“Constructing” Ernest Hemingway “There was a story around that I had gone to [S]witzerland to avoid being shot by demented characters out of my books.”
–Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to
F. Scott Fitzgerald, 31 March 1927.
“Translating down” is my term for that part of the writing process in which writers put events and ideas from their own lives into their fiction. The opposite to this process is “translating up,” wherein the actions and ideas of fictional characters have a direct affect on the lives of their creators. Deconstructionist critics have trouble accepting this latter process as valid, but I wish to argue that there are instances where it is plausible to use just such an argument. The characters created by Ernest Hemingway translate up and down, and help to create a kind of “vicious cycle” where Hemingway’s drinking was concerned.
There has always been a closer relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his fictional characters than between other of his contemporaries and their own creations. While Sherwood Anderson, for example, based many of his characters on real people whom he knew, Hemingway “lifted” real people directly into his writing (C. Baker, Letters, 145, 149). Instead of using his personal experiences as notes from which to construct new characters, Hemingway chose to put actual people and actual situations into his fiction. The question may be raised, then, as to whether Hemingway’s fiction is really fiction at all, or some conglomeration of fiction and journalism, and that is the crux of my argument. In order to illustrate the interdependence of author and characters in the works of Ernest Hemingway, I wish to focus on the problem of alcohol, both in Hemingway’s own life, and in the “lives” of a few of his short-story characters.
Many Hemingway scholars have argued that Hemingway’s own problem with the bottle translates down into the way in which his fictional characters use or abuse alcohol. Carlos Baker addresses the issue in his book, Ernest Hemingway: The Writer As Artist. Sheridan Baker touches upon this relationship in his long monograph, Ernest Hemingway: an Introduction and Interpretation. Kenneth Johnston’s The Tip of the Iceberg portrays Hemingway seeking to understand his own drinking through his short stories. Gary Thomas based his doctoral thesis on the premise that Hemingway’s own alcoholism turns up in his fiction. Later, I will look more closely at this commonly-held critical attitude, using these authors as examples of the translating-down school, for lack of a better term.
If the influence of Hemingway on his characters is roughly analogous to the relationship between Hemingway and the real people with whom he lived, then Hemingway may have had more than an influence on his characters, as scholars have so far argued. Positing the existence of only a one-way translating down from Hemingway to his fictional creations is, to me, an incomplete argument. Rather than an influence, I think that Hemingway had a relationship with his characters. Different authors call it by different names, but the idea of translating down appears in the works of Carlos Baker, Sheridan Baker, Kenneth Johnston, and Gary Thomas. I think that this translating down, seen by these scholars, was accompanied simultaneously by a kind of translating up, wherein which Hemingway allowed his characters their own voices (because they were, to him, real people) to such an extent that he was able to exert influence on them and be influenced by them, as well.
How is it possible to make such a claim? There are few “smoking guns,” few crystal-clear sentences from Ernest Hemingway in which he complains that the drinking problems of his characters have driven him back to the bottle. In the relative absence of such proof, I will look at two areas of evidence, from which I may be able to draw correlations which strengthen my position. There are striking similarities between the events of Hemingway’s life and the events in his short stories, as Hemingway himself freely admits in letters to Maxwell Perkins, his publisher at Scribner’s. Newspaper accounts and magazine articles about Hemingway, the man, helped to create a legend about Hemingway, the writer, which was often confused with his characters’ exploits. More often than not, the phrase “what Hemingway had done” could refer to either his own deeds or the things about which he had written. These parallels help us to establish an idea of Hemingway’s writing style, It is one in which actual events become, as he says, “fictionalized.” Second, we have Hemingway himself. The short stories themselves contain real people, real events, and numerous instances of drinking. Coupling these with Carlos Baker’s collection Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961, in which hereprints Hemingway’s letters which are held in various collections around the world, we can draw more solid correlations between man and manuscript. Carlos Baker’s compilation reveals Hemingway’s attitudes toward others, alcohol, his stories, and his own life more completely than any biography. There are a number of passages in Hemingway’s letters which point to an interdependence between Hemingway and his fictional characters. The stories “The Three Day Blow,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” illustrate this relationship most effectively.
