"I want to run as a writer; not as a man who had been to the wars; nor a bar room fighter; nor a shooter; nor a horseplayer; nor a drinker. I would like to be a straight writer and be judged as such," Hemingway wrote in 1950. (63) Perhaps. But he enjoyed the celebrity, encouraged it, and recorded it. The experience, interests, and celebrity were the raw material for the writing, but more than that he internalized it all, and the celebrity, the actor, the active participant, and the writer were fused into one being without boundaries. He rewrote himself, reimagined himself, refabricated himself for himself and for others, emphasizing all those other things that he did "run as" and did as enthusiastically as he did his writing.
A lifelong sportsman, he saw his first bullfight in Madrid in 1923. According to the two friends he was with, Bob McAlmon and Bill Bird, "he was overwhelmed by the bullfight experience, so much so that for a time he could talk of nothing else." (64) He began an exhaustive study of bullfighting. He saved everything he could about bullfighting--newspapers, ticket stubs, embroidered postcards picturing matadors, programs, posters. His 1932 treatise on bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon, is still the most comprehensive study of the sport in the English language. Such an intensive study was typical of Hemingway. He had a "natural, sometimes almost competitive, tendency to find out everything he could about any subject that interested him." (65) He greatly admired professionals in whatever arena.
"The bullfight is not a sport in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the word," Hemingway wrote in Death in the Afternoon. "Rather it is a tragedy; the death of the bull, which is played, more or less well, by the bull and the man involved and in which there is danger for the man but certain death for the animal." (66)
The Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936. Hemingway supported the Loyalist side and followed the war with great interest. In 1937 he went to Spain to cover the war as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance ("Hemingway Sees Dead Strewing Battlefield," "A New Kind of War," "The Chauffeurs of Madrid," "A Brush with Death," "Hemingway Finds Madrid Calmly Fighting Own War"). (67) He translated this experience into seven more short stories, the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the play The Fifth Column.
In Sloppy Joe''s in December 1936, Hemingway met a lovely young novelist and journalist from St. Louis--Martha Gellhorn (called Marty). As the friendship developed, Martha spent so much time at the Hemingway house that, as she wrote Pauline, "she nearly became a fixture there, 'like a kudu head.'" (68) By the end of March, Martha had made it to Spain, too, and she and Hemingway both covered the war. The affair continued until their marriage November 5, 1940, the day after Pauline's divorce from Hemingway became final.
After their marriage, with assignments for Martha from Collier's and for Hemingway from PM, Martha and Hemingway traveled to China to cover the war there. This time, Martha was the prime mover. "On this super horror journey," Martha recounted in her 1978 travel memoir, Travels with Myself and Another, "I wheedled an Unwilling Companion, hereinafter referred to as U.C., into going where he had no wish to go. . . . That was scandalous selfishness on my part, never repeated." (69) U.C. did not have a good time. "U.C. could not bear party chatter, or discussions of politics or the arts, but never tired of true fife stories, the more unlikely the better. He was able to sit with a bunch of men for most of a day or most of a night, or most of both day and night though perhaps with different men, wherever he happened to have started sitting, all of them fortified by a continuous supply of drink, the while he roared with laughter at reminiscences and anecdotes. It was a valid system for him. Aside from being his form of amusement, he learned about a place and people through the eyes and experiences of those who lived there." (70)