I finished reading Paula McLain’s new novel called Love and Ruin: A Novel.It’s the story of Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s third wife, and begins in 1937 when she is struggling to become a war journalist – which for a woman in those days was a formidable challenge – and her meeting fortuitously or unfortunately depending upon how you look at it with Ernest Hemingway.
I enjoyed it, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. For starters, I know too much about all of this. Second, I didn’t love The Paris Wife.
Love and Ruinfocused a great deal on the Spanish Civil War and that may become tedious for some readers. However, it truly was extraordinary that Martha Gellhorn was able to cover those sorts of stories. I didn’t feel that Paula McLain portrayed Hemingway as a villain. Since the book stopped at the end of the marriage to Hemingway while giving a wrap up, I will let all of you read more about Martha and come to your own conclusions about her. She was an extraordinary woman and while Hemingway definitely wanted her in his life more as a wife than as an independent journalist, the association was definitely beneficial to her.
I very much enjoyed the portions of the book about Martha’s discovery of the Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s Cuban home, and her efforts to restore it. It must have been hard for her to leave when they divorced and to know it was taken over by Mary Welsh, her successor and Hemingway’s fourth wife. I also admired (and have read this many other times) Martha’s relationship with Hemingway’s sons. It was very good. She was kind, generous, and caring toward the boys.
(That being said, she knew very well that Hemingway was married to Pauline when they began their affair but could not resist his magnetism and of course he knew he was still very much married with children.)
In reading some of the reviews on Amazon, it seems well received. I have to note that many people just don’t like Hemingway. I think that there is so much written about him but I hardly read anywhere that he had a good sense of humor, or that he was driven and a hard worker, or that he loved his first wife to the end even though he knew he’d been a poor husband, or that he loved his animals and was kind and generous to veterans, his staff, charities. Perhaps it is easier to focus on his bad points, which again are not hard to find. His drinking, his insecurities, his desire to dominate are not pretty.
I do recommend it however as it’s good easy reading, interesting, and adds dimension and texture to Martha’s legacy.
BELOW IS AN article about Paula McLain’s historical novel about Hemingway’s third wife, Journalist Martha Gellhorn. Photos added by me. Best, Christine
Cleveland Heights Author Highlights Hemingway’s Competition with Third Wife Gellhorn (By Dan Polletta in IDEASTREAMING)
It might sound like a cliché, but the subject for Paula McLain’s new novel “Love and Ruin” (Random House) came to her in a dream.
After penning “The Paris Wife,” the best-seller about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson, McLain had no intention of writing any more about Hemingway until she dreamt of being on a fishing boat with him and his third wife Martha Gellhorn.
The next day McLain researched Gellhorn on the internet. She admits to being “embarrassed” about how little she knew about her.
“I knew she was a journalist, but not that she was perhaps the most important journalistic voice of the 20th century, that her career as a journalist and war correspondent covered 60 years, every major conflict of the 20th century. Of course, as we know, journalism and being a war correspondent was absolutely a man’s world, so it was an extraordinary feat in itself, let alone that her voice was so iconic and her accomplishments so everlasting,” McLain said.
The 28-year-old Gellhorn, who had done some cub reporting for the Albany “Times Union,” met her literary hero in a Key West bar at the end of 1936.
“She literally bumped into Hemingway in his own watering hole, ‘Sloppy Joe’s.’ He was there reading his mail. He was about to go off to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance,” McLain said.
McLain said Gellhorn saw meeting Hemingway, who was heading to a war that many saw as romantic, as her chance to attach herself to “noble and larger than herself.” She agreed to go with him to Spain, where she too would cover the war.
During her time reporting from Madrid, Gellhorn found her journalistic voice and fell in love with Hemingway.
From 1936 until 1940, the two lived together off and on until they married. During that time Gellhorn covered the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany as well as Czechoslovakia a few months before sections of it were annexed by the Nazis. She wrote about that experience in her 1940 novel “A Stricken Field.”
That same year Hemingway also published his novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” McLain said it was a major turning point in both of their lives.