After a discussion of the nature of the relationship between Papa Ernest’s alcoholism and that of his creations, the question still remains: why is such a correlation important to the study of Hemingway and his works? The presence of such a correlation would change the way in which we “construct” Ernest Hemingway. With such a “reading” of Hemingway as a man, his writing then becomes a reaction to his life, an activity to which he turned to seek catharsis. Roger Forseth talked about “Alcohol and the Writer,” with Hemingway as the focus, in the Summer 1986 issue of Contemporary Drug Problems. His treatment of Hemingway hints at a translating down/ translating up relationship, but his argument concerns itself more with therapy techniques than with literary criticism. The existence of this relationship might also color the way in which we may read authorial intent in Hemingway’s stories. Is the “Hemingway mood” changed in light of this new relationship, or is our concept of Ernest Hemingway, the man and the writer, unchanged?
Translating Down “The reason most of the book [In Our Time] seems so true is because most of it is true and I had no skill then, nor have much now, at changing names and circumstances. Regret this very much.”
–Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to
Maxwell Perkins, 12 August 1930.
No matter what they may call it, Hemingway scholars always include translating down in their discussions of Hemingway’s influence on his characters. Because of Papa’s problems with alcohol, they say, his characters have problem’s with alcohol. Carlos Baker, Sheridan Baker, and Kenneth Johnston, in studying Hemingway’s short stories, have pointed to this cathartic purpose to Hemingway’s writing. The influence of these noteworthy critics will also be seen in the thesis work of Gary Thomas, who espouses the same one-way influence pattern between Hemingway’s drinking and the drinking done by his characters.
Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: The Writer As Artist explores many facets of Hemingway’s writing. Structurally, Baker divides Hemingway’s life into segments roughly analogous with his publications. Baker’s system of division is especially apt when we consider that Hemingway’s life did run parallel to the events in his fiction, for the most part. Baker’s chapter on “The First Forty-Five Stories” is an excellent précis of Hemingway’s stylistic habit of “borrowing” people, places, and events from his own life in his search for an effective way to be truly pithy: getting across maximum meaning in a minimum of words. Baker writes “His short stories are deceptive somewhat in the manner of an iceberg. The visible areas glint with the hard factual light of the naturalist. The supporting structure, submerged and mostly invisible except to the patient explorer, is built with a different kind of precision–that of the poet-symbolist” (C. Baker, H,tWAA, 117). Baker also concludes that for Hemingway, writing became the ultimate means of sorting out the problems of his own life. Alcohol problems, woman troubles, and poverty were somehow more manageable if written about (C. Baker, H,tWAA, 124 ff.). At the end of the chapter on Hemingway’s short stories, however, Baker stops short of saying that the relationship between Hemingway and his characters is two-way. Baker ends with a puzzling statement:
Future biographers, able to examine the Nick Adams stories against the full and detailed background of Hemingway’s life from his birth on July 21, 1899, until, say, his thirty-first birthday in 1930, should uncover some valuable data on the methods by which he refashions the actual into the shape of a short story. . . . He is deeply interested in the communication of an effect, or several effects together, in such a way as to evoke the deep response of shared human experience. To record for posterity another chapter in his own fictional biography does not interest him at all. (C. Baker, H,tWAA, 131, italics mine)
Carlos Baker has, admittedly, done a splendid job in analyzing the manner in which Hemingway uses the events of his own life to create his short stories, but how then can he make the claim that Hemingway’s stories are not consciously autobiographical? Further, the question about the possibility of a symbiosis between author and story remains to be addressed.
Sheridan Baker’s biography of Hemingway for the American Authors and Critics Series is necessarily shorter and less in-depth than Carlos Baker’s study of Hemingway. Sheridan Baker, however, also focuses his writing on the parallels between the things that happened to Papa and the things that end up in Papa’s works. Although neither of the Bakers focuses his argument on the rôle of alcohol in this relationship, Sheridan Baker does mention an instance in which Hemingway’s drinking translates down into one of his short stories. The first monologue of In Our Time is spoken in “the voice of a Frenchman: ‘Everyone was drunk. The whole battery was drunk going along the road in the dark. . . .’ The high-school sensationalist [Hemingway] has found the affinity of alcohol. . . in the actual world” (S. Baker, 20). Baker draws the conclusion that Hemingway’s own experiences serve as a limited basis from which he plucked certain themes and pieces of events to serve his separate literary purposes. This disjuncture of author and work is Sheridan Baker’s mistake in his estimation of Hemingway. For example, in reviewing In Our Time, Baker sees the elements of Hemingway’s fiction as somehow distanced from their author. He says, for instance, that “in ‘Chapter 6’ the speaker’s voice has merged with the author’s” (S. Baker, 20), implying that Hemingway was able to separate his own writing voice from that of his narration. Such a view of Hemingway’s writing style would obviously preclude any discussion of the effect of his characters upon him (translating up, as I have termed it), since to assume that Papa had some “other” voice from which to write is to also assume that the characters cannot “tell” Hemingway himself anything.
