The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Hemingway’

My Motherland

September 15, 2016 | by

Finding—and writing—the worlds where only I had been.

Robert Walter Weir, watercolor, 8 15/16" x 6 11/16", 1825.

Robert Walter Weir, watercolor, 8 15/16" x 6 11/16", 1825.

In high school I was, like many American intellectual kids, a stranger in a strange land. I made the Berkeley Public Library my refuge, and lived half my life in books. Not only American books—English and French novels and poetry, Russian novels in translation. Transported unexpectedly to college in another strange land, the East Coast, I majored in French lit and went on reading European lit on my own. I felt more at home in some ways in Paris in 1640 or Moscow in 1812 than in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1948.

Much as I loved my studies, their purpose was to make me able to earn a living as a teacher, so I could go on writing. And I worked hard at writing short stories. But here my European orientation was a problem. I wasn’t drawn to the topics and aims of contemporary American realism. I didn’t admire Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, or Edna Ferber. I did admire John Steinbeck, but knew I couldn’t write that way. In The New Yorker, I loved Thurber, but skipped over John O’Hara to read the Englishwoman Sylvia Townsend Warner. Most of the people I really wished I could write like were foreign, or dead, or both. Most of what I read drew me to write about Europe; but I knew it was foolhardy to write fiction set in Europe if I’d never been there. Read More »

Step Into My Office, and Other News

September 7, 2016 | by

Except I’m actually in my bedroom.

  • The secret’s out: I’m writing this in my underwear, from my bedroom. I reveal this hideous truth to make a point about the nature of the workplace today—that it is everywhere, and that today’s “knowledge worker” can perform his functions from anyplace in the world, as long as there are pour overs available and chic quasi-industrial design aesthetics around. As Miya Tokumitsu and Joeri Merijn Mol argue, “It is always anytime. And anytime is check-in time … Wherever you are, you respond to the most urgent requests and make sure to nowhere yourself by deleting your ‘sent from my iPhone’ signature. You could be at your desk already, right? No one needs to know that you are two blocks away. You don’t want to convey that you are on the run and not giving them your full attention. So with some digital camouflaging you say: I am in a place where I can give you due consideration. At no point are we on the train, in a café, in bed, in the restroom … Airspace is essentially diffused workspace because the office has become a mobile home. We take it with us everywhere we go.”
  • Hey, you wouldn’t, by some chance, have happened to see a bunch of letters between Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Morley Callaghan about a 1929 boxing match in which Callaghan kicked Hemingway’s ass, would you? If you have seen those letters, can you get in touch with David Mason? He’s been looking for them since 1993: “After receiving the books and letters, I locked them in a store safe. When I opened my shop the next day, I was shocked to discover the safe had been cracked. Except for the letters, very little else of value was taken; it seems clear the thieves were after those artifacts specifically. The case grew stranger when a street criminal was arrested with one of the stolen postcards from the lot in his possession. Soon after confessing that he was part of the crew who robbed the store, he was found dead in his cell—a puzzling suicide. Upon his death, the case went cold.” 

Read More »

Of Course Hemingway and Wolverine Fought Crime Together, and Other News

August 22, 2016 | by

Wolverine with Ernest Hemingway, duh.

  • Say what you will about Ernest Hemingway, the guy knew how to market himself. He’s remained in print for many decades after his death, which is no mean feat—but more impressively still, he’s found a second life in the comics, where his boastful machismo thrives. Robert Elder writes, “I found him battling fascists alongside Wolverine, playing cards with Harlan Ellison, and guiding souls through purgatory … He’s appeared alongside Captain Marvel, Cerebus, Donald Duck, Lobo—even a Jazz Age Creeper. Hemingway casts a long shadow in literature, which extends into comic books. It’s really only in comics, however, where the Nobel Prize winner gets treated with equal parts reverence, curiosity and parody … In the forty-plus appearances I found across five languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Italian), Hemingway is often the hypermasculine legend of Papa: bearded, boozed-up and ready to throw a punch. Just as often, comic book creators see past the bravado, to the sensitive artist looking for validation.”
  • In the past five years, the Internet has gotten really good at this whole “angry mob” thing—just ask Gawker’s former editor in chief, Max Read, who watched as the digital media slowly recalibrated its approach to privacy: “Not so long ago, it was actually sort of okay to publish a short excerpt from a celebrity’s sex tape to your otherwise mainstream gossip blog. ‘Okay’ is relative here, of course … Still, the extent of mainstream condemnation was cheeky expressions of disgust … What was okay (if naughty) in 2012 is, in 2016, regarded as indefensible. The reaction to the enormous judgment against Gawker makes it clear where public opinion now lies: in sharp if muddled defense of privacy rights, even for public figures. But what has changed isn’t just the outer boundary of what’s appropriate to publish, but where it can be published. Gawker’s biggest mistake in a way was that it had failed to realize that it was no longer the bottom-feeder of the media ecosystem. Twitter and Reddit and a dozen other social networks and hosting platforms have out-Gawkered Gawker in their low thresholds for publishing and disregard for traditional standards, and, even more important, they distribute liability: there are no bylines, no editors, no institution taking moral responsibility for their content.”

