HEMINGWAY’S LETTERS: CHILDHOOD TO PARIS

December 11, 2011

TOM PUTNAM: Good afternoon. I’m Tom Putnam, Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and on behalf of Tom McNaught, Executive Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation, and all of my Library and Foundation colleagues, I thank you for coming and recognize the generous underwriters of the Kennedy Library Forums: lead sponsor, Bank of America, Raytheon, Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Boston Foundation, and our media partners, the Boston Globe and WBUR. 

In her introduction to the first volume in what will be a 16-volume series of the collective letters of Ernest Hemingway, Sandy Spanier, the series’ general editor, writes that, “On Hemingway’s desk at his home, the Finca Vigia in Cuba, sits a rubber stamp that reads, ‘I never write letters. Ernest Hemingway.’” [laughter] “Perhaps he made it to ease the burden of correspondence,” she suggests, “or perhaps someone gave it to him as a joke. But if he ever actually used the stamp in place of writing a letter, the evidence has yet to be found and we are all the beneficiaries. According to Patrick Hemingway, Ernest’s sole surviving son, his father’s correspondence has been the principal source of many biographers, none of whom to date have succeeded in presenting the man as vividly as Hemingway does himself in his letters.”

I should note that Patrick has been a great supporter of this project, using his characteristic straight talk. “If you don’t want the letters published, then burn them. That’s the only way you're going to prevent their publication,” he once remarked. And he should know, for that is exactly what two of Hemingway’s wives, Hadley and Pauline, did, the latter under Patrick’s direction after reading his mother’s will. She said, “Burn them,” he told the attorney, “so burn them.” 

Let’s watch this short video to hear more from Patrick and Sandy Spanier about this wonderful new book.

[video]

Before learning more about the book and having some of the letters read to us, I can't resist sharing the story of an exchange of correspondence between Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald that is on display outside the Hemingway room upstairs. Hemingway had evidently sent Fitzgerald a manuscript copy of A Farewell to Arms, to which Fitzgerald writes a long, glowing letter, concluding, “Why not end the book with that wonderful paragraph on page 241? It's the most eloquent in the book and could end it rather gently and well. A beautiful book it is.” Hemingway’s handwritten response follows: “Kiss my ass.” [laughter] A short declarative sentence if ever there was one. [laughter] 

My colleagues in the Hemingway Collection have put together a display table with some of the original letters and photographs of a young Hemingway for you to peruse. It’s out in the hallway, where we will also hold the book-signing after today’s forum so please take a look.

We’re indebted to Sandy Spanier, who was most responsible for the publication of these letters. A professor at the Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Spanier is one of the country’s foremost experts on Ernest Hemingway and serves on the Board of the Hemingway Review. She’s spent the last nine years searching for Hemingway’s correspondence and assembling it into this exciting new collection that’s been a pleasure and privilege for me and our staff to work so closely with her on this project.

I know that Dr. Spanier has also worked closely with our colleagues from the Finca Vigia Foundation, Frank and Jenny Philips, Mary Jo Adams, and Tom Herman, who are here with us today, along with Congressman Jim McGovern, who has done so much to solidify this country’s relations with the Cuban government and Hemingway’s home, the Finca Vigia. So Congressman, we thank you for being here.

I was reading Robert Dallek’s biography of John F. Kennedy recently and stumbled upon this quote from Ward Just’s novel, The Translator, which seemed Hemingway-esque. “Every man had to test himself and if he was courageous and lucky, he found maturity. That was all the reward you could ask for or were entitled to growing up.” Mr. Just is a former newspaper journalist and war correspondent, whose novels have been chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer and National Book Awards. 

Scott Simon is the Peabody Award-winning host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. A member of the Hemingway Council, his initial love for Hemingway was perhaps imposed by his mother, who was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Though Chicago can claim numerous literary figures, from Saul Bellow to Richard Wright, she would remind Scott as a young boy, that none of them could hold a candle to Oak Park’s most famous native son, Ernest Hemingway. We hope the fact that Scott brought his wife and oldest daughter here with him today is a demonstration that this parochial family tradition is being passed on. [laughter] 

While collections of letters and biographies are important, no recent effort has brought the character of Ernest Hemingway to life to so many than Corey Stoll’s portrayal of the Nobel-winning Laureate in the recent Woody Allen time travel comedy, Midnight in Paris. Mr. Stoll relates that when he arrived for his audition with Mr. Allen, he didn’t know anything about the film or even the character he might play. So when Woody Allen handed him a two-page monologue to read and he realized he was potentially being cast as Ernest Hemingway, his first response was, “You got to be kidding me.” [laughter] After securing the role, Mr. Allen asked him to keep his character in the premise of the movie a secret so all his family and girlfriend -- who are also here with us today -- knew was that he was shooting in Paris and suddenly taking boxing lessons. [laughter] 

As you know, we’ll be having a free screening of the film after today’s forum. It’s a great honor to have Corey Stoll here with us today to share with us what it is like to be Ernest Hemingway in Paris and to read some of the letters from this new collection.

So please join me now in welcoming Sandy Spanier, Ward Just, Corey Stoll, and Scott Simon to the Kennedy Library. [applause] 

SCOTT SIMON: Thank you. I am going to begin my role as a moderate moderator, if I may. First, I just want to say what a pleasure it is to be with all three of these people who have just done such extraordinary things and made such a wonderful contribution, specifically, I think, to those of us who cherish Hemingway. I also want to say -- and I was so glad to become associated with the work of the Hemingway Council -- I have been impressed over the past couple of years since I've been involved by what this Library has meant to those of us who cherish Hemingway.

You know, the whole story as to how Hemingway’s letters and of the Hemingway Collection came to rest here, I guess, has been told many times. As I've run it through my mind, I think it winds up being utterly appropriate. For one thing, I’ve gotten to know some of the people and know that they are very trustworthy guardians of all that is important to Hemingway, cherish what he meant to American literature, really to American life. Also, you know, there winds up being something very fitting about it. I think you cannot begin to understand the America that we’ve become without knowing about John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy family and what they represented in American life. I think we certainly have to say that Ernest Hemingway is the essential American author. This is said with all regard to Hawthorne and Henry James and James Baldwin and Philip Roth. Hemingway is the essential American author.

I am reminded -- Ward Just and I are both -- although I’m still employed as a journalist, I also write novels. Ward, of course, is fully reformed. But Hemingway, of course, began in journalism. I am reminded, inevitably, of the Sandberg phrase where he talked about Chicago being a bold young slugger set tall against the small soft cities. That’s very much what Ernest Hemingway, I think, meant really in world literature. He symbolized this quality of America as it was growing up, as it was bursting on to the world’s stage, and has become essential to understanding who we are. So I think his memory is very well served by all the work that is being done here by all these fine people. 

