Writers tips about working from home: we can all use a few of these as we self-isolate. Writers voluntarily self-isolate so let’s consider their strategies. I added Hem photos. Stay safe and hope this ends soon. Best, Christine

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing many of us to work from home. There’s plenty to learn from the people who’ve always worked in isolation.

Brigid Delaney

Brigid Delaney @BrigidWD

Young woman using a laptop while working from home
 Here are tips to not just survive social isolation and work from home, but thrive in it. Photograph: mapodile/Getty Images

If there is one cohort uniquely prepared for both working from home and going into isolation – it is writers (also people in closed monastic orders).

Writers with book deadlines or a passion project that must be written nowusually have to go into lockdown in order to get the damn thing finished.

They stock up on food, limit their communication with the outside world, create and stick to a routine and stay healthy by getting enough rest and healthy food.

Here’s some of their tips for not just surviving while you work from home or socially isolate – but for thriving and doing some of your best work yet.

Do the hard things first

Ernest Hemingway started writing at 6am each morning and had the fairly consistent routine of a mid-level accountant – not the loose unit that he was in his non-writing life.

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write,” he told Paris Review.

If working from home, start working on the big tasks for the day – the presentation you need to finish, the report you have to write – as early as possible. Obviously if you have caring responsibilities, some things are going to be out of your control, but you’re going to be freshest in the morning. There’ll also be less distraction from email and your group chat sending you the latest scary news from the pandemic.

Once you’ve got the tasks that require the deepest thought out of the way, you can switch to bitsier, more reactive work. You’ll probably find you get more work done in less time, so if you’ve got the kind of job that requires you to be online just in case work comes in, you can spend the rest of the day doing things you enjoy like reading or baking while you wait for your inbox to ping.

Have a routine and stick to it

You’ll need to lock in a routine fairly quickly and stick to it if you want to be productive working from home.

Writers in full throttle will have a schedule that wouldn’t look out of place in the military. They get up at the same time each day, have a word count goal, a time when they put down their pens, a time set aside for exercise, a time when they start drinking and – for today’s writers –a discipline around using the internet and social media.

Even interaction can be scheduled. As Graham Greene wrote in the End of the Affair, “When I was young not even a love affair would alter my schedule. A love affair had to begin after lunch.”

Make sure you plan ahead. When I’m writing, the night before I will write a to-do list, so when I wake the next day (always at the same time each day, and starting work straight away) I have a sense of what needs to be done. I methodically work through the list and tick off tasks throughout the day. By the end of the day, even though I have just been a blob sitting in a chair, I feel a sense of achievement.

Kurt Vonnegut in a letter to his wife outlined his routine – which really had all the elements: “I awake at 5.30, work until 8.00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11.45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon I do schoolwork, either teach or prepare.”

At 5.30pm he had a Scotch and was in bed at 10pm. All throughout the day he did incidental exercise such as pushups and sit-ups.

You must exercise daily

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami could only get through the slog that is a writer’s confinement by committing to a rigid exercise regimen. He said in a 2004 interview, “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerise myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”


Even if you live in a tiny apartment and are working from home, you will need to exercise every day or both your body and mind could get a bit unhinged. These guides to exercising at home during lockdown – using appsand makeshift props – might help. And then there’s our early role model – the marathon runner in Wuhan who ran 31 miles around his dining room table.

The internet is your enemy

Social distancing would be a lot harder without the internet. As I write, it’s day 10 of my social isolation and I’ve been in more contact with more friends, in more parts of the world, than the entire rest of this year combined. With no coworkers to look over your shoulder and judge you for checking Facebook, texting, and having long phone chats, you’ll have to be self-disciplined about not spending all day on FaceTime in your pyjamas.Advertisement

If you are going to be effective you’ll need to quarantine yourself from social media and phone calls with friends.

Writers have long seen the internet as the enemy of productivity and have for years now been putting in place practices that limit their time online while writing.

Novelist Zadie Smith doesn’t have a smartphone while Jonathan Franzen writes in a room without wifi and tapes up the ports on his computers so he is not tempted to connect.

In the Woman of the Hour podcast, Smith said, “If I could control myself online, if I wasn’t going to go down a Beyoncé Google hole for four and a half hours, this wouldn’t be a problem. But that is exactly what I’ll do. It’s not some kind of high moral ground, it’s that I so want to [write], that I just have to get it done. And everything else has to take a backseat.”

Dogs working from home during coronavirus crisis? There’s an Instagram account for that


Australian writer Benjamin Law recommends an app called Forest which turns off your social media and internet for certain lengths of time so you can concentrate deeply. I use a program called Freedom, which blocks off the internet for a period of time that you set (usually three to five hours a day). That time in the early morning, when you’re doing your hard work, is when you should use these tools.

As I’ve seen about a million times on Twitter this week, William Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantining from the plague. If you use this time wisely, you could get a lot done. Or at least you could finish your work day faster, so you can get back to reading that book.

Hemingway around 50 years old

This is Christine. Be careful, keep reading, stay well.

Short films on Hemingway Topics at Indiana U

Bicentennial tributes and world premiere events mark IU Cinema’s spring season, See Bold below re: Hem. Best, Christine

Jan. 16, 2020

From world premiere live-music events and the student-produced IU 2020 documentary to a concert film series celebrating the IU Bicentennial, the Indiana University Cinema spring season offers a wide array of film experiences, stirring on-screen performances and engaging in-person conversations. The Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker series, supported by the Ove W Jorgensen Foundation, also returns, bringing internationally known filmmakers to the Bloomington campus.

Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker series

Jorgensen series guests for spring 2020 include:

Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch. Photo courtesy of IU Cinema

Jim Jarmusch, an enigmatic artist who drew inspiration from the East Village of the late 1970s, kicks off the Jorgensen series on Jan. 31. Originally set on being a poet, Jarmusch dabbled in multiple art forms, including music and eventually film.

His 15 feature films — nine of which will be screened as part of the series in January and February, including “Dead Man” with Johnny Depp and “Paterson” with Adam Driver — create an oeuvre with distinct characteristics and style, and a focus on the beauty and mystery of life’s little details.

Bora Kim and KyungMook Kim

February’s Jorgensen series event features Korean filmmakers Bora Kim and KyungMook Kim (no relation), who will visit campus Feb. 10.

After its premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, Bora Kim’s debut feature “House of Hummingbird” earned 35 awards from prestigious international film festivals, including the Grand Prize for Best Narrative Feature at the 2019 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. KyungMook Kim’s films, exploring the precarity of marginalized groups, have received awards in numerous international film festivals.

The filmmakers will be joined by IU alumnus Darcy Paquet, one of South Korea’s most prominent film critics and the creator of the website koreanfilm.org. Coinciding with the Feb. 10 appearance, the series “Emerging Korean Storytellers: Bora Kim and KyungMook Kim” will feature screenings of “House of Hummingbird” on Feb. 9 and 10 and “Stateless Things” on Feb. 9.

Hugo Perez

On March 27, the Jorgensen series welcomes writer/director Hugo Perez. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Perez will share his experiences producing documentaries in Cuba, making the transition from nonfiction to fiction filmmaking.

The program will include screenings of several of his short films, including “The Old Man and Hemingway,” a portrait of 100-year-old Gregorio Fuentes, Ern

est Hemingway’s boat captain in Cuba. With presentations March 26 and 27, the accompanying series, “Hugo Perez: All That Still Matters,” offers a rare opportunity to see the director’s work on the big screen and is programmed in partnership with the Writers Guild of Bloomington through IU Cinema’s Creative Collaborations program.

Isabel Sandoval

The Museum of Modern Art has cited Isabel Sandoval as a “rarity among the young generation of Filipino filmmakers” for her “muted, serene aesthetic.” She is the first transgender director to compete at the Venice and BFI London film festivals, with the New York-set trans immigrant drama “Lingua Franca.” Sandoval will be on campus April 6.

Man uses camera.
Ken Jacobs will close out the spring Jorgensen series with “Ken Jacobs: Little Stabs at Happiness” and “Ken Jacobs 2D Shorts Program.” Photo courtesy of IU Cinema

Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs will close the spring Jorgensen series in April. Jacobs is an experimental filmmaker who helped spearhead the American avant-garde film movement. His impressive filmography spans more than 60 years and 45 films, using just about every experimental technique imaginable.

“Ken Jacobs: Little Stabs at Happiness” includes screenings of “Ken Jacobs 2D Shorts Program” and an appearance by Jacobs on April 24 and “Star Spangled to Death” on April 25.

Visit Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Series on the IU Cinema website for the full list of events, times, locations and ticket information.

World premieres

IU Cinema’s spring season features four live-music events, three of which are world premieres.

“Presenting live-music events and fostering new creative work are signature parts of IU Cinema’s program,” said Jon Vickers, founding director of IU Cinema. “We are fortunate to have such great partners in the Jacobs School of Music, coupled with dedicated patrons and donors who value the unique cinematic experiences of premiering new music, films and restorations.”

Hemingway’s Typewriter: you can own it (maybe) Auction tomorrow Feb 26!

I’m quoting from Kathleen McWilliam of The Hartford Courant‘s article. I added some photos. This looks like fun. Best, Christine

Standing and Writing
Hem Standing and typing when back bad after the plane crashes

An online auction hosted by Westport-based University Archives later this month will feature 288 items of historical significance including typewriters belonging to Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway. The items will be auctioned off online on February 26 and it is expected that the typewriters owned by Kerouac and Hemingway will be popular among buyers. There are also items belonging to Andrew Carnegie, George Gershwin, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Harry Houdini.

“I do think that the typewriters are particularly interesting, said John Reznikoff, President of the University Archives). They kind of speak to you when you’re looking at them. You know those literary icons used these to create their greatest works.”

Can you ever forgive me? The typewriter

Other items include Gordon Bryant’s portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald signed by the author, a letter written and signed by astronaut Neil Armstrong and a same-day eyewitness account from the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890. Reznikoff, who was born in Hartford and raised in West Hartford until his family moved to Stamford, founded University Archives in 1979.

Hemingway’s typewriter. For the starting price of $16,000, bidders can purchase Hemingway’s circa 1950s “Royal” manual typewriter that he used to write his memoir A Moveable Feast. The typewriter is valued at between $50,000 and $100,000.

Hem’s view while writing in Idaho

The typewriter according to University Archives was given to Hemingway by fellow writer A.E. Hotchner. Hotchner, who lives in Westport – actually he just died a couple of weeks ago – met Hemingway in the spring of 1948 when he was assigned to write an article for Cosmopolitan Magazineon the future of literature. Hemingway returned the typewriter to Hotchner in 1960 and it remained one of the writer’s treasured possession. “I’ve been in the business 41 years and a lot of items come to me because of my reputation,” Reznikoff said. “For instance, the Hemingway typewriter came from an author A.E. Hotchner who was 103 and still very sharp. He called me up and said he needed to sell his last things. I’ve known him for 30 years and I’ve done appraisals for him, so he came to me.”

So for those of you out there who have an $50,000 to $100,000, go for it.



Rest in Peace, Hotch. To all fans, you know who he is. To those new to this, Aaron Hotchner was a loyal pal and friend to the end. Best, Christine (a few photos added by me).