While both Carlos Baker and Sheridan Baker mention some elements of translating down from Hemingway’s life into his short fiction, Kenneth Johnston’s collection of essays represents a wide range of views on the how and why of story writing. Johnston’s introduction to his book mentions Hemingway as being “more emboldened to write about himself, to draw directly on the most moving and significant of his personal experiences. . . . [He] would refer to [them] as his ‘autobiographical short stories’” (Johnston, 2, italics mine, & C. Baker, EHLS, 267, respectively). Most like my own idea of translating down is his chapter on Hemingway’s story “The Three Day Blow.” Johnston links, as he does elsewhere in his book, Hemingway’s own life and the events which take place in his short stories. After this chapter, however, there is a note which refers Johnston’s readers to Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, wherein Hemingway recounts the process by which he came to write “The Three Day Blow.” The note reads, in part:
In A Moveable Feast (pp. 5-6), Hemingway fondly remembers the warm, pleasant cafe on the Place St.-Michel in Paris, where, on a windy, wintry day in 1922, he wrote “The Three Day Blow.” In the story, it is a “wild, cold, blowing day” up in Michigan and the boys are drinking. They make him thirsty, and he orders a rum St. James. He is feeling good, for the story is writing itself. . . . He closes his notebook, puts away his pencil, and celebrates by ordering a dozen oysters and a half-carafe of dry white wine. (Johnston, 102, italics mine)
The phrase “they make him thirsty” means that as Hemingway was writing his story about two young men drinking, he then felt the urge to have a drink. This sort of causal relationship between drinking in the story and Hemingway’s own drinking runs counter to what Carlos Baker and Sheridan Baker have argued. In this particular case, there is a clear instance of translating up accompanying the translating down of Hemingway writing his story. Later, we will look at “The Three Day Blow” in light of Hemingway’s confessed interplay with his characters.
Even though Johnston’s book is closer in tone to my own argument, it still leaves out the idea that the two processes, translating down and up, are related somehow. Johnston sees patterns of influence in Hemingway’s writing, but not relationships. This isolation of processes can be most clearly seen in the thesis work of Gary Thomas. Thomas wrote The Influence of Alcohol on Ernest Hemingway’s Fictional Characters in 1978, before Johnston’s book of essays was published. The fact that Thomas treats the characters in Hemingway’s fiction as completely imaginary constructs alludes to the mindset of the Bakers: Hemingway’s alcoholism may have turned up in his writing, but his writing did not then push him to drink further. Thomas does not address the issue of translating up, because his way of approaching the relationship between artist and product can not accommodate such a concept. In his discussion of the way in which Hemingway’s characters use alcohol as a substitute for order, Thomas stumbles across, but does not recognize, an instance of translating up. His section on “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” reads, in part:
Helen, Harry’s wife in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” illustrates the solution that some of Hemingway’s characters have found:
She liked to read in the evening before dinner and she drank Scotch and soda while she read. By dinner she was fairly drunk and after a bottle of wine during dinner she was usually drunk enough to sleep.
[(Hemingway, SSoEH, 61)]
Though some of Hemingway’s characters, and particularly his protagonists, attempt to cope with their anxiety by seeking a feeling of order, at some time or other, and in varying amounts, nearly all of the men use alcohol as an aid or replacement for the order-seeking activity they have chosen. (Thomas, 27)
In this passage, Thomas focuses, and is right in doing so, on the way in which Hemingway’s fictional characters use alcohol as a “shield” against having to deal with reality. In an earlier section of the thesis, Thomas makes the connection between the author and his creations, saying that Hemingway often worked out his own problems on the page (Thomas, 13, 17). He fails to see, however, that for all of the cathartic effect that writing must have had for Ernest Hemingway, there was also a sense that he did not need to invent, to write, to create very much. The characters were drawn, not “from life” as the painters say, but “living:” the wife in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a real person, a “real stone cold bitch who I know, only her name is changed so I won’t get slapped with a libel suit” (Johnston, 200), as Hemingway himself put it. Hemingway later said of her, “God, but that story made me want a drink bad” (Johnston, 200). The act of writing then becomes a symbiosis in which both the author and the created characters exert influence on each other, not a pattern of creator-to-creation dictating of characteristics.