“Hemingway was already quite famous at that point, but this book catapulted him into literary stardom. I can’t really imagine what it would have been like for her, under his roof, also trying to be a writer. She was trying to get her own literary ambitions realized. She loved her own books, as he loved his. She devoted herself to her novels and stories but of course didn’t have the success. Hemingway became completely involved in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which I think changed his life. The book became the focal point of their lives. It took all of the air and all of their attention.”
McLain said the book’s overwhelming presence in their lives started the process of driving them apart.
“I think Hemingway forgot what attracted him to Gellhorn when he first met her. Here was this incredible woman, so bold. He called her ‘the bravest woman he had ever met.’ She was clearly ambitious. Yet, once she became his wife, that ambition and devotion to her own career, that independence began to threaten him,” McLain said.
In 1944, Hemingway, feeling more and more abandoned when Gellhorn went off to cover war, offered his services to “Collier’s” magazine, for whom Gellhorn wrote. “Collier’s” accepted, replacing Gellhorn with Hemingway, just as she was preparing to go Normandy in 1944 to cover the D-Day invasion.
“She had no magazine for which to report, no credentials, no way to get over to the most important battle in history. Instead of rolling over, she found a way over to Europe on an ammunitions barge. When she got to London, she stowed away on what proved to be a hospital barge, which she didn’t know. She lied her way onto ship, locked herself in the john, and when she woke up she discovered she was on the first hospital barge for the Normandy Invasion,” McLain said.
McLain said Gellhorn going overseas in spite of Hemingway’s attempts to stop her was the breaking point of their relationship.
“They don’t recover after that. He really never forgave her. Of his four wives, she’s the only one to leave, and she’s really the only one who is his equal in every way. When they split in 1945, Gellhorn made it a point to never have his name spoken in her presence. She said ‘I don’t believe I should be remembered as footnote to anyone else’s life,’” McLain said.
Paula McLain will discuss her book at these Northeast Ohio locations this weekend
Reprint from last year as there was some interest in the Coop/Hem friendship. Best, Christine
THE TRUE GEN: HEMINGWAY’S PHRASE FOR DISTINGUISHING THE REAL FROM THE FAKE, THE GENUINE ARTICLE FROM THE PHONY
I re-watched The True Gen, a documentary about Hemingway’s relationship with Gary Cooper. It’s narrated by the wonderful Sam Waterston and has fantastic footage of Idaho and of both men.
They seem like polar opposites: The cowboy from out West in Helena, Montana, and the suburbanite born in Oak Park, Illinois; the world’s greatest actor of his era and the world’s most imitated and celebrated writer perhaps of the 20th century; the conservative (Cooper) and the liberal (Hemingway); and yet they became the closest of friends. Cooper was one of the few close friends that Hemingway never had any lasting falling out with. Hem claims he wrote the character Robert Jordan (For Whom the Bell Tolls) with Cooper in mind. Cooper also starred in A Farewell to Arms.
They met on September 28, 1940 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Both men were at their peak. Hemingway, who had no use for Hollywood stars and did not seek out celebrity, had always wanted to meet Gary Cooper. Gary Cooper, the taciturn, very polite westerner, had always wanted to meet Hemingway. His friends were surprised to hear that he wanted to meet the allegedly boorish, womanizing, drunken Hemingway.
Nevertheless, he did want to meet him and he found Hemingway to be shy, self-effacing, fun, very different from what he had been led to believe. He could be boorish and he certainly could be drunk, but he often wasn’t. As Gary Cooper’s daughter Maria said, if Hemingway were the way he was portrayed in the press, i.e. a double-fisted drinking lout, her father would not have gotten along with him or liked him because her father was not that way. Hemingway was attracted to Cooper’s true devotion to a lack of artifice.
Gary Cooper was a genuine westerner who grew up on a ranch and on a horse. It’s no wonder that he looked good as The Virginian or in High Noon. He also had a real talent in art and began attending an art institute. He was sidetracked on his way through California to his next school, when he stopped in Hollywood and saw a few of his friends from ranches near home who had become stuntmen. He thought he could do that because he really could ride a horse and in short order, he became a stuntman. With his tall lanky good looks, he was given a small part in a film but he’d shone brightly even in that small role and shortly thereafter was cultivated into a star.