Writer A.E. Hotchner, friend to Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman, dies at 102

Author A.E. Hotchner at his home in Westport, Conn. in 2019.


A.E. Hotchner, a well-traveled author, playwright and gadabout whose street smarts and famous pals led to a loving, but litigated, memoir of Ernest Hemingway, business adventures with Paul Newman and a book about his Depression-era childhood that became a Steven Soderbergh film, died Saturday at age 102.

He died at his home in Westport, Conn., according to his son, Timothy Hotchner, who did not immediately know the cause of death.

A. E. Hotchner, known to friends as “Ed” or “Hotch,“ was an impish St. Louis native and ex-marbles champ who read, wrote and hustled himself out of poverty and went on to publish more than a dozen books, befriend countless celebrities and see his play, “The White House,“ performed at the real White House for President Clinton.

He was a natural fit for Elaine’s, the former Manhattan nightspot for the famous and the near-famous, and contributed the text for “Everyone Comes to Elaine’s,“ an illustrated history. Hotchner’s other works included the novel “The Man Who Lived at the Ritz,“ bestselling biographies of Doris Day and Sophia Loren, and a musical, “Let ‘Em Rot!“ co-written with Cy Coleman.

The Moth presents, Moved: Stories of Safe Passage. The Players Club, New York. 03/16/2012. Stories by Tom Bodett, A.E. Hotchner, Pha Le, Sarah Ryan-Knox, Lizz Winstead. Host Jenny Allen.

In his 90s, he completed an upbeat book of essays on aging, “O.J. in the Morning, G&T at Night.” When he was 100, he wrote the detective novel “The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom.” At 101, he adapted Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” for the stage.

He was a memorable storyteller — sometimes too memorable. Hotchner wrote an article about Elaine’s for Vanity Fair that included an anecdote about director Roman Polanski making advances on a woman on the way to the funeral of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969 by Charles Manson’s followers. Polanski sued the magazine’s publisher, Conde Nast, for libel and in 2005 was awarded some $87,000, plus court costs, by a jury in London.

The son of a furrier who went broke during the Depression, Aaron Edward Hotchner was born in 1917 in St. Louis, a city he would recall with deep affection despite times so dire he claimed to have eaten paper to fight hunger. Hotchner wrote about his youth in “King of the Hill,” published in 1972 and adapted 20 years later into a Soderbergh film of the same name.

aaron and Paul Newman

Clever and determined, Hotchner managed to land a scholarship to Washington University, where he and Tennessee Williams both worked on the school’s student magazine. Hotchner then joined the Air Force, a time he recalled good-naturedly in the memoir “The Day I Fired Alan Ladd, and Other World War II Adventures.” After the war, Hotchner settled in New York and became an editor at Cosmopolitan and worked on literary fiction.

One submission was J.D. Salinger’s “Needle on a Scratchy Phonograph Record,” a World War II story the author gave to Hotchner under the condition that nothing — not a comma — be altered. Hotchner, who had been friendly with Salinger, came through — almost. The actual story was printed intact in September 1948, but Cosmopolitan changed the title to “Blue Melody.”

Salinger never spoke to Hotchner again.

Around the same time, however, Hotchner lucked his way into literary history. Cosmopolitan wanted Hemingway to write an article about “The Future of Literature” and sent Hotchner to Cuba to track him down. So began a friendship that lasted until Hemingway’s suicide, in 1961. From Spain to Idaho, they hunted, drank and attended bullfights. They lived through Hemingway’s inspiring highs and fatal lows, chronicled by Hotchner in “Papa Hemingway,” which came out in 1966 and has been translated into more than 25 languages.

A.E. Hotchner and author Ernest Hemingway in Seattle.

But the book has a troubled history. Hemingway’s widow, Mary Hemingway, sued unsuccessfully to stop publication, alleging that Hotchner had violated the privacy of her husband and herself. She was reportedly upset that he contradicted her contention that her husband had only accidentally shot himself. Critics, meanwhile, doubted the accuracy of the many long dialogues between Hotchner and Hemingway.

“Once you learn the rhythms of speech of a person, the actual words resonate with you,” Hotchner explained during a 2005 interview with the Associated Press. “I can hear him right now: ‘How do you like it now, gentlemen?’ Things he said. You’re sort of born with that, I guess, a kind of tape that runs through your head.”

Their relationship was also professional. Hotchner often served as his agent, helped edit his bullfighting book “The Dangerous Summer” and helped come up with the title for the posthumous release of Hemingway’s memoir about Paris, “A Moveable Feast.” In the 1950s and early `’60s, he adapted several Hemingway stories for television, including “The Battler,” which led to his first meeting with Paul Newman.

James Dean had agreed to star as the titular faded ex-boxer, but Newman took the role after Dean died in a car crash. Newman and Hotchner became friends, pranksters, fishing buddies, neighbors and business partners. When the actor wanted to sell his homemade salad dressing at some local shops, he called on “Hotch” to help out.

Aaron at home

“That was just a joke,“ Hotchner told the Associated Press in 2005. “It was something on the fly. ‘Let’s put up $40,000 and we’ll be businessmen.’“

Their caper turned into the multimillion-dollar Newman’s Own nonprofit empire of salad dressing, popcorn, lemonade and assorted recipes; all proceeds went to charity, notably the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for kids with life-threatening illnesses.

After Newman’s death in 2008, Hotchner wrote about his friend in “Paul and Me.“ Other projects in recent years included a collection of letters between himself and Hemingway and a reissue of his Hemingway memoir. In 2013, he was among the commentators seen in Shane Salerno’s documentary about Salinger.