I’m going to begin, if we may, by reading a letter, in part because I don’t want anyone comparing my reading to the ones from Corey Stoll that follow. [laughter] But it’s when Hemingway -- I guess he was working for the Kansas City Star. He says … And by the way, those of us who have toiled in journalism -- and I should not use the word “toil” as opposed to “journalism,” because that’s really flattering ourselves -- but those of us who have ever earned a paycheck in journalism will relate to him.

He says, “I've had to work like sin and have concentrated about three years work into one. Through good luck and some natural ability, I have been able to get onto the game pretty well. In fact, I have been having better assignments than a number of men from three to eight years older than I am. And according to the way they are letting my stuff get by, I am making good.” He goes on to say, speaking of journalism, “This is what makes you mentally fagged. Having to write a half column story with every name, address and initial verified, and remembering to use good style, perfect style in fact, and get all the facts and in the correct order, make it have snap and wallop and write it in 15 minutes, five sentences at a time to catch an edition as it goes to press. To take a story over the phone and get everything exact, see it all in your mind’s eye, rush over to a typewriter and write it a page at a time, while 10 other typewriters are going and the boss is hollering at someone, and a boy snatches the pages from your machine as fast as you write them. How long would a lot of people I know last at that before going wild?” [laughter] Good question, isn't it, Ward? What chased you out? 

Let me turn, first, to Sandy. How do you assemble Ernest Hemingway’s letters? How do you find them? Where?

SANDRA SPANIER: Well, first of all, I want to say that this is very much a group effort. I’m the general editor of this project, but there are a number of other scholars involved. Robert Trogdon is the co-editor. We have several other people working on several volumes out of the 16: Al DeFazio, Miriam Mandel, Rena Sanderson. So I don’t want to take full credit for this, by any means.

I'm also working with a very distinguished editorial advisory committee appointed by the Hemingway Foundation. Those people deserve a lot of credit. I also wanted to thank Patrick Hemingway for conceiving of this in the first place. It was his idea that there should be a complete scholarly edition of his father’s letters, not a book of selected letters. He said he thinks that the value of a writer’s letters is in all of them and let the chips fall where they may. Very generously, he stipulated that all the royalties that would be due to the Hemingway estate should be funneled back into this project to sustain it over the long term, because we’re talking about 20 years or so. The Ernest Hemingway Foundation, which was established by his wife Mary, his fourth wife and widow Mary, has done the same thing. And no individuals are taking royalties so everything is going to go back to sustain this over the long term.

Finding the letters is a lot of detective work. We know the libraries that have big collections, and we’re sitting in the one with the biggest. There are about 2,500 outgoing letters from Ernest Hemingway here at the Kennedy Library. We have found letters in 250 different places, more or less, about 65-70 libraries around the country, around the world, and then individuals -- collectors, dealers, family members, people who got a letter from Hemingway in college and put it in a safe deposit box. So letters are all over the place and we’re still finding letters. But we didn’t want to go to press with Volume One until we had what we thought would be the bulk of the master archive. We know, and we hope, we’ll still continue to get more letters.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah. And help us understand Hemingway’s attitude towards letters or what his letters said in them.

SANDRA SPANIER: Well, he didn’t take letter writing seriously at all. He wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald once, “Don’t you like to write letters? It’s such a swell way to feel like you're doing something and keeping from working,” something like that. [laughter] So he really didn’t take them seriously. And his letter writing style is very spontaneous, informal, unguarded, uncensored.

He sort of bragged to George Plimpton in 1958 that he had written the ending of Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied. And people might have thought he was exaggerating, but upstairs here at the Kennedy Library, there are 41 different variants of that ending.

SCOTT SIMON: He was being modest in fact. 

SANDRA SPANIER: Yes. [laughter] He was such a craftsman in his published work, and the letters are such a contrast to that because he didn’t bother to make corrections. He just dashed off thoughts as they occurred to him. So we have the unguarded, spontaneous Hemingway here that he was not writing for posterity. 

SCOTT SIMON: Let’s turn, now, to Corey Stoll. Always a great deal of mystery surrounds a Woody Allen film. 

COREY STOLL: Speaking of which, they’re playing it on our monitor here. So I’m just going to turn around …[laughter] Because pretty soon … 

SCOTT SIMON: Well, wait, I love that scene. [laughter] 

COREY STOLL: I know. Pretty soon I'm going to be on there. 

SCOTT SIMON: Michael Sheen is the perfect over-educated American academic twit, right? 

COREY STOLL: That was that scene there.

SCOTT SIMON: Did I say the wrong thing in Boston? [laughter] Woody Allen told you that …Well, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. What did Woody Allen tell you about what he wanted from you as Hemingway? 

COREY STOLL: I’m not going to do a Woody Allen impression right now. [laughter]

But he basically just said, you know, “Like it’s written, like it sounds.” And of course, it had been years since I had read a Hemingway book. I had gone through a big phase in high school and occasionally gone back over summers and read stuff. I said, “Okay, that’s right. Just really short, declarative sentences.” And he said, “Hmm, not really. You’ll see.” Then, I just sort of followed what Woody had written, and he did such a brilliant job, both mimicking and embodying -- I think embodying is actually more correct, you know, his style.

SCOTT SIMON: So it was Hemingway of the page and of our minds as opposed to … 

COREY STOLL: Yeah, and he made a point; he said, “Don’t read biographies. Don’t listen to recordings of the man himself, because that’s not what this is about.” 

SCOTT SIMON: How intimidating is that, to play such a mythical figure? [laughter] Not a mythical figure, it occurs to me, for Woody Allen?

COREY STOLL: You know, when other kids had pictures of pinups on their walls, I had Woody Allen and Scorsese on my wall. I was a big film nerd when I was a kid, and I was really thrilled just to be having the meeting. I thought it was going to be probably a two-scene part. I didn’t know what the part was. Then, I don’t know what happened. I should have totally blown that audition. I should have gotten way too nervous. But, for some reason, I didn’t. And I guess this spirit of Hemingway filled me with unnatural confidence. [laughter] It was actually really helpful throughout the filming, because there would be times where, you know, Woody Allen doesn’t take very many takes. So it can be … 

SCOTT SIMON: He’s famous for that.

