Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Monday, 24 June 2013
|Photo: JFK Library|
On September 11th, 1944, Colonel Charles Trueman Buck Lanham, with a smouldering Lucky Strike permanently dangling from the left corner of his mouth, was looking through a splendid pair of captured German Zeiss field-glasses toward the river that formed the German border less than a hundred yards away.
“ What's the problem, Buck?” asked Hemingway, who was playing a hand of gin rummy with Pelkey.
“ They've blown the damned the bridge. That was obviously the explosion we heard a minute ago.”
“ Who the hell are “they”, Buck?”
Monday, 29 April 2013
Pelkey, now fully dressed, puts a steaming pot of real coffee, a cup and saucer, and two slices of buttered toast, onto a table at which Hemingway is sitting, reading.
" What's the book, general?"
" Well done, Archie."
" Hell, I know a book when I see a fellah reading one."
" Well, this book, Professor Pelkey, is called Ulysses, and was written by an old friend of mine called James Joyce. He's dead now."
" Is that so?"
" That is so."
" So what's it about, this book by your dead friend?"
" It's about one day in Dublin, back in 1904, a day seen from the viewpoint of several people, most notably Stephen Dedalus, Buck Mulligan, Leopald Bloom and his wife, Molly."
" Looking at the thickness of the book, general, it must have been one hell of a long day."
" Archie, just pour me a cup of coffee."
" Yes sir, general."
The late screenwriter and novelist 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.
Sunday, 28 April 2013
Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck met only once, in May 1944, at Tim Costello's New York Bar and Restaurant on 3rd Avenue. By all accounts it was not a particularly pleasant evening.
The meeting came about through Hemingway telling his old friend, the journalist and novelist Vincent Sheean, that he'd once had a letter from Steinbeck telling him how much he'd enjoyed reading Hemingway's 1939 story, The Butterfly and the Tank - which is set during the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway replied that he'd like to meet the forty-two year old Californian writer whose war reporting of the previous year, from Africa and Italy, Hemingway much admired.
Vincent Sheean - whose novel, Personal History, was turned into the 1940 film Foreign Correspondent by Alfred Hitchcock - had spent most of 1938 with Hemingway in Spain (he was currently on a week's leave from the US Army Air Force) quickly arranged a dinner party that included himself, Steinbeck and his wife Gwyn, plus the novelist John O'Hara, and the prize-winning journalist John Hersey, now best remembered for his book Hiroshima.
Monday, 6 August 2012
On the 31st of July,1944, at Villebaudon, Hemingway acquired a captured German motorcycle and sidecar ( plus a badly shot up Mercedez-Benz convertible), and a driver - courtesy of Barton – called Pelkey.
Private Archie Pelkey, known as 'Red', was a 29 year old cigar-chewing grade school drop-out from Potsdam, New York. As his nickname suggests he had red hair. He also had sharp blue eyes, and a broken front tooth. Pelkey had already done two stints in the regular army before the war and hated military discipline. Hemingway ignored military discipline completely, which suited Pelkey down to the ground. By the time Hemingway and Pelkey split-up some months later the New Yorker was under the care of an army psychiatric unit. Many years later Pelkey died in front of his TV set drinking beer. It would be two days before they found his body. But on July 31st 1944 'Red' Pelkey was the first recruit of Hemingway's private army, with their opening offensive starting just three days later.
Tuesday, 17 July 2012
Ernest Hemingway Fights Germans, adopts a Dog and a Cat, and Helps Michael Arlen, late 1930s and '40s
Ernest Hemingway put down the volume of Zane Grey he'd been reading. Well, in truth, he hadn't really been reading it, just turning the pages. His mind had been back in New York in 1937, and Max Perkins's office, and his acute feelings for Martha Gellhorn, and the huge need he had to get into Spain and discover the sort of mess the country was in since his last visit. What a pompous bastard he'd been to think he could go as an anti-war correspondent. Who the hell did he think he was? He'd spent far too much time pretending to be some kind of bleeding heart liberal, writing for such dead-beat magazines as, The New Masses, and thinking himself some sort of latter day John Reed. But he'd done nothing to help the poor and the homeless, and the out of work, except on a very personal level in Key West, where he helped many locals with hand-outs, but most of that he realised was probably spent on booze. Unlike Martha, and Leo Huberman before her, he'd not even travelled America to write about the effects the depression was having on a nation that was almost on its knees, and he knew the government would have welcomed his high-profile contribution.
Monday, 2 July 2012
All Ernest Hemingway can see and hear is the death and destruction of the war. But he's looking at it as if it were a film, seeing himself as if from the back row of an empty cinema, and the film looks like one of those documentaries. He sees himself looking at the camera and smiling, but it's not really the camera he's looking at, no, Hemingway is looking at himself. And for a brief moment Hemingway knows, one day, he's going to shoot himself.
And with that thought Hemingway starts to cry, but there's no one to hear or see him. With Mary still away he's given the staff the day off. He pours himself a drink, not a big one, just a taster. He feels better as he climbs the stairs of the tower that overlooks the Finca, opens his writing book, takes a pencil from an old tin full of pencils, and writes:
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Mary's first obligation on arriving in the US was to go to Chicago to
see her elderly parents, and explain she was leaving Noel Monks so she
could marry Ernest Hemingway. Ernest listened to Mary explain all of
this over the telephone and then told her he couldn't possibly wait
another two weeks before he saw her.
"I'm sorry, sugar, but I have to go and see the Elderlies, and explain.
I really do.”
