The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.
― Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was notoriously generous to young writers and fans seeking his input. A.E. Hotchner who became a good confidante and friend met Hem in the Spring of 1948 when he was dispatched to Cuba on assignment by Cosmopolitan magazine to get an article on Hem about The Future of Literature. The magazine was putting out an issue about “the future” of everything: architecture, cars, art, etc. You get the idea. So why not have the lion of literature give an interview on the future of literature.
Hotchner sent a note to Hem saying that he’d been sent down on “this ridiculous mission but did not want to disturb him, and if he could simply send me a few words of refusal it would be enormously helpful to the The Future of Hotchner.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway. Page 4.
Instead, Hem rang him the next day.
“This Hotchner?” he asked
“Dr. Hemingway here. Got your note. Can’t let you abort your mission or you’ll lose face with the Hearst organization, which is about like getting bounced from a leper colony. You want to have a drink around five? There’s a bar called La Florida. Just tell the taxi.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, page 4.
. And thus began a beautiful friendship.(Of course many challenge if this anecdote is true. Hotchner: true friend or self-serving pal?)
I recently read an article that detailed how one Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked 2,000 miles, from Minnesota to Florida in 1934 to meet Hemingway. Samuelson was trying to make a go of it as a writer and was so impressed by the short stories that he traveled to get advice from his idol.
Samuelson wrote, “It seemed a damn fool thing to do, but a twenty-two-year-old tramp during the Great Depression didn’t have to have much reason for what he did.”
Ultimately, Samuelson found Hemingway who provided him with insights, and soon hired him on as his assistant. Hem gave him a list of 16 books essential to any complete education. The list is interesting to consider.
Drum roll: the list is:
1. “The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
2. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
3. “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
4.”Dubliners” by James Joyce
5. The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
6. “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham
7. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
8. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
9. “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann
10. “Hail and Farewell” by George Moore
11.”The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
12. “The Oxford Book of English Verse”
13. “The Enormous Room” by E.E. Cummings
14. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
15. “Far Away and Long Ago” by W.H. Hudson
164. “The American” by Henry James
So what would make your list? A few of the above escape me but most have stood the test of time.
I just finished a book about the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald called “Z.” It was interesting. Zelda’s hatred for Hemingway came across loud and clear. I know that it’s historically true. However, there’s a claim that Hemingway came on to her, which didn’t strike me as true based on all that I’ve read and Hem’s feelings toward/against her. And there’s another portion in which she wonders if her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Hemingway were closet homosexuals who had an attraction to each other. I don’t know that much about F. Scott Fitzgerald, but there’s not anything in the volumes that I’ve read about Hemingway and his past that would even slightly suggest that. I’ve read all of the hypotheses that Hemingway went ultra-macho to compensate for homosexual feelings. I don’t see that but everyone can have an opinion. Those comments aside, I found that I had sympathy for Zelda’s plight and her frustration in her life with F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I also couldn’t help comparing Fitzgerald, of course, to Hemingway. When Hemingway met Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald was the star, having come off of a great success with The Beautiful and Damned. His short stories were successfully being sold and some were going to Hollywood. F. Scott Fitzgerald was generous with his time and advice to Hemingway and they remained really close friends for a long time before something of quiet falling out occurred, probably due to normal as opposed to cut-throat literary rivalry and partly due to Hemingway’s disgust with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s drinking and Zelda. Whatever else you can say about Hemingway and his later serious problems with the bottle, for much of his career, he was disciplined when it came to writing. He often stopped drinking for some significant periods of time while writing and he didn’t drink during the day while he was getting his words down on paper. Fitzgerald began to drink daily from morning on and for many years, didn’t even try to write. Once Hemingway began to abuse alcohol, it was not good.
Hem and Fitzgerald shared the editor Max Perkins at Scribners. After their falling out, they used Max to find out about each other. There was attachment between them. Hemingway was so competitive that he had trouble being friends with writing rivals. he was both confidant and insecure.
I also gathered from “Z” that the ragefulness between Zelda and Fitzgerald went on for years and they both treated each other badly. It was a sort of recreational warfare. That behavior certainly didn’t occur between Hemingway and Hadley. I think there was some bitterness in his fighting with Pauline (second wife) in the end, but not the low blows Zelda and Scott hurled. Hemingway generally felt guilty at the end of a relationship and didn’t rant and rave at his soon to be ex-wife.