Translating Up “I cannot write beautifully, but I can write with great accuracy (sometimes; I hope) and the accuracy makes a sort of beauty. . . . I can make people because, as a writer, I have almost a perfect ear.”
-- Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to
Bernard Berenson, 20 March 1953.
If Hemingway drinks, his characters drink. This cannot be argued against, and each of the scholars we have seen has ascribed to this notion. If Hemingway’s characters drink, then Hemingway drinks. This flip side, this translating up of alcohol consumption, is something which has been overlooked. When Hemingway was writing A Farewell to Arms, he wrote to Isabel Godolphin in August of 1928 that he had re-read his work on the novel and thought the whole thing, the drinking scenes in particular, “cockeyed wonderful–so much so that I (afterwards) drank nearly a gallon of wine and 1/2 gallon of beer. . .” (C. Baker, SLoEH, 283). I now turn to three of Hemingway’s stories themselves, looking for 1) parallels between these characters and real people whom Hemingway knew, 2) instances of alcohol consumption by the characters in the story, and 3) evidence that the drinking in the story influenced Hemingway to take a drink himself.
“The Three Day Blow” is the story for which we have the most evidence that the events of the story led Hemingway to have another drink. The characters in the story, Nick Adams and Bill Smith, meet at Bill’s father’s cabin, get drunk, and discuss baseball, literature, love, and hunting. We know from previous stories that Nick is Nick Adams, but Bill’s last name is never given in the text of the story. The “Smith” comes from Hemingway’s boyhood friend, William Benjamin Smith. It turns out that the events in “The Three Day Blow” are told nearly exactly as they actually happened to Hemingway and Smith in 1917 (Johnston, 272). The character of Nick Adams, who most critics equate with Ernest Hemingway himself, is even referred to by Bill as “Wemedge” several times in the story. Hemingway often signed his personal correspondence with his nickname, “Wemedge,” which is a tortured metastasis which winds its way through “Hemingway,” “Weming-hay,” and finally “Wemedge”*1(Johnston, 96).Because Hemingway includes Bill Smith, includes himself, and bases the events of the story on real events, we can make a much stronger connection between the biographical details of Hemingway’s life which pertain to alcohol, and the way in which his characters deal with the bottle.
There are quite a few instances of drinking in the story, as the story is one about two boys getting drunk. Nick and Bill have already been drinking before the story begins, and they continue their souse-ing with whiskey and Scotch. They finish off the bottle of whiskey, and drain a full bottle of Scotch between the two of them. The act of writing “The Three Day Blow” was one in which Hemingway wrote about his own past drinking, and this past drinking “made him thirsty” (Johnston, 102), as we have seen. The evidence is strong for this symbiosis, as we also have such statements in A Moveable Feast to this same effect (Hemingway, AMF, 5-7 ff.). The next story in which there is evidence of “translating up” is “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” and there is an autobiographical character in that story, too.
In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Hemingway follows his usual pattern of combining real people and real events. The story centers on Harry, the white hunter on safari in Africa, who is dying of gangrene in his leg. His wife, Helen, waits with him for a rescue plane to arrive, but Harry dies in his sleep and dreams of being taken by plane to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, a sort of allegorized after-death narrative. The story, says Kenneth Johnston, “has a firm autobiographical base.” Even though Hemingway did not literally go to Africa, prick his leg on a thorn, and die of gangrene, he did gather enough experience to have written another nearly completely autobiographical story. He includes episodes from his own past in Harry’s reminiscences about wartime Thrace and Constantinople (Hemingway, SSoEH, 55, 65). Hemingway said of “Snows” that “I make up the man and the woman as well as I can and I put all the true stuff in and with all the load, the most load any short story ever carried, it still takes off and flies” (Hemingway, AoSS, 251). F. Scott Fitzgerald took umbrage to being satirically included in this story, name and all, so Hemingway changed the reference to “poor Julian” from “poor Scotty Fitzgerald” (Johnston, 204). In the Texas Manuscript of “Snows,” there is a passage wherein Harry remembers seeing “Malcolm Cowley with a pile of saucers in front of him, a stupid look on his face.” This was changed to “that American poet” (Johnston, 202).