Hotchner was married three times, most recently to actress Virginia Kiser, and was the father of three children. He had numerous animals over the years, including peacocks, pedigreed chickens, and an African parrot named Ernie.

How to write code like Ernest Hemingway

This is interesting to me. Hope to you too! Happy new year to all! Best Christine

By The Manila TimesDecember 29, 2019

Books of Ernest Hemingway are a matter of taste. Some love them, others not so much. But despite that, there’s a lot you could learn from Ernest Hemingway. In this article, there are tips from the writer that could help to improve your writing as well, even if your writing is code.

Study the greats

Before even starting programming, you should be curious about others who have already written some great code. Hemingway said: “[A writer] should have read everything so that he knows what he has to beat.” It doesn’t have to be all about competition. It’s more about the inspiration you could get from different approaches to writing code.

To study great examples of code, you don’t need to go under the hood of various projects.

Many books analyze the best examples and tell stories about how people came up with them. Arnas Stuopelis, chairman of the Board of web hosting provider Hostinger, said: “One of the Hostinger values is learn and be curious. We have a bookshelf in the middle of our office and suggest people ordering any book they want. It doesn’t always have to be work-related. But if it motivates a person, it’s a valuable investment.”

Block out negative thoughts

Randall Degges has a blog, “Random Thoughts of a Happy Programmer.“ In it, he writes:

“If you’re a programmer and stay up-to-date with community happenings via Hacker News, you’ll almost certainly notice a trend: there are lots of popular articles focusing on the negatives (mean rants, public shaming, outrage about various issues, etc.).” All those little details lead to feeling blue.

It could be intimidating to work on a project when you are in a negative state of mind.

Then remember Hemingway. He said: “Once you are into the novel, it is as cowardly to worry about whether you could go on to the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry… As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else.” Questioning your abilities won’t do any good. Be easy on yourself, remain consistent, and continue what you started.

Be brief

Hemingway didn’t respect writers who, as he put it, “never learned how to say no to a typewriter.” But the same goes for a keyboard. When you could write part of the code more shortly, do that. There are no advantages to having more lines. It’s the opposite — the more lines you have, the bigger the chance to make a mistake in one of them. So remember to be brief.

Practice empathy

Hemingway advises: ”As a writer, you should not judge. You should understand… Listen now. When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen.” As for developers, it’s quite stereotypical to see them as someone who is only logical and numbers-based.

But the truth is that the developer has to be empathetic first. Kent Beck, the American software engineer and the creator of extreme programming, said: “The craft of programming begins with empathy, not formatting or languages or tools or algorithms or data structures.” When writing code, remember that you do it for people. Keep them and their needs in mind without judging.

Always stop when you’re going good

This one is probably the most known Hemingway’s tip: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what would happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you would never be stuck.” But it works not only with novels. BBC summarizes it this way: “not finishing a task could be beneficial.”

BBC quotes Manalo, who researched this topic: “We need to have belief in ourselves — some kind of expectation that we could do something. And when we’re closer to finishing something that we had previously failed to achieve, then that optimism increases.” When you stop working at a peak, you would feel more comfortable to get back to work the other day.

Never think about the story

It isn’t easy to not think about work when you are not working. But it’s crucial. Hemingway wasn’t any different. So, he had to create a distraction for himself: “It was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again.”

As for developers, Joe Petrakovich suggests a more suitable way to disconnect from work.

He calls it Personal Standup. He creates a todo.md markdown file and writes his tasks for ## TODAY. Joe suggests: “As you work, be sure to mark items as DONE. Don’t delete them though. They stay as visual aids, so we know what we’ve accomplished.” If he hasn’t done the task by the evening, he moves it to ## TOMORROW, so ## TODAY would be all done. The list of done tasks makes it easier to wrap up the day and don’t bring work home.


As a writer, Hemingway used to be at the typewriter for extended periods of time. So, he said: “It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything.” There is a good chance that you, like Hemingway, spend quite a lot of time sitting, but this time, in front of your keyboard.

Sitting for long periods of time has a significant effect on posture. A person starts to extend a neck, brings face closer to the keyboard. Then hunches shoulders forward and slumps in the chair. Simple Programmer warns: “When we sit down, certain parts of our bodies shut down. Our muscular and cellular systems were put to sleep, causing our chances of things like diabetes to increase.“ Regular exercise could help to avoid all of that and more.

As a programmer, you could seek inspiration from various places and people. Ernest Hemingway sat in front of his typewriter. But his tips are usable even for those in front of the keyboards.

To get even better at programming, you should learn from the best and study their work. Believe in your capability and ignore negative thoughts. When writing code, be brief and learn how to say no to the keyboard. Be empathetic and try to understand the people who would use your work.

When working, try to stop at the time you feel the best. This way, it would be easier to get back to work the next day. But once you are done with this day, do your best to rest without thinking about what’s left to do. And one way that could help to do that is exercise, which is beneficial for you on many levels.

Ram Kezel

What happened between John Dos Passos and Hemingway?

Interesting interview. We all have our opinions. Best, Christine

Good hearted Naiveté”

By Dan Piepenbring January 14, 2015




Ernest and I used to read the Bible to each other. He began it. We read separate little scenes. From Kings, Chronicles. We didn’t make anything out of it—the reading—but Ernest at that time talked a lot about style. He was crazy about Stephen Crane’s “The Blue Hotel.” It affected him very much. I was very much taken with him. He took me around to Gertrude Stein’s. I wasn’t quite at home there. A Buddha sitting up there, surveying us. Ernest was much less noisy then than he was in later life. He felt such people were instructive.


Was Hemingway as occupied with the four-letter word problem as he was later?


He was always concerned with four-letter words. It never bothered me particularly. Sex can be indicated with asterisks. I’ve always felt that was as good a way as any.