COREY STOLL: Yeah. You get enough rehearsal so the cameras know where to go, and they know how to light it. But he doesn’t give the actors any rehearsal, so you’ve got one or two takes and it’s a movie that’s going to live on. It’s a Woody Allen movie, so it’s going to be part of film history, and that’s scary. So I said, “Okay, well how would Hemingway handle this situation? He would not be intimidated. He would lead into the challenge.” Luckily I was playing somebody who was supernaturally confident.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah. Well, that leads us into, if I could get you to read one of the first letters. That’s a letter I believe Hemingway writes to his family back in Oak Park, when he is in the middle of World War I. 

COREY STOLL: Oh, I thought this was one of the very early ones.

SCOTT SIMON: Oh, did you want to read that one, the long pants one?

COREY STOLL: No, no, no. We’ll get to that one later. “I would like to come home and see you all, of course. But I can't until after the war is finished. And that isn't going to be such an awfully long length of time. There is nothing for you to worry about, because it’s been fairly conclusively proved that I can't be bumped off. And wounds don’t matter.

"I wouldn’t mind being wounded again so much, because I know just what it is like. And you can only suffer so much, you know. It does give you an awfully satisfactory feeling to be wounded. It’s getting beaten up in a good cause.

“There are no heroes in this war. We all offer our bodies. And only a few are chosen. But it shouldn’t reflect any special credit on those that are chosen. They're just the lucky ones.

I’m very proud and happy that mine was chosen. But it shouldn’t give me any extra credit. Think of the thousands of other boys that have offered. All the heroes are dead.

"And the real heroes are the parents. 

“Dying is a very simple thing. I’ve looked at death. And really, I know. And if I should have died, it would have been very easy for me, quite the easiest thing I ever did. But the people at home do not realize that. They suffer a thousand times more. When a mother brings a son into the world, she must know that someday the son will die. And the mother of a son that has died for his country should be the proudest woman in the world and the happiest. And how much better to die in all the happy period of undisillusioned youth, to go out in a blaze of light, than to have your body worn out and old and illusions shattered. 

“So dear old family, don’t ever worry about me. It isn't bad to be wounded. I know, because I’ve experienced it. And if I die, I’m lucky. Does all that sound like the crazy wild kid you sent out to learn about the world a year ago? It is a great old world, though.

"And I’ve always had a good time. And the odds are all in favor of coming back to the old place. But I thought I’d tell you how I felt about it. Now I’ll write you a nice cheerful bunky letter in about a week. So don’t get low over this one.” [laughter]

“I love you all, Ernie.” 

SCOTT SIMON: Could I just add something to that?

COREY STOLL: Yeah. 

SCOTT SIMON: He wrote that when he was 20 years old. That’s not the work of a 35 year old or a 40 year old. He was 20 years old when he wrote that. I think that’s extraordinary. 

COREY STOLL: Yeah. That was what really called out to me. I could see a mature writer writing that. But this is his first experience with death and it’s almost this same attitude that he has throughout his career towards death. You could see how early this started.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah. Well, Ward let me turn to you. As much as -- forgive the expression -- veteran war correspondent as a novelist, I still, in that letter and a number of others, would detect some, for lack of a better phrase, youthful bravado.

WARD JUST: Oh yeah.

SCOTT SIMON: Someone who’s trying to talk himself into that kind of bravery, that kind of belief, which is totally understandable.

WARD JUST: I think trying to come to grips with what bravery means, what that word really means, and what, when you're looking at it, what death means, too, it’s really an extraordinary passage, it seems to me, written by one so young. 

SCOTT SIMON: As a novelist, let me put yourself in Hemingway’s skin for just a moment. In addition to what he might be trying to work out in terms of personal testing and heroism, do you think we can detect in that letter somebody who is a novelist in creation? 

WARD JUST: Yeah. He’s taking everything that he learned during that experience, where he was wounded badly in the knee and in the foot -- a couple of bullets in the foot -- and he’s packing all that away. I mean, that’s material the way F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debutante parties were material. And that’s bankable. He drew on that experience, I think, his entire life.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah. Sandy, does the historical record benefit from the fact that, because he was wounded, he got a chance to write?

SANDRA SPANIER: Well, he later would say that war was a great experience for a writer to have had. What I think is interesting about that particular letter is it is such a contrast to the letters he was writing just a few months earlier. He couldn’t wait to get off to the war. His eyesight wasn’t good enough to go into the military, so he volunteered for the American Red Cross Service in Italy.

He’s a year out of high school, and he’s working for the Kansas City Star instead of going to college, as his parents would have preferred. But, “I’ve got to get over there. I won't be able to look at myself if I'm not in this war.” It’s a very gung-ho attitude. And, when he gets to Italy, he is sending postcards home, saying, “I’m going to the front tomorrow. Oh boy, I’m glad I'm in it.” And three to four weeks later, he’s seriously wounded. And you're right. This is material, then, that percolates and turns up in his great novel, A Farewell to Arms, in 1929, with a very different attitude toward wars and that gung-ho, “Let’s get over there” kind of attitude he had when he was an 18 year old kid.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah, it’s the Farewell to Arms that’s got that gorgeous line that I’m going to misquote because I don’t remember anything well anymore, something like,

“The world kills the very good, the very gentle, and the very brave. It kills them indiscriminately. The world will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.” That’s the mark of the Hemingway five, six, seven years after this war. All of this has been sitting around, bubbling around in his head for a while. Gorgeous passage.

SANDRA SPANIER: There's also a passage in there about the -- completely debunking the idea that …He says something about the words like “glory” and “sacrifice” and the expression “in vain” are obscene next to the concrete names of villages and roads and dates. So he’s come to see those abstractions and those patriotic expressions as very destructive and meaningless, compared to the very concrete experiences. So this is where we see him, too, that war experience having such a profound influence on his fiction.

SCOTT SIMON: Corey, among some other qualities that people in the arts -- actors and novelists -- might have in common is putting skins on and taking them off, trying to put yourself in somebody else’s frame of mind. As you -- because you have read more than just … Remarkably, you haven't just read the letters that you will read from here. You’ve actually read the letters. Do you see any of that going on with Hemingway, kind of trying personalities on?

COREY STOLL: Sure, sure. And different voices. There's sometimes where it almost seems lush, the prose. Or there's a playfulness that does make it into his prose eventually. But the sort of, you know, the bone-dry, completely edited prose that he’s known for, I feel like, at least in this volume, you're only starting to see it. That’s what I was amazed by, the sort of playfulness and these nicknames that he’s giving everybody and to himself. I don’t know if it was just his hurry, but this very creative spelling.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah, playful with spelling too. Yeah.

COREY STOLL: Yeah.

SCOTT SIMON: Sandy, you saw to it, in this first volume, you’ve got a whole list of the names he calls himself, the nicknames for himself throughout these letters: “Stein,” “Hem,” and there must be 25.