Hemingway’s Antlers Returned, and Other News

August 15, 2016 | by


A photo posted by aspentimes (@aspentimes) on

  • Try to stay calm, everyone, but I have some very exciting news: it’s about Hemingway’s antlers. Back in 1964, Hunter S. Thompson stole a set of elk antlers right off the guy’s wall, only three years after he’d shot himself … Thompson felt bad about it and meant to return the antlers promptly, but you know how it is, the decades go by, stuff piles up in your garage, and you just sort of forget that you have these priceless antlers sitting around, and then it’s 2005 and you’re dead, too. So it fell to Thompson’s widow, Anita, to return the property to the Hemingways last week: “They were warm and kind of tickled … They were so open and grateful, there was no weirdness … Still, it’s something that was stolen from the home. They were grateful to have them back. They had heard rumors. Sean Hemingway, the grandson, was the first family member that I’d heard from. He spoke with other Hemingway family members and he said that everyone agreed that he should have them. He lives in New York, where he curates a museum. So now that I’m back from Ketchum we’re actually shipping them to Sean.”
  • Finally, New York’s newspaper of record has taken it upon itself that humblest of tasks: defining punk. Since 1976, the punk-rock spirit has been noxious, amorphous, and utterly unreconstructed. That was okay, but isn’t it better to have the Gray Lady trotting out a bunch of musician types to tell you what it’s really all about? One twenty-five-year-old says that punk as “like a massive piece of denim, and with that denim you can make something really cool. You can make a jacket, you can make some cool jeans, or you can make a cushion or a cover. There’s nothing that’s wrong or right about it, it’s just a thing that gives anything you want to do some backing.”

There’s the Great Man

August 2, 2016 | by

Befriending George Plimpton.


George Plimpton in his office.

George’s questions were like trampolines, a technology he admired. They bounced you higher—to the next question. This was particularly true when he was talking about writers and writing.

“Did you know that the great Camus played goal for the Oran Football Club?” he asked me when we were walking past an Algerian restaurant near his apartment on Seventy-Second Street. I was unaware but said that I did think Gabriel García Márquez had written a soccer column for a while in Bogota.

Alas,” George sighed, “Le colonisateur de bonne volonte was never moved to write about it. Imagine, the existential goalkeeper.”

Alas,” I said, and he gave me a look. Read More »

Songs of Myself

June 28, 2016 | by

Hosting a national blurb contest.


Walt Whitman, the “American bard,” who was named after a shopping mall in Huntington, New York, where I grew up, is often credited with having invented the book blurb. On the spine of his debut, Leaves of Grass, he had printed in gold leaf a line teased from a letter he’d gotten from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” Emerson was right: Whitman continues to rank among America’s finest careerists.

Gertrude Stein, unable to break through to the literary mainstream, wrote herself a novel-length blurb entitled The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Writing as Alice, her live-in companion, she described at length Gertrude’s prodigious, if misunderstood, genius. This 252-page press kit was an immediate best seller, prompting Stein to embark on a national tour, which she described in Everybody’s Autobiography, a sequel explaining why you should hire her for speaking engagements.

Ernest Hemingway’s first short-story collection, In Our Time, was published with no fewer than six blurbs—on the cover. I can’t remember if he won the Nobel before or after he finished taping the beer commercials. With Toni Morrison, it was definitely before: Pulitzer, Nobel, Chipotle wrapper, in that order.

Will my novels secure my literary legacy the way Morrison’s and Hemingway’s did theirs? Will I ever see my name engraved on a line of high-quality toilets, I sometimes wonder, after hours of furious literary labor? Will I be immortal, like Whitman, transcending with my “song” the conventional boundaries of self? Will Kohler, the premier name in luxury flushing, ever ask me to be their spokeswoman? Read More »