Do you think Hemingway’s descriptions of those times were accurate in A Moveable Feast?


Well, it’s a little sour, that book. His treatment of people like Scott Fitzgerald—the great man talking down about his contemporaries. He was always competitive and critical, overly so, but in the early days you could kid him out of it. He had a bad heredity. His father was very overbearing apparently. His mother was a very odd woman. I remember once when we were in Key West Ernest received a large unwieldy package from her. It had a big, rather crushed cake in it. She had put in a number of things with it, including the pistol with which his father had killed himself. Ernest was terribly upset.

—John Dos Passos, the Art of Fiction No. 44, Spring 1969

When Hemingway and Dos Passos—who was born on this day in 1896—went to Spain during the civil war, they were close friends, though it was an odd, uneasy match. They’d met in Paris, but their personalities couldn’t have been more opposed: reticent Dos Passos didn’t go in for the Hemingway model of chest-thumping virility. 

He was a much more overtly political writer than Hemingway, and when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, he was at the apex of his popularity, having appeared on the cover of Time to commemorate his new novel, The Big Money, the third installment of his USA trilogy. That meant he was, for the first and last time, on equal footing with Hemingway, which can’t have sat well with the latter.

Both writers were moved to action by their support for the Loyalist government, and so both embarked for Spain, Hemingway having contracted to write dispatches for a newspaper and Dos Passos having agreed to help with a documentary about the war.

What happened next is murky. Dos Passos arrived in the spring of 1937 expecting to meet an old friend of his, José Robles. As George Packer explained in a 2005 piece for The New Yorker,

José Robles was a left-wing aristocrat … [but] maintained enough independence of mind to raise an alarm among pro-Communist Spanish authorities and the Soviet intelligence agents who, by early 1937, were bringing the government increasingly under Stalin’s control. Dos Passos was counting on Robles to serve as his main Spanish contact on the film; but by the time the two American novelists reached Madrid, separately, Robles had disappeared. It was Hemingway who learned first … that Robles had been arrested and shot as a Fascist spy. To this day, the manner and motive of Robles’s death remain a mystery …

Hemingway broke the news to his friend, but apparently he was impolitic about it—and so began their falling out, with Dos Passos vouching for Robles and Hemingway laughing at his naïveté.

Dos Passos’s response to his friend’s disappearance reflected his sense that progressive politics without human decency is a sham. Hemingway, in a thinly disguised magazine article about the episode published in a short-lived Esquire spinoff called Ken, described these scruples as “the good hearted naiveté of a typical American liberal attitude.” Bookish, balding, tall and ungainly, sunny in temperament, too trusting of others’ good will: Dos Passos was the sort of man who aroused Hemingway’s sadistic appetite. “White as the under half of an unsold flounder at 11 o’clock in the morning just before the fish market shuts” was one of Hemingway’s fictionalized descriptions of his old friend.

Dos Passos mentions none of this in his Art of Fiction interview—there are only those pleasant recollections of the pair reciting the Bible to each other. He was too disillusioned to write about it, meaning that Hemingway’s accounts came, by virtue of repetition, to seem real. In A Moveable Feast, published after his death, Hemingway further maligned Dos Passos, implying that he was a slippery, duplicitous “pilot fish.” Still, Dos Passos said only that he found the book “a little sour.” 

If you’re curious about their friendship, and what Spain did to it, check out Stephen Koch’s The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of José Robles.

What John Dos Passos’s “1919” Got Right About 2019

A Depression-era novel about American tumult has—perhaps unsurprisingly—aged quite well.

By Matt Hanson

6:00 A.M.

Writing at a moment of economic dissolution and technological transformation, John Dos Passos hoped to show how Americans of all kinds were responding to the bustling mess of modernity.Photograph from Getty

“U.S.A. is the slice of a continent,” John Dos Passos wrote, in his novel “The 42nd Parallel,” from 1930. “U.S.A. is a group of holding companies, some aggregations of trade unions, a set of laws bound in calf, a radio network, a chain of moving picture theatres, a column of stockquotations rubbed out and written in by a Western Union boy on a blackboard, a public-library full of old newspapers and dogeared historybooks with protests scrawled on the margins in pencil. U.S.A. is the world’s greatest rivervalley fringed with mountains and hills, U.S.A. is a set of bigmouthed officials with too many bankaccounts. U.S.A. is a lot of men buried in their uniforms in Arlington Cemetery. U.S.A. is the letters at the end of an address when you are away from home. But mostly U.S.A. is the speech of the people.”

The “U.S.A.” trilogy—written by Dos Passos in the late nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties, and consisting of “The 42nd Parallel,” “1919,” and “The Big Money”—was an attempt to describe American life in tumult, from top to bottom. Writing at a moment of economic dissolution and technological transformation, Dos Passos hoped to show how Americans of all kinds were responding to the bustling mess of modernity—what his friend Edmund Wilson called “the American jitters.” In its time, the trilogy sold well, and it was highly praised by Jean-Paul Sartre, William Faulkner, and others. But since then its fortunes have been jittery, too. For many decades, the “U.S.A.” novels, often published as a single volume, were a yellowing tome, more respected than read. Dos Passos came to be seen as an also-ran—a secondary character in the stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and other writers of the Lost Generation.

with John Dos Passos on left

Then, in 1998, a board of luminaries convened by the Modern Library placed the trilogy on its list of the best novels of the twentieth century. In 2013, David Bowie listed “The 42nd Parallel” as one of his favorite books; that same year, George Packer—who has written about Dos Passos for The New Yorker—used the trilogy as a structural inspiration for “The Unwinding,” his nonfictional account of twenty-first-century America on the fritz.