SANDRA SPANIER: Yeah, he’s got “Old Brute,” which gets sometimes “OB,” and then “Antique Brutality” for “Old Brute.” He just spins off and off and off on these things. Then sometimes his high school nickname for himself with a couple of buddies, he was “Hemingstein.” Sometimes, he’ll sign a letter with just a sketch of a beer stein.

And that’s “Stein.” So, you know, there's just this very early love of language and playfulness.

COREY STOLL: And also, there's that love of -- I mean, I notice in his fiction, he doesn’t just say, “We drank and then we paid.” He said, “We had a bottle of Capri, and then we had two glasses of beer.” 

SCOTT SIMON: And it was good.

COREY STOLL: “And I didn’t finish mine. And then we paid seven francs for that.” He has that in those letters, sort of these lists of what came in and what went out.

SCOTT SIMON: You know, just in the very first letter of this volume, Hemingway is, what, six years old. It’s a letter to his mom. “Dear Mom, we ate three ducks today.” New paragraph. “And then we saw two squirrels. Love, Ernie.” Or whatever. I mean, something like that. [laughter] But the specificity, this goes throughout these letters. I mean, as Corey correctly points out, it’s never “the drinks,” it's “five drinks,” or it’s 10, 20.

COREY STOLL: And part of that is bravado. Part of that is sort of show. But, I mean, I’ve had the experience, because I had a brief period between when I was cast and when I started, when I shot it, where every day I was reading for an hour or two or more. I was really sort of marinating in his work. And when you read that, sort of those lists of drinks and food, it really starts to intoxicate you. [laughter] I think there is a purpose to it, more than just … 

SCOTT SIMON: Did you put on weight while you were … [laughter] 

COREY STOLL: Well, I was taking boxing classes, sort of. 

SCOTT SIMON: Ward, you noticed a letter that I’d like to get you to read from if you could. I made a note of everything but the date, page 345, I know that.

WARD JUST: This is a letter he wrote to Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas in 1922. This would make Hemingway, what, 23 years old. It's evident, from the text here, that they're new friends. I'm not going to read, I’m going to more sort of … because I have a thought about it. I think I know the circumstances under which it was composed. 

“Dear Ms. Stein and Ms. Tocraz:” He spells “Toklas” “T-O-C-R-A-Z.” This is unaccountable. I mean they're not in a relationship where he would nickname her as he did everybody else. Who would have the bravado to nickname Alice Toklas? [laughter] Anyway, he writes, 

“We've been here for about a week playing the races with tremendous success. I get up at dawn and study the dote(?) sheet. And then after my brain is cracked under the strain, Mrs. Hemingway, with about three cocktails and an indelible pencil to aid her, picks winners as easy as cracking peanut shucks. With the aid of her alcoholic clairvoyance and an old friend of mine, that I think sleeps with the horses, we’ve had 17 winners out of 21 starts.” 

Skip down two paragraphs. “We had a fine time in Suisse, climbed a couple of mountains with Chink,” that’s a friend of theirs, “And then he climbed one himself and nearly got himself killed on Ascension Day coming across a torrent that was too deep and fast for him and met us at the baths. 

“And we drank 11 bottles of beer a piece, with Mrs. Hemingway sleeping on the grass, and walked home in the cool of the evening with our feet feeling very far off and unrelated and, yet, moving at terrific speed.” [laughter] “Hope to see you both soon.” 

Now, as the late revered mayor of Chicago used to say, Richard. J. Daley, “Believe that and you’ll believe anything.” [laughter] What must Stein and Toklas have thought on receiving a letter like that? 

SCOTT SIMON: So you don’t think he picked 17 winners?

WARD JUST: I don’t think he picked 17. I don’t think he had 11 bottles of beer, either, although that’s more plausible than 17 winners. [laughter] One of the paragraphs that I omitted, he had Hadley drunk and weaving here and there. I think I know when that letter was written. I think it was written late in the afternoon. And I think during the morning, Hemingway was writing not his journalism but his fiction. 

And my understanding of the way he wrote and the way the material appears in the page, I think he got himself into a half trance. If you're lucky, it happens to you too, you know.

He gets himself into a half trance. And he’s writing about up in Michigan, or he’s writing about any one of those early stories. And he’s sitting there, trying to put something down on one blank piece of paper after another. This would last until about three o’clock in the afternoon, until he reached that point where he knew what was going to come. At that point, he knows he has to put his pencil away, but he’s still in the parallel universe. So he sits down and he says, “Ah, what the hell? I might as well write a letter to Gertrude and Alice.” And he sits down and pens this and as he’s doing that, he’s still back in the parallel universe. It’s a letter of fancy.

At some level, all writers -- fiction writers, journalists, whatever -- at some level, they're all entertainers. He’s writing this book to entertain the two ladies. I imagine he probably succeeded, but I think that, frankly, they were baffled by what they saw in front of their eyes. So anyway, that’s my fancy about how the letter got written.

SANDRA SPANIER: In terms of just these stories, when he was crossing over to Europe on the ship with Hadley in December of 1921, he has two letters in which he vividly describes a boxing match that he has in the ship’s dining room and how they pushed all the furniture off to the side. And he was boxing with Kid Cuddy(?) of Salt Lake City. As part of our annotation research, we’re needing to identify with birth and death dates for our voluminous end notes, because this is a scholarly edition. We were able to find historical newspapers. Again, thanks to the internet, a lot of these things are now digitized. So I was able to, in terms of looking up who Kid Cuddy was, it turns out that the very night that supposedly he was fighting Ernest Hemingway in the middle of the Atlantic on a ship, he was in Salt Lake City. It’s in the newspaper. [laughter] He lost a bout. 

Now, you know, either Hemingway is fabulating -- I don’t know why he would have picked Kid Cuddy, because he was a lightweight, so I don’t understand that -- or maybe the guy on the ship he’s boxing with misrepresented himself. But there are a lot of interesting details like that throughout.

SCOTT SIMON: Right. Did you find that throughout the letters, there would be what Mark Twain called them “stretchers.” [laughter] 

SANDRA SPANIER: Well, he claimed back when he was in Kansas City, the Kansas City Star, he claimed to have fallen in love with this movie actress, May Marsh, and that they were going to be engaged. He gets two letters a week from May Marsh. Years later, someone interviewed this woman, May Marsh, who was a film star. And she said, “Oh, I never met Hemingway. I would have liked to, though.” [laughter] But the description is so vivid. But that’s what novelists do.

SCOTT SIMON: That’s what they do. [laughter] 

SANDRA SPANIER: They tell stories. 

WARD JUST: What a shame, you have to check on this kind of stuff. [laughter] 

COREY STOLL: Now, is it still true that he liberated the bar in the Ritz in Paris? 