As for Harry being Hemingway himself, there can be no doubt if we believe Hemingway when he said “I invent how someone I know who cannot sue me – that is me – would turn out. . .” (Hemingway, AoSS, 251) in reference to “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Alcohol consumption in this story is medicinal, or so it appears on the surface of things. Harry calls to his servant to “bring whiskey-soda” (Hemingway, SSoEH, 54), over the objections of his wife. Even though Helen says that alcohol is bad for Harry’s condition, she is later described as a near-hypocrite, in this passage which we have already seen as pivotal to Kenneth Jackson’s argument:
She liked to read in the evening before dinner and she drank Scotch and soda while she read. By dinner she was fairly drunk and after a bottle of wine at dinner she was usually drunk enough to sleep.
(Hemingway, SSoEH, 61)
After both husband and wife are described as having a fondness for liquor, they share a drink together:
[Harry said] “Should we have a drink? The sun is down.”
“Do you think you should?”
“I’m having one.”
“We’ll have one together. Molo, letti dui whiskey-soda!” she called.
(Hemingway, SSoEH, 63)
All of these instances in which the characters in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” drink are ways to forget, to replace having to make decisions with the pleasant nothingness of drinking. This nothingness, or nada, was a favorite concept of Hemingway’s, and it would appear that the “ghost” who may have haunted Hemingway and urged him to continue his own real-life drinking is, in this story, Papa himself. There is no direct evidence that Harry’s drinking caused Hemingway to pick up a glass, but the same pattern (of Hemingway writing about his own past drinking) that we saw in “The Three Day Blow” is here also. Even though there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the events in the life of Ernest Hemingway and the “life” of Harry in the story, there is enough precedent for claiming to see one as the other.
If we now turn to comparing life and “life,” the next story which we should look at is “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” The story revolves around Francis Macomber, his wife Margot, and Wilson the White Hunter, their safari guide. In this story, Hemingway made his characters such real people that he thought to conceal their real names even before his editor, Maxwell Perkins, would have told him to. Hemingway even explained, rather vaguely, about his sources for the three main characters:
This is a simple story in a way, because the woman, who I knew very well in real life, . . . the woman for this story [Margot], is a bitch for the full course and doesn’t change. I invented her complete with handles from the worst bitch I knew (then) and when I first knew her she’d been lovely. The man [Francis] is a nice jerk. I knew him very well in real life, so invent him too from everything I know. So he is just how he really was, only he is invented. The White Hunter [Wilson] is my best friend and he does not care what I write as long as it is readable, so I don’t invent him at all. I just disguise him for family and business reasons, and to keep him out of trouble with the Game Department.
(Hemingway, AoSS, 251)
Francis shows his cowardice when he turns and runs while on the hunt. Margot shows her disdain for her “chicken” husband by sleeping with Wilson. When Francis, at the beginning of the story, shows his cowardice, it is through offering Margot and Wilson a choice of non-alcoholic drinks: “Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?” Wilson affirms his manhood by passing on both of Macomber’s choices, instead saying “I’ll have a gimlet” (Hemingway, SSoEH, 3), combining vodka with Macomber’s offered lime juice. Margot and Francis also drink gimlets, because, as Francis says, “I suppose it’s the thing to do” (Hemingway, SSoEH, 3). Another instance of drinking in “The Short Happy Life of Francis” is when Francis hears his wife sneaking over to Wilson’s tent, “after dinner and a whisky and soda by the fire” (Hemingway, SSoEH, 11). After Francis has shot three buffalo successfully, without fear, the first thing he says is “Let’s go to the car. . . . I want a drink,” and later, “Let’s get that drink” (Hemingway, SSoEH, 29). All three have neat whiskey at the car, and when they are driving back to camp, it is Francis to whom Margot hands the whiskey flask (Hemingway, SSoEH, 31). Because Francis has regained his manhood, he is now ready to enjoy “men’s drinks” once more. Margot accidentally kills her husband, shooting at a buffalo which is charging him (whether it was an accident is a question for another discussion). Hemingway’ while he was writing this story, thought that it was “like being in Africa all over again,” and was so pleased with his story that he got drunk at least three times because of it at his home in Key West (S. Baker, 55).
Although there is no direct evidence of translating up from outside this story, I include it with the other stories because of the remarkable similarities between the circumstances of its composition and that of “The Three Day Blow,” for which we do have direct evidence of an upward translation. Hemingway wrote this story while in period of depression, abstaining from alcohol during the writing process, as was his custom (cf. Brian, 30-55). Since he would not drink during the time when he was actually engaged in writing, Hemingway wrote about characters drinking, even to the point of making drink a central metaphor in many of his stories, of which “The Short Happy Life of Francis” is a prime example. Therefore I think that this story is an example of translating up accompanying translating down.
