Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another. Ernest Hemingway
It has been said someone bet Hemingway that he couldn’t write a story in six words that would make you cry. Try this on for size, ye of little faith.
FOR SALE: BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.
If that doesn’t tear your heart out from the inside out and make you gasp for breath, then you have no soul.
Hemingway was complicated. For those of you who’ve read this blog from the beginning, and especialy the Mask post, the Hemingway bluster and the macho “stuff” were both real and a mask for what Hemingway felt he should be. Please remember his devastation at the death of his cat, Willie.
The above, for me, says so much. Can you in six words sum up anything? In my women’s group, we did a similar exercise. In six words, sum up your life. We had three tries ( three versions) if so inspired. It’s not easy. Mine were something like: ” Good Girl, Bad Girl, Okay Woman” and “Love as the answer, not sure.”
This will be a short post. I find the above so thought-provoking and devastating that I think it’s enough. Hemingway is anything but a one-trick pony.
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Everyone’s commented on it: Hemingway’s preoccupation with women’s hair. Hemingway’s mother, Grace, whom he purported to hate, had auburn hair that was her pride and joy. She wore it often in the Gibson girl style of the day and was quite proud of it. In almost every work of fiction that Hemingway has written–and nonfiction if you want to count A Moveable Feast–the time spent on the description of any of the main woman’s character’s hair is significant.
Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises had short, swept back hair. She wears it cut “short like a man.” Catherine Barclay had soft hair and “wonderfully beautiful hair. I would lie sometimes watching her twist it up in the in the light that came in the open door and it shone even in the night as water shines sometimes just before it is really daylight.”
Maria, whom Robert Jordan called the rabbit because of her short-cropped hair cut off by the Fascists who gagged her with her own braids which was growing out, had hair the “color of wheat.” See above, Ingrid Bergman as Maria. Gary Cooper as Robert Jordan. In The Garden of Eden, the wife cuts her hair to match her husband’s and they both are attracted to the same woman. The Garden of Eden, however, was published posthumously and as I’ve noted in earlier posts, I don’t think the same standards can be applied to something published after the author’s death since clearly he hadn’t felt it was ready to be published at the time of his death. A huge editing may have been in the offing.
In his actual life, Hadley had lovely red hair. Shortly after their marriage she cut it short. It’s not clear whether she did so to please Hemingway or just for ease of care after she had Bumby. Hemingway seems to be one of the few men who prefer women with short hair.
Pauline had a boyishly short pixie cut. She had very dark hair and it was quite stylish on her. Hemingway liked it. At one point during their marriage, when he was clearly attracted to Jane Mason, a socialite and a stunning, legendary strawberry blond, Pauline dyed her hair blond and arrived home with this completely new look. There is no record of whether Hemingway liked it or reacted to it but she didn’t keep it blond for very long.
Martha had swinging long, blond hair when Hem met her which at times was shorter. Mary had short, swept back curly blond hair that framed her face.
From their first meeting, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were simpatico. They did have a falling out several years later and despite the fact that Gertrude Stein clearly was living in a lesbian relationship with Alice B. Toklas, he maintained that there was a true animal attraction and that at least from his end he would have liked to have consummated the relationship had the situation been different. He describes Gertrude as having lovely dark immigrant hair and the sentiment is one of admiration. Her hair also was short and swept back at times, a style Hem favored, and at other times, longer and pinned up.
Scholars have pondered for years about whether this preoccupation came from the fact that Hemingway’s mother dressed him in girl’s clothes from a young age. She often represented to outsiders that he and his sister, Marcelline, were twins (they were about a year apart) and Grace maintained his hair at a feminine length. On occasion she called him Ernestine until he was about 6-years old. At that point he rebelled and demanded a hair cut and boy’s clothes as well as to be called by his real name. We can get psychological about the implications but as we all know, he grew up to be the icon of masculine virility.
While too much can be made of this element of Hemingway’s writing, it is something to think about and it is an interesting theme that runs through the novels in particular.
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 Spain. 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 beyond 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 always a bit of a boy looking for adventure, he was anything but a coward. What I’ve always liked about Hemingway is he walked the walk. Even when he had money and could afford the easy way out, he rarely took it (although he did like his comforts and his booze while braving the elements and the enemy. 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 simple home. He was no snob. Usually by the time Martha got home, an entourage was assembled and drinking, much to her distress)
Still he was real, strong, and brave. No phoney there. 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.
In 1922, Hadley did the only thing that Hemingway has ever seriously criticized her for: She lost the valise that had his early manuscripts. Hadley was heading out on a train at the Gare de Lyon Paris railway station to meet Hemingway for vacation of skiing. She filled a valise with his early manuscripts, parts of short stories and all notes that she could find, in the belief that he could work on them while they were away.