SANDRA SPANIER: I think there is some truth in that, yes.

 COREY STOLL: Because I’ll kill myself if that isn't true. [laughter] I based my whole character on that.

SANDRA SPANIER: No…

WARD JUST: He was there, for sure.

SANDRA SPANIER: He was there, absolutely.

WARD JUST: Yeah, he was there for sure. I mean, there’s some question as to whether or not he was the first one in, but that was …If you were in the first wave, I think it counts. 

SANDRA SPANIER: I believe he stopped at Sylvia Beech’s bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, to see if Sylvia was okay before he went on to the Ritz.

SCOTT SIMON: So chivalrous and gallant.

SANDRA SPANIER: Yeah. 

SCOTT SIMON: Before he got to the bar at the Ritz. Corey, I want you to read another letter, if you could. You know, for all we might say of Hemingway and women, he had his heart broken more than once. Of course, that’s also reflected in his novels. But Corey, let me get you to read a particularly heartbreaking one. The 30th of March, 1919. And this is to his friend Bill Horne.

COREY STOLL:Caro, Amigo. It’s kind of hard to write it, Bill, especially since I've just heard from you about how happy you are. So I’ll put it off a bit. I can't write it, honest to God. It’s hit me so sudden. So I’ll tell you everything I know, first.” And then he goes on to sort of give news about their old friends back home.

And he says, “Now, having failed miserably at being facetious, I’ll tell you the sad truth, which I've been suspecting for some time since I’ve been back, and which culminated with a letter from Ag this morning. She doesn’t love me, Bill. She takes it all back. A mistake. One of those little mistakes, you know. No, Bill, I can't kid about it. And I can't be bitter, because I’m just smashed about it.

“And the devil of it is that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t left Italy. For Christ’s sake, never leave your girl until you marry her.” [laughter] “I know you can't learn about women from me, just as I can't learn from anyone else. But you, meaning the world in general, teach a girl …No, I won't put it that way. That is, you make love to a girl and then you go away. She needs somebody to make love to her. And if the right person turns up, you're out of luck. That’s the way it goes. You won't believe me, just as I wouldn’t.

“But Bill, I’ve loved Ag. She’s been my ideal. And Bill, I forgot all about religion and everything else, because I had Ag to worship. Well, the crash of smashing ideals was never merry music to anyone’s ears. But she doesn’t love me now, Bill. She’s going to marry someone, name not given, whom she’s met since. Marry him very soon. And she hopes that, after I've forgiven her, I will start and have a wonderful career and everything.

“But Bill, I don’t want a wonderful career and everything. No, that isn't really fair. She didn’t write ‘and everything.’” [laughter] “All I wanted was Ag and happiness. And now, the bottom has dropped out of the world. And I’m writing this with a dry mouth and a lump in the old throat. And Bill, I wish you were here to talk to. The dear kid. I hope he’s the best man in the world. Ah Bill, I can't write about it because I do love her so damn much.”

SCOTT SIMON: That’s heart-piercing. I circled -- that’s as magnificent a phrase as any he wrote: “I forgot all about religion and everything else because I had Ag to worship.”

COREY STOLL: Yeah.

SANDRA SPANIER: That was the Red Cross nurse he fell in love with.

SCOTT SIMON: That’s Agnes Von Kurowsky.

SANDRA SPANIER: Agnes Von Kurowsky, who was the prototype, then, of Catherine Barkley, the nurse in A Farewell to Arms. That was the day that he received a “Dear Ernie” letter from her. He had come back from Italy thinking they were going to get married. She was seven years older. And she wrote a letter to him which, of course, he kept, because he was a packrat. And she lays this all out. “I’m sorry. I love you more as a mother than as a sweetheart.” That had to be really painful.

SCOTT SIMON: Oh, not here. [laughter] 

SANDRA SPANIER: And she said, “I expect to be married soon.” It turned out, she then quickly got engaged to an Italian aristocrat, who then ended up dumping her because his family disapproved of this American adventurist. So that, in itself, just from the background of A Farewell to Arms, is pretty interesting, that he had his heart deeply broken by this woman who would then serve as the prototype for Catherine Barkley.

SCOTT SIMON: Well, let me ask all three of you to put yourself in Hemingway’s skin for a moment, based on your own individual experience. That letter is heart-piercing. It radiates sincerity and conviction. When he was writing it, was he also, in a sense, writing an early draft of A Farewell to Arms? Did he know that heartbreak was something he would use?

WARD JUST: Yeah. And there are some writerly touches in there. Well, I mean, he’s a writer. In a way, what else would you expect? But I’d be interested in knowing if that was a first draft letter or second draft letter. Dr. Spanier, what do you think?

SANDRA SPANIER: I don’t think he studied over letters very much. I mean, the ones that we have carbons for are business letters, or letters to a lawyer or something. But I think most of the time, he just dashed off a letter and it was his feelings and the heat of that moment. So that’s where we get this spontaneity. I don’t think he had any sense of writing for posterity. I mean, I'm not a novelist or have insight into the fictional process.

But I don’t know, I just have a feeling that this was spontaneous, off the cuff, his heartbreak, confiding to one of his pals.

Now, a month later, he is telling his other friends, oh he’s cauterized her memory. She means nothing to him anymore. Well, yeah. So ten years later, he writes a novel where she’s the main character?

WARD JUST: Right. That line that you quoted about, “I have heard of worship,” that’s a wonderful line to just come …But I mean, if you're writing at a moment of high emotion, whether you're writing a letter or you're putting something down on the page, I mean, that will fly out. You don’t know where the hell that comes from. But all of a sudden, there it is. And you pretty much know that, when you’ve done that, you’ve struck the right note. Whether the sentence before it is right and the sentence after it is right, that’s another thing. But that one sentence, you know you’ve gotten that down perfectly.

SCOTT SIMON: So did you get the sense, when there are certain letters that you read in this collection, that he was warming up, that he was beginning to get hold of his talents, that he was beginning to hone them?

WARD JUST: Yeah. The evidence, the last letter -- not the last letter, but one of the letters in the last half a dozen pages, has to do with Hadley arriving in Milan, having famously lost the manuscripts and the carbons of the 12 stories that he had been working on in Paris. It’s interesting that that isn't mentioned here in any way that I've seen yet. But it also means that, go back another, what, 50 pages, and he’s been writing fiction all this time, but writing short stories. Doesn’t mention a word, in the letters that survive. Maybe there are letters all over the place that have been thrown away and so forth. But there's no mention of the actual physical business of writing, where he’s doing it. We know from The Movable Feast that a lot of it was done in cafes and others in that house, in Cardinal Lemoine. 