John Dos Passos wrote the “U.S.A.” trilogy in the late twenties and thirties.Photograph from Bettmann / Getty

There’s a reason that Dos Passos’s Depression-era modernism seemed suddenly relevant. The present was coming to look a lot like the past. The novels combined the stylistic innovations of the European modernists, which Dos Passos had used to evoke a shifting media landscape, with fiercely committed leftist politics that were resurgent in the new millennium. He had written a linguistically adventurous national portrait for a precarious age—his, and ours.

The “U.S.A.” novels follow many characters from different levels of society as they hustle, knowingly or not. A gruff dockworker, a social-climbing actress, an idealistic labor organizer, a cynical advertising man, a patriotic fighter pilot—wisely or foolishly, these characters traverse the grimy and gilded paths of the American class system, sometimes meeting one another, sometimes fading away. Dos Passos’s Balzacian ambition was to paint in detail on a wide social canvas. He succeeded only to a point. His hardboiled tone is one limitation: many readers will only be so interested in the fates of grungy, inarticulate men named Mac. And there are few people of color in the novels—a serious flaw in their grand design.

It’s in the interludes between the chapters, though, that Dos Passos’s writing feels strangely fresh. There, he breaks into the narrative to conduct prose experiments. The “Newsreel” sections are montages of quotations selected from various media sources. In the “Camera Eye” sections—inspired by the camerawork of the newly popular cinema—the author’s memories appear in a Joycean flow of words and images. (Dos Passos imagined the camera lens as a tool for self-examination, rather than self-display.) Finally, detailed but highly subjective portraits of historical figures appear at intervals, from Presidents and financiers to radical journalists and labor agitators. Collectively, these interstitial experiments show the cumulative effects of history and media on the inner life of an ordinary person.

In the “Newsreel” sections, text from actual newsreels flows together with snippets from newspaper articles, lines from popular songs, and excerpts from radio broadcasts. These bursts of information seem random but were carefully selected for maximum effect. Hurtling themselves at the reader, they are too brief to be fully explicable, but too portentous to be ignored.

In the “Camera Eye” sections, we move from the media to memory. Dos Passos grew up largely in European hotel rooms, as the lonely bastard son of a wealthy Portuguese-American lawyer. (At the time, this status carried real social stigma.) He then attended élite institutions—Choate, Harvard—before volunteering as an ambulance driver in the First World War. The “Camera Eye” interludes make the fleeting bits of information we encounter in the media (“bags 28 huns singlehanded”) visceral and real.

History is always personal in Dos Passos; these poor medics are discovering firsthand the horror that the news omits. Unlike Hemingway, who responded to chaos by carving out clean, simple sentences, Dos Passos portrays his inner life as raw, messy, and ambivalently associative. His style, in its way, suggests how the twenty-first century’s preferred mode of expression and argument—the rant—fits into the larger media ecosystem. Bloggy essays, emotive social-media posts, and even text messages, with their nervous run-on sentences and eccentric punctuation, are a natural response to information overload: a way of channelling and acknowledging the hectic, perpetually uncertain state of the world and the barrage of intense, often contradictory information that is constantly being produced to describe it. Dos Passos arrived at his own, pre-tech version of this style.

His historical portraits, too, reflect a world in which the ground is shifting. Dos Passos presents his eccentric biographical sketches of Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt alongside portraits of radicals: the Socialist Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, the radical essayist Randolph Bourne, the labor organizer Joe Hill. He gives equal space to those in power and those who spent their lives seeking to break it up. The most moving of all the historical portraits is the eulogy to the Unknown Soldier, which closes “1919.” A sombre depiction of the funeral cortege honoring the fallen, in Arlington National Cemetery, concludes with the observation that “Woodrow Wilson brought a bouquet of poppies”—an expression of controlled, understated rage. On the one hand, Dos Passos seeks to revise history, just as we now look to reassess the legacies of our “great men.” But his all-encompassing collection of portraits also suggests the limits of such revision: the American narrative is the product of opposing forces that are unlikely to subside.

The line for which Dos Passos is best known comes from his anguished account, in “The Big Money,” of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial: “All right we are two nations.” The statement’s terse, sleepless tone resonates now as it did then. Dos Passos was writing amid worldwide shock after the execution, in Boston, of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian-immigrant anarchists convicted of murder. The conviction, based on flimsy evidence, had been influenced by seething anti-immigrant and anti-Italian sentiment. Dos Passos interviewed Sacco and Vanzetti in their jail cells and was arrested during a demonstration on their behalf, on the Boston Common.

Appalled as he was by the trial, Dos Passos wasn’t surprised. Over the course of his life, he’d come to see America as a permanently divided country. We’re often told, in hand-wringing tones, about the growing differences between red and blue states, and about our increasingly divisive political and social rhetoric. But, in Dos Passos’s view, division has been the rule in American life, not the exception; he considered it to be authentically American. The “U.S.A.” novels plumbed the depths of our rifts, and explored how they might be widened by a media-saturated age, and by the fragmentation of information and the latent social hysteria that come with it.

Dos Passos was often an early reader of manuscripts by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other writers; they’ve since gone on to be more famous than he is. Perhaps his peers trusted him because he perceived, with special clarity, the conflicting sociopolitical forces that were shaping modern life and giving it its texture—forces that are still at work in our digitized Gilded Age.

  • Matt Hanson is a contributing editor at the Arts Fuse. He lives in New Orleans.

writing habits and learning from them.

