“Ernest Hemingway came here one night in 1920. He had been kicked out of the family cottage in Walloon. He was always like this with his mother, it was a very fraught relationship,” said Miles.
Miles said the reason for the row was a beach party she accused Hemingway of holding at their cottage. His mother accused him of the indiscretion, when in reality it was actually his sister who was the guilty party.
“His mother kicked him out and he ended up at a cheap boarding house in Boyne City,” said Miles. “He was down to his last $6 and his friends, in July 1920, picked him up to go to Charlevoix to Koch’s to gamble. He walked in with his last $6 and he sat down at the roulette table and parlayed that last $6 into $59, when they picked him up around 2 a.m. to go home,” said Miles.
“That got him through the rest of the summer.”
In a letter housed at the Charlevoix Historical Society, Hemingway wrote that the winnings in Charlevoix that evening, “prevented him from having to go to work at the cement plant where Bay Harbor is now, “ said Miles.
This and many other stories taken from the letters of young Hemingway have inspired a documentary coming soon to the Charlevoix Cinema.
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. Hemingway, 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, as 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 above which i chose when setting up this blog 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, 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 in Madrid 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.
Outdoor books to read when you can’t go far outdoors
By JOHN MYERS Duluth News Tribune (TNS)
7 hrs ag0
DULUTH, Minn. — So we aren’t supposed to travel to wild places now, or anywhere far from home for that matter, so maybe the next best thing is to sit in a comfy chair and read about the outdoors.
Here’s a hastily compiled list of what I’ll call “great outdoor reads” based on my own musings, suggestions from friends and, in at least one case, the Pulitzer and Nobel prize committees. Some are classics, some newer, all of them based around the outdoors.
I’ve also thrown in some local and regional options.
I have read some, but not all, of these, so the descriptions are a mix of my recollections, book reviews and jacket summaries, so take them as you will.
“The Call of the Wild”
By Jack London, Macmillan publishing (now Simon & Schuster). First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is regarded as Jack London’s masterpiece. Don’t go mistaking this for a children’s book, even if that’s when you last read it. Based on London’s experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Klondike.
The main character of the novel is a dog named Buck. The story opens at a ranch in Santa Clara Valley, California, when Buck is stolen and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. He becomes progressively more wild as he’s forced to fight to survive and dominate other dogs. By the book’s end, Buck is as wild as a wolf.
“A River Runs Through It and Other Stories”
By Norman Maclean, University of Chicago Press. You’ve probably seen the movie, but have you read the book? It’s a semi-autobiographical collection of three stories by Maclean, who died in 1990 at age 88. Much of the book deals with his relationship with his ne’er-do-well brother, Paul, and his father, as Maclean grew up in rural Montana in the early 1900s.
The book starts like this: “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.” And boom, you’re hooked.
“Into the Wild”
By Jon Krakauer, Villard publishing. Krakauer’s 1996 masterpiece was a followup to his magazine article on Christopher McCandless titled “Death of an Innocent,” which appeared in the January 1993 issue of Outside. (The book was adapted to a film of the same name in 2007.)
The book now is used as required reading in some high school or college literature classes. It was an international bestseller, printed in 30 languages.
McCandless grew up in suburban Annandale, Virginia. After graduating from college in May 1990, McCandless stopped communicating with his family, gave away his bank account of $24,500 to charity and began traveling across the Western United States.
In April 1992, McCandless hitchhiked to the Stampede Trail in Alaska. He took off down the snow-covered trail with only 10 pounds of rice, a .22 caliber rifle, several boxes of rifle rounds, a camera and a small selection of reading material, including a field guide to the region’s edible plants. He declined help to buy sturdier clothing and better supplies. McCandless perished sometime around the week of August 18, 1992, after surviving more than 100 days on his own.
“A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There”
By Aldo Leopold, Oxford University Press. The 1949 book describes the country around the author’s home in Sauk County, Wisc. It’s a collection of essays (some that had been previously published in outdoor magazines) that describe Leopold’s idea of a “land ethic,” or a responsible relationship existing between people and the land they inhabit. Edited and published by his son, Luna, a year after Leopold’s death, the book is considered a landmark in the American conservation movement.
Leopold writes that land is not a commodity to be possessed; rather, humans must have mutual respect for Earth in order not to destroy it. He also warns us that humans will cease to be free if they have no wild spaces in which to roam.