SCOTT SIMON: Is one of the hardest things to appreciate, about any literary figure, but particularly one who has the kind of majestic shadow of Hemingway, is it hard to capture how much time they work in the letters? Because you just don’t write a letter and say, “I worked for eight hours.” I mean, how do you describe that? 

SANDRA SPANIER: His letter writing?

SCOTT SIMON: Well, how do you know his writing, his working?

SANDRA SPANIER: He talks a lot about writing and how much time he spends writing. Usually, it’s in the context of an apology for his letter. 

SCOTT SIMON: Like you know, mostly in movies, for example, when they show writers, the way to do that is they -- and I don’t know what they do now in the age of word processing -- but they inevitably show a writer ripping a sheet of paper out of a typewriter, crumpling it up and throwing it away. “Oh, I’m just not getting it.” Then they go, “Wait a minute. It came to me.” And they start pacing the room, reciting something that sounds really good. But that’s not how it happens when you're a real writer.

WARD JUST: Except for the throwing away part. [laughter] 

SCOTT SIMON: That’s right. [laughter] Throwing the laptop into the trash at this particular point. Can we learn much in these letters about the disciplined writer that he became? 

SANDRA SPANIER: What we see in this first volume is the frustration he has because the journalism … He’s making a living as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star at this point, and he’s frustrated by how much time that’s taking. He talks just a little bit about quitting the sheet, meaning the Toronto Star, to try to then devote his time to his writing. It is interesting how he really doesn’t talk about that suitcase theft at the Gar de Lyon, which happened in December of 1922, which is sort of a defining moment in his later reminiscences about his writing life.

Now, one of the early letters of 1923 is to Ezra Pound and talking about the loss of what he calls his “Juvenalia.” But it’s, I think, after he lost all that early stuff, that’s when he really found his voice and started fresh. Because his early fiction is a little derivative of Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner. So that seemed to be kind of a break but it is interesting, he doesn’t really talk about it much here in those last letters. 

WARD JUST: Or even not so much how these stories are being composed, but that there are any stories. At least the letters that I read,he doesn’t even mention that he’s working on fiction.

SCOTT SIMON: When I was an adolescent and I read the Paris Review interview with Ernest Hemingway, which I've subsequently learned, over the years, was written … It wasn’t an interview at all. He and Plimpton, I guess, sent manuscripts back and forth, I believe he said. Then, every morning he would climb up to his writing aerie, and he would sharpen -- was it 50 pencils? And I thought, “Well, I want to be a writer.” [laughter] I remember distinctly going out to Walgreens and getting packages of pencils. [laughter] I think I sharpened about a dozen of them. And I said, “This is utterly ridiculous. [laughter] By the time I sharpen 50, I’m going to be exhausted.” Maybe I just ought to try a little writing.” 

COREY STOLL: You’ll be 50 years old.

SCOTT SIMON: Pardon me? What?

COREY STOLL: You’ll be 50 years old.

SCOTT SIMON: I’ll be 50 years old. And then, of course, you understand that this might have obviously been a gimmick, again, one of his inventions, one of his artistic touches. I don’t want to call it inventions. And, of course, you realize that’s really got nothing to do with writing, although he talked about how it helped him center his mind or concentrate or something. And I just notice, in these letters, there’s the drinking, there's the friendship, there's the experience, but not the writing; which, after all, was his central experience after a while.

WARD JUST: The one really interesting thing that he says about writing was a wonderful thing that you quoted about journalism. I mean, that was really extremely droll and very true.

SCOTT SIMON: Well, you can see why anybody would get out of that as soon as they could under the circumstances. We have some questions here that you folks have submitted. Let me go through them. Sandy, I guess this would be for you. Was he closer to his mother or father? And were they supportive of his writing career?

SANDRA SPANIER: Corey mentioned how he had different voices that he wrote in.

One thing that’s really striking, he was close to both of his parents, at least in these early years. And that is one of the contradictions of this common place that he hated his mother, which later on, they had very strained relations. But the early letters in this volume through 1922, yes they had a bit of a break because she kicked him out of the lake cottage shortly after his 21st birthday for some antics that really weren't his fault with his younger sisters -- going on a midnight picnic.

But you really see a relationship with his mother. He writes to her about operas he’s gone to. They have jokes. He’s very much a good son. He writes separate letters to each of his parents, sometimes on the same day, mailing them in separate envelopes to the same address. So he has different voices and different conversations going with individual correspondents.

In the 6,000-some letters we’ve located, we’ve located letters to about 1,900 different people. So you saw the video of Patrick Hemingway talking about how many correspondents he had. With each one, he had a separate unique conversation. So I find that pretty interesting. But yeah, very close to his dad at this point. His father committed suicide in 1928, tragically.

SCOTT SIMON: I’ll address this question to Corey, and maybe all of you will have something to say on it. I don’t expect you to be an expert on this, but you certainly are an expert in trying to portray him. Can you touch on Hemingway’s drunkenness (alcoholism) and how it affects his writing? Now, you portray Hemingway as a festive drinker.

COREY STOLL: Yes.

SCOTT SIMON: But, at that point, was life … 

COREY STOLL: … but a social drinker.

SCOTT SIMON: A social drinker, right, absolutely, but not a problem drinker. Firstly, I would never dispute any question here, but I’ll leave it to the experts to define somebody as an alcoholic. A problem drinker, somebody who was very destructive of his health, absolutely. Alcoholism is in my family too. I go by the Raymond Chandler definition of alcoholism, which is someone whose personality was markedly different when they're drunk than when they're not drunk. He did so much work, I’m not sure an alcoholic would be as productive as he was. But I could be contradicted. Did that play on your mind as you were portraying him? Were you trying to get to any of that?

COREY STOLL: Well, you know, I am an actor who played him for 15 minutes in a movie. So I’ve read a lot of him, but I haven't read that much biographical stuff. Actually, more since, just because people have been asking me about it. But from Woody’s original direction to start from his writings, that that was what I was portraying. In his writings, it is a constant litany of drinks. And they're characters. It’s not just the character of alcohol.

It’s the character of, “This icy bottle of capri,” or “This foaming stein of beer.” So if this role is meant to sort of be the audience’s or Owen Wilson’s character’s vision of him that he has from his writing, alcohol has to be front and center, as does violence and talking about writing, because that’s what’s in the writing.

SCOTT SIMON: Your novel, Jack Gance, I read that when I was covering the first Gulf War. They had it in one of the piles of giveaway paperbacks. [laughter] No, wait. That’s …[laughter] 

WARD JUST: It’s okay.