Fun facts about writers and about our favorite, EMH. More photos added by me. Best, Christine

George W. HuntOctober 25, 2019FacebookTwitterEmail

Photo by Gregory Culmer on Unsplash

Photo by Gregory Culmer on Unsplash

George W. Hunt, S.J., served as editor in chief of America from 1984 until 1998. A literary scholar who specialized in the work of John Cheever and John Updike, he often used his weekly column to report on books he was reading or new authors he had discovered. Books about books were of special interest to him and so, in his honor, for this fall literary review, we reprint this Of Many Things column from Feb. 20, 1993.

“The books that you really love give the sense, when you first open them, of having been there. It is a creation, almost like a chamber in the memory. Places that one has never been to, things that one has never seen or heard, but their fitness is so sound that you’ve been there.”

The speaker is John Cheever, and his remarks are captured in a delightful diversion for gloomy winter days, entitled The Writer’s Chapbook, edited by George Plimpton. This chapbook is a compendium of observations from our century’s greatest literary artists, culled from interviews with over 200 of them and originally published in The Paris Review. It is organized under specific headings, such as Style, Plot, Character, Symbols, Critics, Editors, Writer’s Block, Films and so on, wherein each topic is personally addressed in refreshing and often startling ways.

For example, we learn under the heading “Work Habits” that Ernest Hemingway rose at dawn to write, James Baldwin waited until the quietest hour of the night, Truman Capote and Evelyn Waugh often wrote in bed. Robert Frost would take off his shoe and use its sole for a desk and William Kennedy composed so many re-writes of his novel Legs that they eventually stacked up to match the height of his six-year-old son. Some more examples:

On Early Literary Inspirations: “I always say Hemingway, because he taught me how sentences worked. When I was fifteen or sixteen I would type out his stories to see how the sentences worked.” – Joan Didion.

“You know what made me want to become a journalist? Reading Evelyn Waugh’s Scoopwhen I was about eleven. Enough to make anyone want to be a journalist!” – Nadine Gordimer.

“As a writer I learned from Charlie Chaplin. Let’s say the rhythm, the snap of comedy; the reserved comic presence—that beautiful distancing; the funny with sad; the surprise of surprise.” – Bernard Malamud.

On Creating Characters: “Ends always give me trouble. Characters run away from you, and so won’t fit on to what’s coming.” – E. M. Forster.

“If I explained how [the process of turning a real-life character into a fictional one] is sometimes done, it would be a handbook for libel lawyers.” – Ernest Hemingway.

“It was not [E. M. Forster] who fathered that trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it’s as old as the quills, although of course one sympathizes with his people if they try to wriggle out of that trip to India or wherever he takes them. My characters are galley slaves.” – Vladimir Nabokov.

On the Audience: “As I write I think about Auden, what he would say—would he find it rubbish or kind of entertaining? Auden and Orwell.” – Joseph Brodsky.

“The ideal reader of my novels is a lapsed Catholic and failed musician, colorblind, authorially biased, who has read the books I have read.” – Anthony Burgess.

Pauline, second wife and being replaced by Martha, was a strong Catholic and inspired Hemingway’s conversion to Catholicism.

“I occasionally have an anti-Roth reader in mind. I think, ‘How is he going to hate this!’ That can just be the encouragement I need.” – Philip Roth.

“When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teenage boy finding them, and having them speak to him.” – John Updike.

On Humor: “Make the reader laugh and he will think you a trivial fellow, but bore him the right way and your reputation is assured.” – Somerset Maugham.

“Humor is emotional chaos recollected in tranquillity.” – James Thurber.

“If you can make a reader laugh, he is apt to get careless and go on reading. So you as the writer get a chance to get something on him.” – Henry Green.

These wonderful, random selections confirm Elizabeth Hardwick’s comment that “the greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”

This article also appeared in print, under the headline “‘It Consoles, It Distracts, It Excites’,” in the Fall Literary Review 2019 issue.

Hem, Faulkner, Wolfe: Voices of the times

Good morning! The below article by John Krull is so interesting and a great observation of the end of the 1920’s. I greatly enjoyed it and it’s short enough for me to read on a busy Saturday. I hope you enjoy this look at Hemingway and two of his contemporary. Tomas Wolfe also had Max Perkins as his editor and Hem at times was jealous. Best, Christine

By John Krull

INDIANAPOLIS – They appeared within days of each other, like flowers blooming just as a storm hit.

Three of America’s enduring novels – William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel” – were published in the autumn of 1929, just days before the stock market crashed and sent the nation into the most profound economic depression in its history.

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

Vastly different books written by vastly different men, the novels shared at least one thing in common. They were signs of something stirring in American culture, a willingness to peer beneath the surface and record without hesitation what one saw in the scurrying places down below.

Hemingway’s book came first. It was published on Sept. 27, 1929.

Taken often – particularly in the movies – as an aching tragic love story, “A Farewell to Arms” is much more than that. Hemingway is often – and with justice – criticized for his macho chest-thumping and seeming celebrations of combat, but his relationship with war was more complicated than his myth suggests.

In “Farewell,” his lovers flee a World War I in which rules and alliances seem to have been shattered. Comrades kill comrades and chaos reigns.

Hemingway wrote of the importance of exhibiting “grace under pressure” because he saw that the world often made no sense. It was crucial to maintain presence of mind when reason itself seemed to have abdicated the throne.

Faulkner’s book appeared next, on Oct. 7. A tour de force, American letters hadn’t ever seen anything like “The Sound and the Fury.” In some ways, American literature still hasn’t.

It was an explosion of modernist technique. A tale told by several voices, it is the story of a doomed Southern family. Each narrator carries wounds and each wound was inflicted by history.

In the course of the story, Faulkner probes and exposes all the sore points of the Southern heritage – race, incest, guilt, defeat, despair.