“On Trails: An Exploration”
By Robert Moor, Simon & Schuster. This book was a New York Times Bestseller and a winner of the 2017 Saroyan International Prize for Writing and declared the best outdoors book of year by the Sierra Club.
On Trails is a soul-searching exploration of how trails have helped Moor, and maybe the rest of us, understand the larger world. Moor was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail when he started wondering about how trails form. Over the next even years, Moor traveled the globe, exploring trails of all kinds, long and short, obvious and hidden, melding his own experiences with findings from science, history, philosophy, and nature writing.
“Meditations on Hunting”
By Jose Ortega y Gasset, Scribner Book Company. This may be the most quoted book about hunting ever written, even though the paperback version is only 136 pages (first published 1972.) It’s been called the finest work on the essence and ethics of hunting. Ortega states that life is constantly changing dance between man and his surroundings. He explains that hunting is part of man’s very nature, that “hunting is a universal and impassioned sport … it is the purest form of human happiness. The essence of hunting or fishing involves a complete code of ethics of the most distinguished design. The sportsman who accepts the sporting code of ethics keeps his commandments in the greatest solitude with no witnesses or audience other than the sharp peaks of the mountain, the stern oak, and the passing animal.”
Ortega lived from 1893 to 1955. Good luck finding a cheap version of this book. They are going on Amazon for upwards of $65.
“Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast”
By Hank Shaw, Rodale Books. Shaw put into book form what he’s been doing on his blog for years. A lifelong angler and forager who became a hunter late in life, Shaw writes about his passion for hunting and fishing and cooking and eating what he kills. Shaw specializes in recipes for some of the lesser known wild foods that are available in the woods.
Shaw not only describes his adventures afield but then takes readers from the field into the kitchen in an easily understood, exciting fashion that includes recipes and directions for things like homemade root beer, cured wild boar loin, boneless tempura shad, Sardinian hare stew and pasta made with acorn flour.
If you like to eat what you kill, you probably will like his book.
“The Old Man and the Sea”
By Ernest Hemingway, Scribners. Okay, if you haven’t read this book you might have missed high school literature class. But if you haven’t read it in that long, give it another look. It is, for American fishing literature, about as good as it gets. You may or may not like Hemingway’s style, but here it is in its most vivid form, and in relatively short (128 pages) form. Released in 1952 it was the last major work of fiction by Hemingway published during his lifetime. The book tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who — after not catching a fish for 84 days — struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba, one of Hemingway’s favorite places.
In 1953, The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and it was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to their awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.
“Hemingway on Hunting”
By Ernest Hemingway, Scribners (edited and forwarded by Seann Hemingway and Patrick Hemingway.) Does Hemingway deserve two books on this list? Of course he does, and it’s my list. Hemingway’s love for the hunting life is reflected in this collection of his shorter stories, including his famous account of an African safari in “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” to passages about duck hunting in “Across the River and Into the Trees.”
Hemingway, like Ortega, believed hunting was the best way for people (namely men, for him) to explore their humanity and relationship to nature.
Hemingway on Hunting also includes hunting pieces he wrote for magazines, including Esquire and Vogue.
“Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and his Restless Drive to Save the West”
By John Taliaferro. Liveright Publishing. Taliaferro was already an acclaimed biographer when he wrote this piece on George Bird Grinnell. If you are asking who Grinnell is, you need to read this book. Among the famed early conservationists of his time, like Muir and Roosevelt, Grinnell is probably the least-recognized and most underappreciated. In the late 1800s Grinnell, a zoologist and anthropologist by training, surmised that the United States was experiencing an alarming decline of birds and other wildlife. So he started writing and editing countless articles arguing for conservation policies. He helped form the Audubon Society, and along with Theodore Roosevelt, was a founding member of the Boone and Crockett Club, organized by concerned hunters for the protection of wildlife habitat.
(I edited it to shorten it. For full article see: https://www.nny360.com/artsandlife/booksandauthors/outdoor-books-to-read-when-you-can-t-go-far-outdoors/article_1b6fe5f8-b480-541a-b732-dfbdac268b84.html)
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.
My first novel 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. It has done nicely under that title.
The point is that titles are important. Titles attract. The inside needs to be good but first someone has to pick it up. Hemingway often got his titles from the Bible. Aaron Hotchner came up posthumously of A Moveable Feast. So take a look at my ridiculous alternate titles.
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.