SCOTT SIMON: I bought it for $50 dollars in a Saudi bookstore.

WARD JUST: Exactly. [laughter] 

SCOTT SIMON: And I was lucky to get it. 

WARD JUST: First edition paperback, huh?

SCOTT SIMON: No. The American people donated literature to our soldiers serving overseas and they said, “Oh please, take anything you like.” I hadn’t read it. It’s a Chicago, it’s an Illinois story. 

WARD JUST: Yep.

SCOTT SIMON: And I remember your lingering descriptions in there of martinis. 

WARD JUST: Yes.

SCOTT SIMON: And, of course, during all of that, I was in Saudi Arabia and then Iraq. 

WARD JUST: Dry.

SCOTT SIMON: So I finally get out and I’m changing planes in Frankfort. I walk into the bar in the airport there and having, under the spell of your wonderful novel, I go up to the bar and I say, “Can you make a martini?” And the bartender says, “Yeah, I make a great martini.” I get the martini, and it’s everything as you described: the droplets of dew on the outside, and so on. I take one sip and I remember, “Wait a minute. I hate martinis.” [laughter] Was some of this also shtick? 

WARD JUST: I think Hemingway drank alcohol the way Henry James sipped tea. I think it was just part of his life. It had been part of his life from early on. Then I began to have some doubts about productivity, because between For Whom the Bell Tolls and the fish book, The Old Man and the Sea, that’s a long … 

SCOTT SIMON: The fish book?

WARD JUST: That’s a long, dry period. That’s 14 years.

SCOTT SIMON: He was sick a lot, too.

WARD JUST: Yeah.

SCOTT SIMON: Plane crash.

WARD JUST: And he spent some time in the war and whatnot. But then after he died and they go into the safe deposit boxes, they find Islands in the Stream. They find The Garden of Eden. And one other, I think, too. I can't remember …

SANDRA SPANIER: Moveable Feast?

WARD JUST: Yeah. So he was productive, he was writing. He was just putting the stuff away. And there isn't any question that by the 1950s, with the airplane crashes and the booze, then things began to totally unravel for him mentally.

SCOTT SIMON: When I was here a few weeks ago with Paul Hendrickson, who’s written this fine book, Hemingway’s Boat, he talked about in the whole story of Hemingway, you can forget here was somebody who got up virtually every day of his life and tried to write something out of his soul. 

SANDRA SPANIER: He was very disciplined. He would go into training when he was writing a book. He didn’t drink while he was writing. He would do that first thing in the morning, and afternoons might be when he would unwind. But he took that very seriously always. 

SCOTT SIMON: Good question here. In an era of email and text messages, what would you guess Hemingway would have felt about these vehicles? And would he have partook in such methods?

COREY STOLL: He totally would have been on Twitter. [laughter] It’s the perfect medium for him. 

SCOTT SIMON: Write 140 characters.

COREY STOLL: Yeah. You know, he was all about paring it down to the absolute essential. You know, modern Haiku. I think he would have loved it and the publicity.

WARD JUST: He was not averse to that.

COREY STOLL: It’s funny, but I really think it’s true. I think he would have really gotten into it. 

WARD JUST: I don’t know. [laughter] I am surely the only person in this room who doesn’t own a computer and still write my books on typewriters and a 50 year old typewriter at that, Smith-Corona. Give them a plug. [laughter] I don’t know. I just can't see Ernest Hemingway, you know, tweeting or Twittering. I’d say I think you're right, to tell you the truth. I’m having a hard time grasping it.

COREY STOLL: It’s just it’s free publicity.

SCOTT SIMON: The pencil thing didn’t work out so well for me. But a few years ago, for my birthday, my wife gave me a portable typewriter that is titled “The Hemingway,” because it supposedly is like the one on which he wrote. Still hasn’t worked out quite, still haven't written A Moveable Feast have I? But I do fine.

SANDRA SPANIER: He did use a typewriter. From the time he was a journalist, he would compose at the typewriters. The letters are about half and half, handwritten and typewritten. There was a period starting in the late ‘40s where he would dictate letters into a wire recorder. We actually have transcriptions that were shared by the widower,

Walter Hauk, who figures in Paul Hendrickson’s book. Walter Hauk shared the transcriptions that his wife, Juanita Jenson, had made. There were a few recordings of Hemingway. He seemed uncomfortable with new-fangled technology of recording his voice, being on film. I don’t know. I kind of think he was more of a pen or a typewriter and paper person.

SCOTT SIMON: I think, Corey, we made you listen to a recording of Hemingway’s voice, didn’t we? Reading his Nobel Prize speech and you sound much more like Ernest Hemingway. [laughter] 

COREY STOLL: I agree. I had heard that. And I was like, “No, no, I’m not going to try to do that.” [laughter] It doesn’t help anybody.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah, exactly.

COREY STOLL: But, I mean, in terms of the Twitter thing, you know, Used Baby Shoes, or Old Baby Shoes Never Used, that short story, the shortest story ever, a perfect Tweet.

SANDRA SPANIER: No scholars have been able to really pin that down on Hemingway.

COREY STOLL: Oh really?

SANDRA SPANIER: Yeah. It’s one of those things that circulates from time to time. And please, I hope if somebody finds it, let us know. But nobody, to my knowledge, has been able to really pin that down, to confirm it.

SCOTT SIMON: Corey, there was a letter that Hemingway wrote to Hadley that had caught your eye, that I’d like to get you to read if we could. His wife Hadley.

COREY STOLL: Yeah. In the first paragraph, “You can make me jealous and you can hurt me most awfully, because my loving you is a chink in the armor of telling the world to go to hell. And you can thrust a sword into it at any time.” And a little bit later on, “Dear”-- underlined twice-- “Hash. You can surely hurt me a lot when you want to.

'About the platform and the train, Lord I thought I was loving you. If I wasn’t, I never could and never would love anyone. I guess I was thinking too much about how I didn’t want you to go. Don’t you believe I love you? Don’t know how I can make you believe.

“I didn’t want to kiss you goodbye. That was the trouble. I wanted to kiss you goodnight.

"And there's a lot of difference. Couldn’t bear the thought of you going away. And you were so very dear and necessary and all-pervading. Suppose when you tell me how nice Dick is, and so on, I ought to counter, ‘How enjoyable it is to dance with Madelyn and how nice she looks topside of a horse,’ and so on. But, when I think of anyone in comparison with you, you were so much dearer. And I love you so much. What odds kidding along about them? Of course I love you. I love you all the time. When I wake up in the morning and have to climb out of bed and splash around and shave, I look at your picture and think about you. And that’s a pretty deadly part of the day, as you know, at a good test of loving anyone. And in the evening, it’s too much to stand. Sure. Go on. Go to the party with Dick. But maybe once pretend I’m there.”

