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Showing posts from September, 2016

Ernest Hemingway Goes U-Boat Hunting 1942

By December 1942, just two months after he began, Hemingway's spying activities in Cuba, and in the Gulf of Mexico – paid for with local FBI money -  were coming under scrutiny from J. Edgar Hoover himself. In a confidential memo from Hoover, of December 17th 1942, to FBI Agent D.M. Ladd, the Bureau Chief writes:
“Any information which you may have relating to the unreliability of Ernest Hemingway as an informant may be discreetly brought to the attention of ambassador Braden. In this respect it will be recalled that recently Hemingway gave information concerning the refuelling of submarines in Caribbean waters which has proved unreliable. I desire that you furnish me at an early date results of your conversations with Ambassador Braden concerning Ernest Hemingway and his aides and their activities.”
Agent Ladd replied to J. Edgar Hoover the same day:
“ Hemingway has been accused of being of communist sympathies, although we are advised that he has denied and does vigorously deny any…

Sherwood Anderson - Hemingway's Great Inspiration

Sherwood Anderson is, with each passing year, becoming less and less well known as a writer (he died in 1941), and even less as the great inspiration for Ernest Hemingway, whose style was born out of the lean photographic style that was Anderson's.
For me Anderson's novel of 1919,Winesburg, Ohio,is his best, and one that bears re-reading at least once a year.
Let me quote from it...
" He was an old man with a white beard and huge nose and hands. Long before the time during which we will know him, he was a doctor and drove a jaded white horse from house to house through the streets of Winesburg. Later he married a girl who had money. She had been left a large fertile farm when her father died. The girl was quiet, tall, and dark, and to many people she seemed very beautiful. Everyone in Winesburg wondered why she married the doctor. Within a year after the marriage she died."
Now that is writing of the first order - vivid, controlled, and new; no wonder Anderson took such …

The Origins of Harry's Bar, Venice - One of Hemingway's Favourite Watering Holes

Anyone who has been to Italy will know immediately why Hemingway loved the country – it's the people, of course, and the beautiful countryside, naturally, and the eternal cities, especially Rome and Florence, and Venice, but above all else it's the hotels, and the bars, especially the bars. And Hemingway loved hotels, and hotel bars, but best of all he loved small out-of-the-way bars, which is why he loved Harry's Bar in Venice. And if you've been there you'll know why Hemingway loved it so much, because it's like his writing: plain, well-scrubbed, and wonderfully sophisticated. 
Harry's Bar came into being on May 13th 1931, and that wouldn't have happened without the help of a quiet young American by the name of Harry Pickering.
This quiet young man was apparently suffering from the early signs of alcoholism, which concerned his family greatly, who, in their wisdom, packed him off on a world tour with an elderly aunt (and her snuffly Pekingese) who ke…

Ernest Hemingway and Louis Armstrong - 20th Century Soundtrack

If Jelly Roll Morton invented jazz (and we have to believe him), then Louis Armstrong invented jazz as an art form: jazz as a means of personal expression, in the same way a poet, dramatist and novelist will use words as a means of expression, or an artist paint. And I don't use this analogy glibly. When Armstrong was at his most creative, in the 1920s, American literature was also being re-invented by Ernest Hemingway. It was a post First World War outpouring of pent-up anger that came out as an aggressive need for a new kind of honesty, coupled with a need for a new hard-edged beauty that was itself a resentment against the strictures of the 19th century, strictures that had come apart at the seams with the bloodbath of 1914 -18.

But in the 1920s Armstrong and Hemingway, and a few others, were far more revolutionary than the gang of despots sitting in the Kremlin, or the Hitler rabble in the  Munich bier kellers.  Hemingway and Armstrong wanted change, and wanted it now; they we…

Ernest Hemingway meets Peter Viertel

Peter Viertel's 1992 memoir, Dangerous Friends, is one of those books that come along too infrequently, but when they do are vital to our understanding of the world of the arts and literature (Michael Meyer's Words Through A Window Pane is another) and of the dynamic personalities who inhabited and contributed to that world, most especially, in Viertel's case, John Huston, Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway.
Although born in Germany in 1920 Peter Viertel was brought up and educated in southern California, and the hot house of the motion picture industry where his mother worked as a screenwriter and his father as a director. Was it any wonder then, aged eighteen, that Viertel too  tried his hand as a screenwriter for a couple of years until he enlisted in the US Marine Corps, serving in both the Pacific and Europe during World War II, latterly attached to the OSS.
After the war Viertel settled back in California with his wife Jigee, where he worked on several successful screen…

Ernest Hemingway and Mary visit Italy - 1948

Hemingway couldn't wait to get what was his now rather battered old Buik off-loaded from the steamer  Jagiello  and start exploring what he was already describing as “this wonderful country.”
From Genoa they drove (the Hemingways had quickly hired a chauffeur) north to Milan where they were treated like visiting royalty, with Alberto Mondadori, one of Hemingway's publishers, assuring the author that his books had out-sold any other author since the end of World War II.
“ Everyone is reading you, Ernesto, everyone from the common sailor to the nobility.”
Hemingway just smiled, hugged, and kissed his jubilant publisher on the head.
Such was Hemingway's popularity in Italy that he left all of his Italian earnings in a Milan bank, using the money to finance all his future trips to that country – it made good economic sense in a post-war world where there were stringent restrictions on transferring money between countries.
To quote from Carlos Baker's biography, Hemingway&…

Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn - World War II

On August 25th 1944, Martha Gellhorn was sitting on a beach overlooking the Adriatic reading D.H. Lawrence's Women In Love, drinking rum and watching a young Allied airman float down to Earth (dead or alive she did not know) hanging from the very life tentacles of his parachute. She wondered how many more young men must die before this bloody war was over.

As Martha flicked over the page, unable to concentrate as the airman came ever closer to earth, she came across this passage:
“ Whatever life might be, it could not take away death, the inhuman transcendent death. Oh, let us ask no question of it, what it is or is not. To know is human, and in death we do not know, we are not human. And the joy of this compensates for all the bitterness of knowledge and the sordidness of our humanity. In death we shall not be human, and we shall not know. The promise of this is our heritage, we look forward like heirs to their majority.”
Martha was struck dumb by this passage, by the very correctne…