“ Sure, sure. Of course you do,” replied Ernest. “ Look I'll spend the
time getting properly shipshape and Bristol fashion. All
the folks here are looking forward to meeting you, and I've described
you to them and they think you're real swell. And I've cut back on the
drinking, not a drop until lunchtime, and only a small Tom Collins
before lunch, and then only a half bottle of wine with lunch. And I do
feel better, and the head is clearing real swell. Honey, please come home.”
“ I will. Just a couple of weeks. I have to see the Elderlies, and put
their minds at rest about you and me, and Dad hasn't been well.”
Sunday, 24 June 2012
Early in 1945, after hearing that his son Jack was safe in a German POW camp, Hemingway went “shopping for transport” and found space for himself aboard a Super Fortress that was leaving on the 6th March from Orly. On the morning of his departure, at around 3am, he left a scribbled note for Mary:
My Dearest Pickle:
I will love you always. I am going to get our new life together
started. Every minute that we are apart I shall be truly faithful. In my
heart, in my heat, and in my body.
Your Loving Husband
The aircraft stopped over in London for refuelling, and Hemingway made his way to the Dorchester to look in on Martha – she hadn't yet moved into her new home - who was in bed with flu, and as miserable as sin about her relationship with Gavin. Hemingway didn't linger, just told her to get her hair cut, and to quit smoking. Martha yelled at him to get the hell out, and threw a vase of flowers at his departing back. On the landing outside he kissed a very unsuspecting bedroom maid and tipped her £5 to make sure Miss Martha was well looked after.
Sunday, 17 June 2012
|Beach & Hemingway 1920s|
After breakfast, Hemingway and Mary headed toward the Luxembourg Gardens where they enjoyed listened to a French military band play a selection from Carmen. Then, after a coffee in the small café under the plain trees, they headed for the rue de Fleurus, which connects with the rue Guynemer that borders the western side of the gardens. Half way up the rue de Fleurus, on the left hand side, is number 27, and here Ernest and Mary stopped and rang the bell of Gertrude Stein's apartment. There was no answer. They tried again. Still no answer. After a while an elderly lady came out of a small dress shop opposite and told them that Miss Stein and Miss Toklas, having endured the hard years of German occupation, had, on a whim so to speak, taken a small house in the country, but where she did not know.
“ Perhaps Miss Beach at Shakespeare and Company could help, no?”
Ernest and Mary made their way back across the Luxembourg Gardens, past the gallery, and, after two left turns and a right, down to her bookshop, Shakespeare & Company, at 12, rue de I'Odéon. After looking in the window for a moment or two, they stepped inside. Sylvia Beach was sitting at her desk reading; she didn't look up.
Thursday, 14 June 2012
Every time Hemingway visited New York his first port of call was his publisher Charles Scribners & Sons - one of America's most famous and prestigious publishing houses.
The company was based in a ten storey building of classical design on the corner of 48th Street and 5th Avenue. The ground floor, faced in shiny brass, housed the elegant Scribner Bookshop, which, in the words of John Hall Wheelock, the store's manager in the 1930s (before he became an editor for the company) was a 'Byzantine cathedral of books.' Alongside the bookstore there was, as A. Scott Berg describes it, 'an unobtrusive entrance, with, behind it, a vestibule which led to an elevator that clattered its way into the upper realms of the Scribner enterprise. The second and third floors housed financial and business departments. Advertising was on the fourth floor. And on the fifth were the editorial rooms with bare white ceilings and walls; uncarpeted concrete floors; roll top desks, and bookcases. In this austere style, Scribners, a family business in its second generation, maintained itself as the most genteel and tradition-encrusted of all the American publishing houses.'
Thursday, 7 June 2012
Ernest Hemingway's head is swirling, but he can't make out if he's asleep and dreaming, or awake and in a world he can't recognise, or has forgotten.
Then suddenly he's back in Nancy, two years earlier, in October1944 - a place and time that haunts him everyday - and he's trying to kill Colonel Park, and people are dragging him off and holding him and stopping him from tearing the Inspector General's throat out; and it needs tearing out because he has to be stopped from saying these things about him, stopped from questioning Hemingway's patriotism. Stopped! Stopped! Stopped!
Oh good, there's Mary. No, no, it's not, looks like her though, but obviously isn't her because she's walked straight past, didn't even look at me. It must have been her, I know Mary when I see her, don't I? I'll go after her, surprise her.
But Mary seems to have gone. No, there she is, over there, just going round that corner. Hemingway chases after her.
There she is.
“ Mary? Mary?” he calls.
Mary turns but her face has gone, just a bloody mess instead.
“ Jesus Christ! ”
Hemingway approaches her and reaches out to touch the bloody face, but it's not her, it's his mother.
“ Hello, darling boy,” she says.
But it's not his mother at all, it's Martha. No, it's Pauline, or is it? How silly. It's Von, of course it's Von. No one ever looked like that except Von, and Hadley, and, and, and...
Monday, 4 June 2012
As Hemingway observed the beach activity through his field-glasses the pain in his head was excruciating. It was his own fault, he knew that, but to have gone back into hospital to have the fifty-seven stitches removed, as the doctor advised, would have meant missing the invasion.
And as he watched the almost continuous explosions of shells from the battleships hitting the German positions Hemingway vowed never again to take a car ride in a blacked-out London, especially with someone whose driving skills had proven to be inferior to their drinking skills. When the 1937 Humber Super Snipe ploughed into a huge steel water tank Hemingway had gone head first into the windscreen.
As another volley of shells screamed overhead Hemingway took another slug of brandy
from a battered hip flask to try and ease the pain in his badly damaged head. Thirty seconds later he vomited violently over the side of the LCVP. Okay, doc, he thought, you're right, don't mix pain-killers with booze.