SCOTT SIMON: I like that.

SANDRA SPANIER: That’s one of the very, very few surviving courtship letters. That was December of 1920, soon after they had met in October in Chicago. She’s living in St. Louis, he’s living in Chicago. I wish there were more.

SCOTT SIMON: Tell us where you are with the letters now. This volume has come out. And there are quite a few to come, I gather?

SANDRA SPANIER: Yes, yes. And we’re working away at them. We have amassed our master archive. We started out with 12 volumes, but now we’re up to 16 because we kept finding more letters. The first volume was going to be through 1925, until we got so many new letters that we discovered it was going to be 1,100 book pages. That would be like a brick so we decided to split it. Volume 2 is slated for publication in 2013. After that, we’re going to try to maintain the schedule of 12 to 18 month intervals between volumes. 

SCOTT SIMON: Corey, let me turn to you, because there are a couple of other movies in the works with Hemingway, with lesser actors. [laughter] What’s his name, the Welsh guy -- Hannibal Lector? I know his name. We’re pretending to forget Anthony Hopkins’ name for a moment. 

COREY STOLL: As I was saying before, I’m glad mine came out first, [laughter] so I don’t have to be compared to that.

SCOTT SIMON: But I think there's something special about portraying Hemingway at this point in his life. I truly think of it as the defining characterization. I think, as he continues later in life, as much gets obscured by what happened to him and what he did to himself, as anything else, I think this is a distillation of the essence of Hemingway.

COREY STOLL: Thank you.

SCOTT SIMON: I mean, I thank you, certainly. We all do, for being a part of this and being on the Hemingway Council. Do you carry a feeling for him forward from now?

COREY STOLL: Oh, absolutely. Wen I had that period of a couple months of really digging into his work, I would occasionally read other things, other people from the lost generation, or other scripts that I had to do for auditions and things. And everything just felt so placid, you know. I mean his prose was just so muscular and vulnerable and honest. It had an addictive quality, in terms of reading. Everything else just felt trying to become that. So yes, I’m a lifelong fan now. 

SCOTT SIMON: And Ward, of course, for those of us who love Hemingway, it’s a significant year, an important one, and a tough one. Because, of course, this is one of the anniversaries on which he ended his life. Why do we keep rediscovering Hemingway?

WARD JUST: Well, I don’t think he ever really went away. There may have been a period in the ‘70s he went out of fashion in academia for a while, maybe from the ‘60s through the ‘80s, part of the ‘80s. 

SCOTT SIMON: But the Carlos Baker biography came out.

WARD JUST: Yeah, all the biographies came out, some good, some not so good. But his books continued to sell. I don’t know. Maybe it’s old guys … 

SCOTT SIMON: I’m sorry? What?

WARD JUST: Maybe it’s old guys who keep him alive. I don’t know. [laughter] As Corey says, there's something picking up about him, because he has been out of fashion.

That’s fairly said. But maybe he’ll come back in. Because as you pointed out in the beginning, he is the necessary American novelist. You have to know him. You don’t understand the 20th century without having read Hemingway. Don’t have to read all of it, but you should read a lot of it. 

SCOTT SIMON: Is one of the unfortunate things about being as famous a figure in American history, is that you become well known for what people take you to be, rather than people actually going back and reading?

WARD JUST: It’s the personality takes over, and people denounce the man. There's plenty to denounce Hemingway about, I suppose, personally and whatnot. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the books. The books are there. I mean, Hemingway is one way and what he produced was something else.

COREY STOLL: Well, he was complicit in that myth, you know. 

WARD JUST: Yes. He’s only got himself to blame, in many ways for the myth part of it. 

SCOTT SIMON: I’m struck by a question here. Someone says, “I’m struck by Hemingway mentioning luck in the first letter. Luck plays a big part in A Moveable Feast. Does that -- bringing in luck is part of the writer’s success and happiness, significant scroll in there. And happiness continued throughout his career, as is mentioned frequently in the letters. Luck. The luck of being alive, the luck of … 

COREY STOLL: Nice thing if you’ve got it. [laughter] 

SCOTT SIMON: It's really better than the other way around. [laughter] 

SANDRA SPANIER: He wasn’t very romantic about artistic inspiration. He would say that writing is hard work, and you just have to plug through it. He kept on writing through all kinds of personal disasters, the difficult Cesarean birth of his son Patrick, the suicide of his father, all happened while he had a deadline for A Farewell to Arms, and he just pushed through it. He has this expression, “You just have to bite on the nail and do it.” So I think people don’t really appreciate the discipline that he had as a writer. I think, also, since the publication of The Garden of Eden in 1986, which is a whole different side of Hemingway and opened up all kinds of gender and sexuality issues that were totally new and strange, although they really weren't because he published stories back in the ‘20s that were about homosexuality, for example, that’s opened up whole new fields of Hemingway’s scholarship.

I recently checked the MLA Bibliography, the Modern Language Association’s Bibliography and -- this is the scholarly yardstick -- 280 new items in the last four years of scholarship on Hemingway. If you go to the Library of Congress -- World Cat -- their online catalogue, between 2009 and 2011, there were 118 books in eight languages published about Hemingway, including 18, I think, Hemingway-inspired novels. So he is alive and well.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah, for sure. And I believe a line of sheets, which is true fame. [laughter]

I want to end, if I could, because it’s seasonal, a letter Hemingway wrote to Ursula Hemingway December, 1919. He’s talking about holiday presents.

“I’m sending you six rocks to get something for each of the kids and dad and mother. It won't buy anything decent, of course. But I’m low on kale.” Actually, nowadays, people eat kale. [laughter] He meant money in those days. “Low on kale and getting me some kind of trinket. Will you do this for me, old thing? The reason I’m getting Marge and Pudge something that costs more than what I get for you is all just because I’m under obligations to them. And you know how it is. You know I love you anyway. And I’m one Christmas ahead of the family anyway.

“Tell the famile that they can't see this letter because it’s about Christmas presents. I expect to be home for the fourth of January. Don’t break your neck. And have a good time. But you’ll have that anyway, won't you, neck or no neck. I have a good job and a chance to keep on writing. I’ll explain it in a letter to dad. I’m going to write him tonight.

"I hate to leave here, as I've had a bloody good time. And I’ve written some priceless yarns. 

“You know, sometimes, I really do think I will be a heller of a good writer someday. Every once in a while, I knock off a yarn that is so bloody good I can't figure out how I ever wrote it.” [laughter] 

Thank you very much for being here.

THE END