When she got off of the train, she realized that she didn’t have the valise. To say that she was horrified doesn’t begin to describe how she felt. Hem found her in tears, totally inconsolable, and while on the surface he took it better than anyone ever could have thought he would, it’s the one thing that rankled for just about forever.
He was more than jolly on the holiday but was devastated when talking to his writer friends. Hemingway went back to Paris immediately and a reward was offered for the manuscripts return but they never were found. The early works would have given great insight into the development and evolution of Hemingway’s writing style.
All that was salvaged was an early version of Up in Michigan and My Old Man, some sketches, and some notes for short stories. What were lost were 11 stories and 20 poems that Hemingway wrote between 1921 and 1922. Ezra Pound suggested that since Hem knew what he was writing about, he should be able to recreate the stories in a better way. However, as most writers believe, your first efforts capture the raw power of your intent and then it’s refined. I know from my own writing that it’s rare that I can recreate the vision of the first draft, even if the first draft is not very good.
Hem tried to be cheerful despite this catastrophe but he did not write on the trip and it’s likely due to the incessant pain of this loss of his works. A publisher however wanted to publish My Old Man and he did begin to write after that. The shocking Up In Michigan was always a tough sell, particularly in the twenties, and his parents found it almost too upsetting to read. His mother’s criticism of it for its sexual themes was especially biting when Hen sought her approval despite his disdain for her.
Some critics and Hemingway scholars believe that since the first drafts were Hemingway’s first efforts at the economy of style that he developed over time, his use of simple language, the idea of leaving out as much as you put in, the loss may have benefited him by letting him begin afresh with the knowledge he’d learned. That’s putting a kind spin on it all. There is no way the loss was good but it was not, perhaps, devastating. Since Hemingway went on to have a career that’s unparalleled in literary history, it wasn’t crippling.
Those who knew Hemingway said he mentioned this incident often in later years. In early years he didn’t talk about it and preferred that no one else talk about it. It was just that painful. The incident was discussed in A Moveable Feast. Hemingway’s sister and some of his friends believe that this event was the beginning of the breakup of the marriage and that Hem never forgave Hadley. As cantankerous as Hemingway could be, I think he did forgive her since in essence A Movable Feast is a love poem to her and their life in Paris in the 1920s.
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.
Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know. Ernest Hemingway
So, yes it was a sad ending that leaves you feeling empty and like nothing is worth anything and love all ends up in the gutter and nothing matters. Where did Frederic Henry go after he left the hospital and walked out into the rain? Why couldn’t there be a happy ever after for Catherine and Frederic? Well the short answer is that this is Hemingway after all. It’s just another variation of isn’t it pretty to think so?
Well apparently Hem did consider quite a few other ways of ending this classic. In an interview in The Paris Review in 1958, Hemingway commented that the final words of “A Farewell to Arms,” his wartime masterpiece, were rewritten “39 times before I was satisfied.” Actually his grandson Sean believes that there are over 47 versions of the ending not to mention different working titles of the book. The alternate endings are labeled and gathered in an appendix in the new edition. For those of us who care about this stuff, it’s a mind boggling enterprise and we play out all of the what ifs and hope that our favored ending had made it through. The reality is that it was Hem’s book and he gets to choose. Would the impact have been the same if Catherine and Frederic set up housekeeping in Italy? Oh who knows but we know the impact as is intense and soul-searing. It stays with you forever.
So what are just a few of the options Hem considered?
1) “The Nada Ending,” Hemingway wrote, “That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you.” Holy gosh. We need some hope!
2) The “Live-Baby Ending,” listed as No. 7, concludes, “There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning.” Not too cheery either.
3) The “Fitzgerald ending,” suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald, that the world “breaks everyone,” and those “it does not break it kills. It kills the very good and very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
Alternate titles Hem considered were: “Love in War,” “World Enough and Time,” “Every Night and All” and “Of Wounds and Other Causes.” One title, “The Enchantment,” was crossed out by Hemingway.
Hem’s only remaining son, Patrick, noted that the original notes give insight into his father. The revisions are being published by agreement of Hem’s estate and his old publisher, Scribner’s under the imprint of Simon and Shuster.
I believe that the JFK Library, Hemingway Collection, is where the original notes and pages are being preserved. I can’t wait to read this volume and reflect on the possibilities. Ah, the possibilities but I trust that Hem chose the one that best expressed his intent.
If you are the first or fifth commentor on this or other posts, you will win a new copy of the Hemingway Cookbook by Craig Boreth. The recipes are superb but the anecdotes and other Hemingway stories are just terrific. Give it a go please!
Hem was infatuated with Adriana. She seems to have been fond of him but did not return love. In fact, at times, it seems that his interest embarrassed her and she turned from it. It was an open secret that he modeled Renata in Across the River and into the Woods after Adriana. Hemingway delayed its publication for ten years to avoid any scandal.