His relationship with Martha (third wife) was an exception because it did become volatile. Certainly there was anger and insults with Mary (fourth wife) and they might have divorced had Hem lived longer. With the exception of Martha, Hem’s other three wives didn’t try to compete with him and perhaps that was what he was looking for in a woman. All gave up a great deal of independence to be with him. He tended to prefer stable, smart, but non-challenging women–and Martha was not any part of the latter. Further, he was married four times, whereas Fitzgerald and Zelda were only married once, although affairs did occur in the marriage.
I liked the book and I felt for Zelda, which I didn’t expect. It was interesting to read another perspective on the jazz age, and the whole lost generation crowd in Paris, including the Murphys, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Ford Madox Ford, Picasso.
You might try it. It’s an easy read and Hemingway features prominently.
The one thing I know is that a woman should never marry a man who hated his mother. Martha Gellhorn.
I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway Misogynist (Definition) – noun, jargon. A male heterosexual individual whose misogynistic beliefs are seen predominantly when he is in a relationship with a strong, independent female who is, most likely, smarter than him. The Hemingway Misogynist is capable of having powerful lifelong friendship bonds with a few strong, independent women smarter than him, but only if he never enters into a sexual relationship with them. He will often say and believe hateful things about women in general, citing his own female friends as individual exceptions. Don’t sleep with this dude, because he will leave tire marks on your lawn when you publish your dissertation to rave critical reviews.Hemingway misogynists, Hemingway cats. Andrea Grimes
Hmm. May I protest?? Pauline, Martha, and Mary were all smart strong women. And Hadley was no dope. And he seems to have slept with all of his wives. Pauline and Mary did tend to defer to Hem but I’d say he liked that both were smart. Martha did challenge him and he did like his wives to be home with life revolving around him. However, I never saw him as disliking women. He just liked his life the way he liked it.
If we look at his literary women, what can we see? Brett, from The Sun Also Rises was smart and strong although troubled. Jake presumably slept with Brett before his injury. Catherine, from A Farewell to Arms, was a career woman before her time and she drove a good amount of that relationship. Maria, in For Whom the Bell Tolls, was young but strong. Pilar was a mountain of a woman, brave, and a hero in my book. Not one was a wimp or simpering girly-girl who just wanted to be dominated. Falling in love is not the same as wanting to be subservient.
Yup, there were many manipulative bitchy women in the short stories and novellas but many of the men were no prizes either. Helen in the Snows of Kilimanjaro and Margo in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were wealthy, entitled, and limited. Still Harry in The Snows freely admitted his weaknesses and Helen’s efforts to help him as a writer. When honest, he admitted it was he who chose to be seduced by the easy life more than it was Helen forcing his hand. Margo was not easy in her condescending way but Francis was without backbone until the tragic end.
Hemingway was attracted to women with spirit: Marlene Dietrich, Jane Mason, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Adriana. All had opinions, attitude, and grace. Yes, Hem hated his mother but he didn’t hate women-kind. In fact, there is ample evidence that he enjoyed women quite a bit not just as lovers but as friends and sounding boards. But, hey, who knows? what do you think?
The largest collection of Hemingway letters and memorabilia is in Boston, Massachusetts at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. Mary Welch Hemingway, Hem’s fourth wife, made that selection. While Hemingway and John Kennedy never met, Kennedy respected Hemingway’s writing and person. In his own Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, Kennedy cited Hemingway’s description of courage, writing that, “This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues — courage. ‘Grace under pressure,’ Ernest Hemingway defined it.”
Hemingway was invited to President Kennedy’s inaugural address but he had to decline due to ill health. The inauguration was in January 1961 and Hem died in July 1961. While there was a ban on travel to Cuba in 1961 due to the tension from the Bay of Pigs incident, Mary was permitted to return to the Finca, their home in Cuba, to retrieve papers and personal possessions after Hemingway’s death. The Kennedy Administration worked to make this possible. Fidel Castro personally promised safe passage for Mary so that she could collect and ship artwork, notes, letters, and beloved possessions.
There were many suitors for these prized items. Mary maintained her connection with the White House and was the guest of President and Mrs. Kennedy at the White House dinner for the Nobel Prize winners in April, 1962. Hem was honored as one of America’s distinguished Nobel laureates and Frederic March read excerpts from the works of three previous Nobel Prize winners, Sinclair Lewis, George C. Marshall, and Hemingway – the opening pages from his then-unpublished Islands in the Stream.