Hemingway never completed high school. He tried to enlist in the service in 1916 but his eyesight was so bad that he was rejected. He qualified however to be an ambulance driver, which he did in Italy. He was wounded and it forever shaped his view of war, courage, and concern about senseless violence.
Cooper and Hemingway met regularly over the years. At times, Cooper’s wife Rocky recoiled from Hemingway’s bad behavior. Coop just shook his head but rarely was affected by it. Further with just a look, he could make Hemingway behave in a best version of himself. One example given in The True Gen was when Cooper and Hemingway with their families were staying at a hotel, and a young employee at the hotel interrupted Hemingway when he was writing and HEm was peeved. When he saw the young man later in the day, Hem chewed him out. He was so harsh that Rocky, Cooper’s wife, said she wasn’t going to continue the trip with Hem. With very few words, Cooper took Hemingway aside. Hemingway then humbly apologized to the assistant and went so far as the next day to give him a large tip and apologize again. Hemingway came back to the car after the apology and said to Cooper, “Are you happy now you long-legged son of bitch?” It was said in good humor and Cooper just nodded. The trip continued.
Ernest Hemingway, fresh off his marriage to Hadley Richardson, his first wife, arrived in Paris in 1921. Paris was a playground for writers and artists, offering respite from the radical politics spreading across Europe. Sherwood Anderson supplied Hemingway with a letter of introduction to Ezra Pound. The two litterateurs met at Sylvia Beach’s bookshop and struck up a friendship that would shape the world of letters.
They frolicked the streets of Paris as bohemians, joined by rambunctious and disillusioned painters, aesthetes, druggies, and drinkers. They smoked opium, inhabited salons, and delighted in casual soirées, fine champagnes, expensive caviars, and robust conversations about art, literature, and the avant-garde. Pound was, through 1923, exuberant, having fallen for Olga Rudge, his soon-to-be mistress, a young concert violinist with firm breasts, shapely curves, midnight hair, and long eyebrows and eyelashes. She exuded a kind of mystical sensuality unique among eccentric highbrow musicians; Pound found her irresistible.
Pound was known for his loyalty to friends. Although he had many companions besides Hemingway—among them William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Robert McAlmon, Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings, Pablo Picasso, Wyndham Lewis, T.E. Hulme, William Carlos Williams, Walter Morse Rummel, Ford Madox Ford, Jean Cocteau, and Malcolm Cowley—Hemingway arguably did more than the others to reciprocate Pound’s favors, at least during the Paris years when he promoted Pound as Pound promoted others.
Pound edited Hemingway’s work, stripping his prose of excessive adjectives. Hemingway remarked that Pound had taught him “to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain situations.”
Pound, however, grew disillusioned with Paris, where his friends were gravitating toward socialism and communism. Paris, he decided, was not good for his waning health. Hemingway himself had been in and out of Paris, settling for a short time in Toronto. In 1923, accompanied by their wives, Pound and Hemingway undertook a walking tour of Italy. The fond memories of this rejuvenating getaway inspired Pound to return to Italy with his wife Dorothy Shakespear in 1924. They relocated, in 1925, to a picturesque hotel in Rapallo, a beautiful sea town in the province of Genoa.
The move to Italy also effectively terminated Pound’s glory years in Paris, about which Hemingway wrote affectionately:
More than anything else, Italian politics—and the rise of fascism—damaged Hemingway’s regard for Pound, who became a zealous supporter of Mussolini and a reckless trafficker in conspiracy theories.
Hemingway offered Pound some money, sensing that money was needed, but Pound declined it.
The falling out was no secret, and other writers took sides. William Carlos Williams wrote to Pound in 1938, saying, “It is you, not Hemingway, in this case who is playing directly into the hands of the International Bankers.”