Hem and Adriana met when she was an ingénue of nineteen and he an icon of forty-nine. She was lovely in an old world Venetian way, not a modern girl look. From an aristocratic family in Italy that was no longer wealthy, Adriana met Hem through her brother who hooked up with Hem at a bar and they struck up a friendship.
As is to be expected, Mary came to resent Renata. She and her mother visited them in Cuba and stayed quite a number of months. Mary first tried to be motherly and charming until she saw that Hem’s interest was more than casual. He became abusive to her, as if wanting her to leave. Mary however was made of stronger stuff. She liked being Mrs. Ernest Hemingway but not just for the reflected glory. She loved him. She loved him and their life. She made clear that she wasn’t leaving and he needed to deal with this girl.
Hem is reported to have told more than one person that he was too old to divorce again and it would cost him too much. Adriana had no interest in marrying Hem but she seemed to like the attention and adoration. In 1980, some nineteen years after Hem’s suicide, Adriana wrote a book called The White Tower ostensibly to tell her story of the relationship. She said,
“I let the scandal freeze into oblivion and my sons grow up but I owe this book to Papa. This was a responsibility I had to face. I am the missing link in his life.” With all due respect to Adriana, I don’t think she was the missing link in his life. It’s a bit grandiose to think so.
The book did hit the best seller list in Italy with the omnipresent photo of Adriana leaning into Hem’s chest shyly. At the age of fifty, she claimed,
“What happened when we met is a little more than a romance. I broke down his defenses; he even stopped drinking when I asked him to. I’m proud to remember I led him to write The Old Man and the Sea.”
Across the River has long been considered Hemingway’s worst novel. “Yes, naturally he wrote it for me, thinking of me, but I didn’t like the book and I told him so,” Adriana says. “I always criticized him when I felt something was wrong, and he changed, and something in me changed too. I shall never stop being grateful to Papa for that.”
Adriana committed suicide in 1983. Are you seeing a theme here?
Okay, Happy thoughts. THE COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY! The first and fifth comments on the next blog post will be two of the winners of the Hemingway cookbook. If you are one of those two, I’ll announce that here and ask that you provide your email address and I’ll get your mailing address when I email you. Seriously, the cookbook is hard to get . It has anecdotes and great stuff in it!
As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand. Ernest Heminway
Mary Welch was the only one of Hemingway’s wives who was not from the St. Louis area. She was from Minnesota, was a journalist in her own right, had been married twice and was married to Noel Monks when she met Ernest Hemingway in London. Ernest was still married to Martha but things were not good. Martha often referred to him as “the pig.”
Mary was not tall, about 5’2, stocky, brown hair, and blue eyes. Her features were sharp and she was smart. As usual, the relationship started out well and full of laughs and fun. Hem still could be biting and sarcastically caustic when all was not going well. Mary took it all.
Hem took her to the finca in Cuba, a bit awkwardly since it had been his place with Martha. Gigi was cool to her initially. He loved Martha. Patrick also loved Martha and found it hard to adjust to another new love. However, he liked seeing his father have some order in his life and Mary was nice. Jack, charming and adaptable, found Mary easy company and could fit in well with her without compromising his loyalties to Pauline and Martha as well as to his own mother, Hadley.
Hem filed for divorce against Martha on grounds of desertion and the divorce went through on December 21, 1945. The sting of her rejection stayed with him always. Martha read about the divorce in the newspaper, although she didn’t care. She was anxious for the divorce to begin and be done. No alimony, no financial orders.
Mary had doubts about marrying Hem. He was . . . not easy. And yet . . . he could be wonderful. Hem, sensing her drift away, sent flowers and love note. They married in Cuba on March 14, 1946. Fights ensued as did a pregnancy at Mary’s age 38, advanced age for 1946. She longed for a daughter for Hem. An ectopic pregnancy with crisis and quick, brave action by Hem ended with Mary surviving, and owing that survival to Hem.
Mary was with him in Ketchum and suffered through Papa’s health declines, his paranoia, his slump and success with The Old Man and the Sea, his rejection, his calling her a scavenger and that she had the face of Torquemada. She suffered through the whole Adriana infatuation. Both however reported an excellent sex life and Hem had earlier complained of Pauline and Martha in that department.
At times, Hem’s drinking increased, then he’d stop for a while on doctor’s orders. Mary was bewildered and badly hurt. However, she wanted to continue to be Mrs. Hemingway for mostly good reasons. She loved his children; she loved him; she loved the position; she was dependent on him financially. Still, she was protective to the end of Hem and his legend.
As Papa became more mentally unstable, Mary did her best. At the end, Hemingway was released from the Mayo Clinic against Mary’s wishes. The day after his release, Hem got up early, got his favorite gun, and shot himself in the head. Mary reported it as an accident while cleaning a gun. It clearly wasn’t. She nurtured the Hemingway legacy as long as she lived and set up the Hemingway collection in the Kennedy Library. She did her best under trying circumstances with little complaint and with dignity.