In 1964, Mary contacted Jacqueline Kennedy and offered her husband’s collection to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which was still in the planning stage with the intent that it be a national memorial to John F. Kennedy. The collection included drafts of various novels of Hemingway, rewrites, and a sense of how he wrote and revised.
In 1972, Mrs. Hemingway deeded the collection to the Kennedy Presidential Library and began depositing papers in its Archives.
On July 18, 1980, Patrick Hemingway, Hem’s older son with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dedicated the Hemingway Room in the JFK Library.
I’m going to visit it again in a few weeks. If any of you have been, I’d love to hear your impressions. I always get a thrill seeing a photo that I haven’t seen before. It makes it all come alive for me anew. The building itself is modern, a short cab ride away from Fanneuil Hall in downtown Boston, on the water and still being developed. For those of us who love and follow Hemingway, it is worth the detour. There was the original notes that Scott Fitzgerald gave Hemingway for The Sun Also Rises. That will give you shivers.
Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. Ernest Hemingway
MYTH 1 Hemingway cultivated the macho image because he wasn’t really.
Actually he really was all that and more. Macho that is. While we can quibble about what macho means, for the purpose of this post, I’m defining it as what is typically deemed manly, not terribly sensitive, and swaggering. Webster’s defines it as ” characterized by qualities considered manly, especially when manifested in an assertive, self-conscious, or dominating way.”
He was all of that although Hem had tons of sensitivity or he could not have written as he did.
There is no doubt that Hem was brave. In book after book that I’ve read, Hemingway is admired and lauded for true bravery. He was self-sacrificing in Italy as an ambulance driver going back for the wounded when he could have chosen not to. The wounds from Italy stayed with him all of his life.
He was crazy but courageous in Pamplona. That was all in youthful fun. It was more serious in the Spanish Civil War. While a journalist in Spain, during the civil war, his steadfast nerves during bombings and his intent focus on getting the story out in as true a form as possible, and helping others who were in jeoparday, are all legendary. (Martha Gellhorn by the way was equally brave. She was in the thick of it and a stalwart. Hem loved that about her and their love truly blossomed while in Spain and in the midst of war. Both behaved very admirably.)
While living in Key West and then Cuba, Hem ran the “Crook Factory” and trolled the Carribean with his cronies for German subs and bombs. They could have been blown up themselves. While perhaps Hemingway was a bit of a boy looking for adventure, he was not a coward. He liked his comforts but was ok roughing it too. When in China with Martha on a trip he had not wanted to take, Martha hated the dirt, the rustic accomodations, but that did not bother Hem at all. He was happiest talking to the locals at a pub, or in a simple home. He was no snob. Usually by the time Martha got home, an entourage was assembled and drinking, much to her distress. And then there were the plane crashes. More on that in another post.
Still he was real, strong, and brave. No phoney there although he could exaggerate. Other myths will be discussed although not necessarily next week. I’ll surprise you. Write to me please about your favorite myths. Also many of you out there know more than I do so chime in if I’ve got it wrong or if you think he was a phony. I’m interested.
He did it. He should have done it in 1942 for For Whom the Bell Tolls but the committee was divided; some felt the sexual content was “improper”; no prize was awarded at all that year. It’s a bit sad that the award happened when it did, as Hem was not up to accepting it in person at that time and, I think, would have truly appreciated it. He scoffed at the Nobel Prize for Literature calling it the Ignoble Prize but it mattered to him to be passed over.
Well, he won it for The Old Man and the Sea, his little novella that was to be part of a trilogy.
Listen to the speech on the above link (well it’s just the beginning of the speech) in Hem’s voice. He enunciates his “t’s” and I’m not sure if it was for the purpose of being clear in this speech or if that was his mid-western accent. (If anyone out there knows, please let us know.) He could not make it to the actual ceremony due to the two plane crashes he’d been in and other health matters. John Cabot read his acceptance speech in Sweden and Hem made this recording after.
It’s humble and beautiful–and short.
It’s funny. Words are a writer’s craft and lifeline, yet many writers are not outgoing. Hem apparently was actually shy especially when not drinking and he was always reluctant to engage in public speaking.
Today, given the press for writers to be “out there”, I wonder how he would feel about twitter and facebook for himself. He likely would not have done it in the later years. His privacy became more valuable but of course, by then, he was not ernest hemingway but HEMINGWAY so no need to cultivate the masses.