Archibald MacLeish helped to orchestrate Pound’s release from St. Elizabeth’s, (A mental asylum Pound had been committed to. See below as to how he got there.) drafting a letter to the government on Pound’s behalf that included Hemingway’s signature, along with those of Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot. A year later Hemingway provided a statement of support for Pound to be used in a court hearing regarding the dismissal of an indictment against Pound.
Hemingway awoke on the morning of July 2, 1961, put a 12-gauge, double-barreled shotgun to his head, and, alone in the foyer of his home, blew his brains out. He was 61. Pound’s friends and family didn’t tell him about Hemingway’s death, but a careless nurse did, and Pound reacted hysterically. The older of the two, Pound, at 72, was free from St. Elizabeth’s, where he’d spent 12 solemn years. He had returned to his beloved Italy to finish out his long and full life. In the autumn of 1972, he died peacefully in his sleep in Venice, the day after his birthday, which he’d spent in the company of friends.
Allen Mendenhall is an associate dean at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty.
ME here: I may have over-edited re: how Ezra ended up in a psych facility. Ezra Pound was closely aligned with the Fascists in Italy. He was later imprisoned in Pisa by the liberating American forces in 1945 on charges of treason. In Pisa, he purportedly was placed in a small 6 x 6 cell and had a mental breakdown. He was ultimately sent to St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital in Washington D.C. for 12 years. Friends including Hemingway sent money and petitions for his release which finally happened. While most acknowledged that he was a bit “crazy,” most felt he was far from any sort of danger to anyone including to his country. Once released he returned to Italy and died in Venice eleven years after Hemingway’s death. Christine
No one defined masculinity more thoroughly than Ernest Hemingway, particularly in his best years, i.e. the 30’s and 40’s. I just read a review of a new book out by Lesley M. M. Blume, called “Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece, The Sun Also Rises.”
I always liked that quote from The Sun Also Rises. Maybe it’s just cynicism, but I prefer to think that it’s realism. The end of that quote is “Everyone behaves badly—given the chance.”
In addition to discussing the real life people upon whom the characters in the book are based, Ms. Blume’s book discusses the issue of sexuality in “The Sun Also Rises” as well as in Hemingway’s posthumously published 1986 novel, The Garden of Eden with its gender-bending main characters well ahead of their time. Hemingway was “one of the last authors to be a celebrity in his own right, back when ‘manly’ was a good thing.
Lesley Blume with Valerie Hemingway
The book attempts to answer the question of whether Hemingway’s persona of hyper-masculinity was real or fake and notes that “we haven’t solved the problem of how to be a man in the modern age and Hemingway was a caricature of the last generation’s attempt to do so, as Donald Trump may be of ours.” We no longer admire—thank God and for good reason—killing large animals in Africa or watching them die in bull fights. The concept of masculinity is complex and evolving.
Parenthetically, I highly recommend watching the documentary called The True Gen. It’s about Hemingway’s friendship with Gary Cooper. Gary Cooper apparently was always a gentlemen and Hemingway…wasn’t always restrained. Yet, somehow they had an extremely strong friendship that lasted for a lifetime—which was a rarity for Hemingway—with Cooper at times forcing Hemingway to stop with the image and be real. Despite personalities that were almost polar opposites, both worked hard, were more sensitive that you might suspect, and hid parts of themselves for the image each wanted to project. It worked for them. The movie is a gem and is well worth watching.I found it extremely touching. Cooper and Hemingway died 6 weeks apart: Cooper of cancer and shortly thereafter, Hemingway killed himself.
So the book by Lesley Blume sounds valuable and additive to Hemingway analysis. She knows the period well and I expect the book will ring true and be a load of fun to read.
About a year ago, I began doing posts on the wives and got sidetracked on other Hemingway issues. I posted on Hadley and Pauline, then diverted. Hemingway was married to Hadley Richardson for about seven years, i.e. 1921 to 1927. He was married to Pauline Pfeiffer from 1927 to 1940. He was married to Martha Gellhorn from 1940 to 1945. He met her in Key West when she was on vacation with her mother. Tall, attractive, ambitious, blond, smart, witty, and charming, he kept company with her first behind Pauline’s back, including when both were covering the Spanish Civil War. Martha admired his talent and bravery and he admired her looks, her talent and her courage. Hadley, Pauline, and Mary (wife no. 4) were deferential to Hemingway in the sense of wanting to please him. Martha was not. It was the one marriage he claims to have regretted and she certainly wanted nothing to do with him after the divorce.