Before Faulkner, Southern literature celebrated regional notions of chivalrous conduct, a mythology grounded more in wishful thinking than historical fact.

After Faulkner, such denials of Southern reality became harder, even impossible, to sustain. He’d torn away the concealing curtain.

Wolfe’s book followed Faulkner’s less than two weeks later, on Oct. 18. Now often dismissed as self-absorbed coming-of-age story, “Look Homeward, Angel” was more intricate than that. Wolfe, with a master’s degree from Harvard, was the best-educated of his literary contemporaries – and he likely was the best-read of them.

“Look Homeward, Angel” mingled elements of James Joyce, Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis to take a penetrating look at the not so quietly desperate life of a Carolina mountain boom town. It slices away at one of the sustaining myths of American life, that small communities were temples of virtue and rectitude.

Six days after Wolfe’s book came out, “Black Thursday” happened and the stock market started its long, hard dive. Five days later, “Black Tuesday” – Oct. 29, 1929 – happened and the debacle was complete.

Over the next decade, as much as 25 percent of the American population – and in some parts of the country the number was closer to 40 percent – would be jobless. The stock market and the American economy wouldn’t return to the levels known before the crash until the early 1950s.

The despair Hemingway, Faulkner and Wolfe depicted became the national norm.

But they demonstrated a diamond-like resilience in the American character. However profound our devotion to illusion may be, we Americans periodically do find the clear-eyed courage to peer into the darkness and not blink.

Hemingway, Faulkner and Wolfe weren’t saints. Tortured men, they all drank too much and battled demons from their own experience and, often, of their own making.

Each writer came to a hard end. Hemingway, of course, committed suicide. Faulkner suffered a series of debilitating injuries and illnesses brought on by heavy drinking before he died. Wolfe succumbed to tuberculosis of the brain, brought on, one story has it, because he shared a bottle of whiskey on a raw day with a sickly hobo.

Each, though, left his work as a kind of monument, an affirmation that there is harsh beauty in truth.

And a timeless reminder that we Americans can’t make dark times any lighter by ignoring that darkness.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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So every good story needs the “bad one” whom you can love to hate. While I was not a huge fan of Hemingway’s Fourth wife, Mary, i hated Adriana for her arrogance (as i perceived it) and her manipulation of Hemingway as i saw it. I could have it all wrong. Please see another “take” on Adriana.

Some photos added by me of Adriana.

Review: ‘Autumn in Venice’ by Andrea di Robilant

NONFICTION: Ernest Hemingway fell hard for a Venetian teenager, and she inspired him to write one of his greatest works. By  Dennis J. McGrath Star Tribune JUNE 15, 2018 — 10:43AM

ASSOCIATED PRESSWhile in Venice with his wife, Mary, in 1948, Ernest Hemingway became entranced with teenager Adriana Ivancich.TEXT SIZEEMAILPRINTMORE

The first great work of literature I read as a youngster was “The Old Man and the Sea,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novella about an aging, down-on-his-luck Cuban fisherman’s battle with a noble giant marlin.

Ernest Hemingway wrote it, of course, but we have Adriana Ivancich to thank for it. She was a striking 18-year-old Venetian whom Hemingway fell for during a 1948 trip to the romantic Italian city, and the relationship inspired him to write one of his greatest works.

Though the relationship apparently was platonic, it was no less smoldering and all-consuming for Hemingway, as his letters — written in the language of lovers — document.

“When I see you and am with you I feel I can do anything and I write better than I can write,” he said in one letter. “When I am away from you I do not give a damn, really, about anything.”

When Hemingway and Ivancich’s paths crossed on a rainy night at a crossroads near Venice, he hadn’t published a novel in eight years and seemed washed up as a writer. He was more than twice her age — she 18, he 49 — and, as was his peculiar habit with other young women, he called her “daughter” even as he romanced her.

The two were inseparable in Venice, with drinking bouts at Harry’s Bar and gondola rides on the Grand Canal.

If Ivancich gets credit for “The Old Man and the Sea,” then she must also take the blame for “Across the River and Into the Trees.” The latter novel came first, and Hemingway modeled one of the central characters, Renata, after Ivancich. It is not only Hemingway’s worst novel but a truly and honestly awful work of fiction.

Nearly two years after they met, and following additional meetings in Venice again and in Paris, Ivancich and her mother paid a monthslong visit to Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s Havana home. In a three-story structure — called the White Tower — that had been built on the property as a refuge where Hemingway could work, he wrote every morning on the second floor while Ivancich sketched and painted on the floor above. “The tower became their private little world,” Andrea di Robilant writes in “Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse.”

“He kept telling himself, and others, that he was writing the best he could to please Adriana.”

The result was “The Old Man and the Sea,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and a year later secured him the Nobel Prize in literature.

Ivancich’s connection to Hemingway has long been known. It was mentioned by Carlos Baker in his foundational 1969 biography of Hemingway, though he glossed over the relationship. And Mary Welsh Hemingway, his wife at the time, described one scene in which “Adriana presented herself, youthfully excited and vivacious, to shake up Ernest’s heart a bit more.” What’s more, Ivancich wrote in detail about it in her own 1980 memoir, “La Torre Bianca” (The White Tower), where she revealed that Hemingway told her he would ask her to marry him if he didn’t already know that she’d say no.

But “Autumn in Venice” is a deep dive into their relationship — and by extension, Hemingway’s boorish, nasty behavior and his despicable treatment of his wife.

After “The Old Man and the Sea,” Hemingway never published another book before his suicide in 1961. Sadly, the Hemingway family suicide curse touched Ivancich, too.

Dennis J. McGrath is deputy digital editor at the Star Tribune.

Autumn in Venice
By: Andrea di Robilant.
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 348 pages, $26.95.