Iconic author Ernest Hemingway followed his own path in a distinctively adventurous manner. I’ve compared his approach to life to that of motorcyclists, pursuing adventure on lonely ribbons of asphalt, willingly exposed to difficulties they could have chosen to avoid.
There are easier and more comfortable ways to experience life, but Hemingway, and motorcycle riders, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hemingway spent considerable time in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and many of his stories are based on events he experienced here. Riding a motorcycle is the perfect way to retrace Hemingway’s wanderings, visiting the same places he enjoyed as a youth and later as a veteran recuperating from wounds suffered in World War I.
I begin my ride in Charlevoix, on the coast of Lake Michigan. Kickstand up early on a perfect morning, I ride U.S. Route 31 north over the drawbridge that spans the channel connecting Lake Charlevoix with Lake Michigan. A couple miles north of town, urban traces are left behind as I ride east on Boyne City-Charlevoix Road, en route to the historic hamlet of Horton Bay. As it winds through a lush countryside of forested hillsides, the road hints at the motorcycling adventures that this ride offers.
After 10 pleasurable miles, I roll into Horton Bay. Hemingway spent many summers here and hung out at the Horton Bay General Store, my first stop. Built in 1876, the store was the center of social life a century ago; if only those walls could talk! Subsequent owners have kept the building much as it was and it is like walking onto a set for a 1920s movie. Besides buying the basics, a visitor can get a homemade lunch, or perhaps an ice cream cone. After a visit with the owner, I retire to the front porch and sit on a bench used by Papa, gazing upon sights he would have seen. This village was important enough to Hemingway that he married his first wife here in 1921.
After the relaxing break, I fire up my Harley-Davidson Road King and backtrack a half-mile to Horton Bay Road (C-71), riding it north to U.S. Route 31 and Little Traverse Bay. The hilly blacktop conveys me past orchards and farmland, with plenty of forested land to provide an “up north” flavor. The air is pure, the sky is blue and my surroundings are grand. Cresting the final hill before U.S. 31, I’m presented with a spectacular view of the bay with sailboats speckling the sky-blue water.
The highway soon delivers me to Petoskey and there are several historic locations here that I want to visit. The first is an old railroad depot, now the Little Traverse History Museum with a Hemingway display. This impressive building is reached by turning left onto Lake Street from U.S. 31. Jesperson’s Restaurant, at 312 Howard Street, is my next stop. This place was Hemingway’s favorite eating and socializing spot when he lived in Petoskey for several months. It is still noted for its home cooking and delicious pies. After a walking tour at other downtown sites, I saddle up and continue north.
East of Petoskey, I turn onto State Route M-119 toward the well-groomed municipality of Harbor Springs. North of Harbor Springs, M-119 is known as the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route, a well-known destination road for Midwest motorcyclists. For more than 20 miles, the narrow strip of asphalt, perched on a bluff high above Lake Michigan, sculpts a path of extreme curves and amazing scenery. Admiring the view must take a back seat, however, as full attention is required when carving the curves on this road. It is narrow, has no shoulder and trees line the edge of the pavement. Traffic is minimal and I have the road nearly to myself on this beautiful early morning as I lean through the many curves, working the clutch, throttle and brake in a choreographed dance that every motorcyclist knows well. To say this road is a blast to ride is an understatement.
M-119 ends at Cross Village where I stop to admire Legs Inn. This unique restaurant, specializing in large portions of Polish food, is a destination for many who ride the Tunnel of Trees. Plan to arrive hungry for lunch or dinner. I continue north on North Lake Shore Drive, enjoying more curves through a forested backdrop. At the Sturgeon Bay Trail intersection, I turn left to stay on Lake Shore Drive and soon cross into Wilderness State Park. I unexpectedly find myself riding through a landscape of sand dunes—a distinctive feature of Lake Michigan’s eastern shore.
Lake Shore Drive becomes Lakeview Road and heads east, merging with County Road C-81, which I ride north. Its winding and pleasant path, with many views of the big water, eventually delivers me to Mackinaw City at the southern terminus of the Mackinac Bridge.
I explore Mackinaw City on foot and buy some fudge made famous by local confectioners, putting a portion in my saddlebag for a snack later in the day. Enjoying a rest at the marina, I watch ferries carrying so-called “fudgies” to Mackinac Island, and thrill at the sight of a Great Lakes freighter gliding under the bridge between its two massive towers.