While Hemingway was hard to be married to, he had a kind, sweet side as well. A biographer of Martha Gellhorn uncovered some letters recently that made clear that he was very supportive of her career and all that she accomplished and could accomplish. That being said, he was at times jealous that she would take off to go on assignments as opposed to staying with him in Cuba when he preferred to have her there.
Martha was a strong woman ahead of her time. She was also a good friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and was a first-rate journalist in her own right. She never had children of her own, but adopted two. When her health was to the point of not being recoverable, she killed herself in London at the age of 89
Mary was Hemingway’s fourth wife and his widow. She took a fair amount of abuse. I was never certain if she truly loved him that much or if she loved being Mrs. Ernest Hemingway that much. She survived his infatuation with Adriana Ivancich, his bad behavior and heavy drinking that was the precursor to that bad behavior and she helped as ill health hit both of them, but particularly Hemingway.
Hemingway seemed to like all sorts of women but the kind that he married was level headed and smart. He never left Pauline for Jane Kendall Mason, beautiful though she was, as she was emotionally unstable. Hadley, Pauline, Martha, and Mary were all stable, intelligent women. All but Hadley were journalists in their own right. All but Martha were very deferential to Hemingway and perhaps that’s why he always said that was the one marriage he regretted.
Anyway, Mary is being honored in her hometown in MN. All of the other three wives strangely were from St. Louis.
Earlier this year, a trove of about 2,500 documents from Hemingway’s home in Cuba, Finca Vigia, were shipped to the Hemingway collection in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. They were digitized and many have already been made available. The documents include letters, lists, diaries, telegrams, insurance policies, bank statements, passports, a page of his son, Patrick’s, homework, and many Christmas cards.
For those of us who love and follow all things Hemingway, it’s an enormous boon that he was a packrat. He seems to have saved everything. In 2008, another group of documents and letters were sent to the library, including an alternate ending for For Whom the Bell Tolls. Robert Jordan lives??
In reading about the material that went to Boston, I felt sad all over again. When Hemingway and Mary left, they didn’t know that they would not be going back. Books were left open, shoes were left out, a Glenn Miller record was on the phonograph.
After Hemingway’s death in July of 1961, relations with Cuba could not have been much worse. The Bay of Pigs invasion occurred in April of 1961 and our two countries were not cozy. Nevertheless, John F. Kennedy quietly arranged for Mary Hemingway to travel to Havana and meet with Fidel Castro. They agreed that Mary could take paintings and papers out of the country and in return, she gave the Finca Vigia and its remaining contents to the Cuban people.
The property declined significantly, but due to the efforts of the Finca Vigia Foundation, which was started by Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Maxwell Perkins, Hemingway’s long-time editor, the decline has been arrested. Documents are being preserved and the house has been shored up with some repairs taking place.
It was interesting to read about the documentation and how it came through in a very random way. In the middle of a folder of Christmas cards, a recipe might appear or an important letter about Hemingway’s style. A telegram from Archibald MacLeish congratulating him on For Whom the Bell Tolls is followed by Mary’s hamburger recipes. There are logs from his boat, the Pilar, as well as correspondence that Mary had. According to Susan Wrynn, the curator of the Hemingway collection at the JFK Library, Mary Hemingway, while packing up papers to take back to America also burned some messages which were sent to Mary but were believed not to be written by Hemingway but by a newspaper man named Herb Clark, an old flame of Mary’s in the Paris days. Perhaps she thought that her own correspondence wasn’t important?
Hem at typewriter
There are also stories with edits by Hemingway critiquing his own work, noting “you can phrase things clearer and better.” Or, “you can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.” All in all, it’s quite a find and addition to this amazing collection.