Overcoming inertia, I resume my quest by riding east on U.S. Route 23 along the beautiful Lake Huron shoreline toward Cheboygan. Two miles east of that port city I turn onto County Road F-05, which meanders southward along the Black River and past Black Lake. In 1919, Hemingway escaped to this area in a friend’s Buick, trying to recover physically and emotionally from war wounds.
I ride for many very enjoyable miles on F-05, through forests and farmland that is slowly but surely reverting to its natural wooded state. The lightly traveled road eventually delivers me to State Route M-68, which I follow westward on its sweeping curves. I soon cross the Black and Pigeon rivers, both of which Hemingway knew well. He considered the Black River the best brook trout stream in Michigan and fished it several times. A century ago this land was cut over and blackened by fires. The scars are gone and much of the area today is preserved as the Pigeon River Country State Forest. M-68 eventually brings me to the town of Indian River and Old U.S. Route 27, which closely follows the Sturgeon River, another of Hemingway’s favorites. My powerful two-wheeler carries me southward on the gently curving asphalt of this historic byway through a land of sparkling waters and verdant forests. The ride is especially rewarding since nearby Interstate 75 carries virtually all the traffic. At Wolverine, I stop at a restaurant/tavern called BS & Company that caters to motorcyclists and is known for good food and friendly service. Hemingway and his companions camped here on one of their trips, enjoying meals of freshly caught trout.
This is elk country, so I keep my eyes peeled for these large ungulates, and their smaller more troublesome cousin, the whitetail deer. Curves and hills become more pronounced and eventually I cruise down a long slope, the V-twin burbling effortlessly, and see a sign for County Road C-48, the road I am to ride westward. C-48 is a joy to ride, possessing the qualities of those special routes sought by motorcyclists. It is called The Breezeway and wends its enticing way through a beautiful landscape.
Eventually I reach U.S. 31 again and turn back north toward Charlevoix. This popular motorcycling route, with occasional spectacular views of Lake Michigan in this vicinity, was once a dirt path called the West Michigan Pike, carrying Chicago tourists to Michigan resorts.
After an unforgettable ride of 206 miles I arrive back at Charlevoix. It’s been a day when I have had to think hard to come up with new superlatives to describe the marvelous natural and manmade attractions and history of this remarkable region. It comes as no surprise to me that Hemingway, who had the wherewithal to explore the best that the world had to offer, counted this small corner of the planet as one of his favorite places. If you ride a motorcycle, I’m sure you’ll agree with him.
(This Favorite Ride: Two-Wheeling with Hemingway was published in the July 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)
Sunset Park in Petoskey offers wonderful views of the bay, as well as impressive rock bluffs and gardens.
Route C-48 (also known as the Breezeway) carves an enjoyable path through the northern Michigan countryside.
The Red Fox Inn and the Horton Bay General Store, both built in 1876, are mentioned in Hemingway’s 1923 short story, “Up in Michigan.”
The welcome mat is always out for curious travelers or serious students of Hemingway at Horton Bay General Store.
Hemingway was a romantic. Sure, he was macho and tough and a man’s man in many ways, but he enjoyed women greatly and always had a close and loving relationship with Marlene Dietrich. One of Hemingway’s love letters to her is going up for auction. It is expected it will garner something in the vicinity of $30 – $40,000.
This particular letter is dated August 12, 1952 – a year after Dietrich had confessed to keeping the author’s photograph by her bedside. They met in 1934 and became quite infatuated with each other but never consummated the attraction because, as Hemingway put it, they were “victims of unsynchronized passion.” He noted that whenever one of them was out of a relationship the other one was in one and the timing never worked out.
Hemingway writes in the letter to Marlene “I always love you and admire you and I have all sorts of mixed up feelings about you.” Later in the letter he declares that while “you are beautiful…I am ugly…please know I love you always and I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats. But it beats always.”
Marlene and Hemingway corresponded over several decades. Marlene Dietrich’s daughter wrote a book noting that after Hemingway’s death, her mother wore widow’s weeds for quite a while and she always believed that had he been with her, instead of his then wife, Mary, he wouldn’t have killed himself.
So, if I had $30,000+ just sitting around, I might enter the fray and bid on this letter, but I fear I’m going to have to let it go to some other fervent Hemingway fan.
I’ve read many of Hemingway’s letters. They are fun and he is quite funny and clever in them. His humor rarely comes through in his novels.
I think the line that I’ve quoted above – I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats. But it beats always – is so him. It’s very simple and yet it speaks volumes.