The Vicious Cycle “I’ve finished. Have to go over it all this winter and type it out. . . . I want to go on a walking trip and let my head get normal again. It is tired as hell inside and since I finished the book have been doing good deal drinking again. Can drink hells any amount of whiskey without getting drunk because my head is so tired from those stories.”
--Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to
Ernest Walsh, 15 September 1925.
There may remain one objection to my argument that Hemingway, as an author, is so inter-connected with his characters that there is a cyclical relationship between his drinking and his characters’ drinking. Alcoholism is a disease, and as such creates a physical dependence on alcohol. No matter how much of a symbiotic relationship we want to see between man amd manuscript, we must also take into account the addictive qualities of alcohol. Roger Forseth, in his article in Contemporary Drug Problems, posits that the physical addiction of alcohol is, in Hemingway’s case, exacerbated by his preoccupation with the theme of drinking. By writing about drink, says Forseth, Hemingway mentally reinforced a pattern already taking physical hold of him. Writing about alcohol was one of the factors which hastened Hemingway toward becoming an alcoholic (Forseth, 364). Forseth also says:
[T]he boozing is central: the answer may be nothing more than a case of Hemingway sober and Hemingway drunk. He consumed prodigious amounts of alcohol, first as a discipline of manhood, later as a way of life. Yet nowhere in the many memoirs of Hemingway is he spoken of as an alcoholic. (Forseth, 364)
This passage helps to explain, in part, the reluctance on the part of critics and biographers to make the kind of correlation between Hemingway’s own drinking and that of his characters. If Hemingway was not an alcoholic, why should such a relationship be important at all?
Why indeed? Why is this symbiosis important to the Hemingway scholar at all? If we as critics are to see Hemingway as Carlos Baker, Sheridan Baker, and Kenneth Johnston see him (a writer struggling for catharsis in his writing), we may miss clues to the way in which Hemingway wrote his stories. I argue, finally, that this relationship is important to Hemingway scholarship because it makes plain the way in which Hemingway saw himself in relation to his works. He did not see his stories so much as his own creations, but more like “fictionalized” reports of actual things and people. This attitude is different than that upon which much criticism of Hemingway is based. I stand by my idea of translating down/ translating up, if for no other purpose than to push scholars to re-examine their bases of interpreting Hemingway.
Anonymous (uncredited). “Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961) Back in the Public Favor?” Potpourri Magazine 3.11 (November 1991): 1-2.
This short article merely set the tone for most o my research. It claims, and I wish I could find the name of this pompous goof of an author, that Hemingway’s works are no longer worth looking at because Hemingway’s mystique is gone (also read “He’s dead”). Were this so, I thought at first, Shakespeare ought to have been dropped from the canon along with most of my favorite Victorian-era authors. On a second reading, however, I begin to see the author’s point. Though this author’s tone is rather haughty, the essential premise of his argument is quite valid: Hemingway’s work may, in fact, have had impact because of the connections that society made between the words and the man. In Hemingway’s set of circumstances, what we like to call “professional distance” simply cannot apply. If this is so, my idea that the vicious circle of influences between alcohol and the way in which (and reasons why) Hemingway wrote might be of greater impact than I had at first thought. Although this article is poorly written, and apparently not even researched at all, the premise behind it hides just enough promise to make me re-think some of the reasons I have for studying Hemingway in the way I wish to. I found this article through luck of the purest ray serene: someone had thrown away the issue of Potpourri from which I have taken the article, and I picked it up to browse from.
Baker, Carlos, ed. Ernest Hemingway, Selected Letters, 1917-1961. New York: Scribner’s, 1981. PS3515 E37 Z53
This book of letter transcripts, though it took me while to find (someone was hoarding our library’s copy of it), was well worth the wait. It was in this book, in Hemingway’s own words, that I found most of the evidence which corroborates my theory of a symbiotic relationship between Papa and his fictional characters, at least as far as alcohol is concerned.
Baker, Sheridan. Ernest Hemingway: An Introduction and Interpretation. American Authors and Critics Series, ed. John Mahoney. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967. PS 3515 E37 Z582
Sheridan Baker’s book is a competent overview of the character types which show up in most of Hemingway’s fiction. What is interesting in Baker’s work is his argument that such characters as Francis and Nick Adams spring from Hemingway’s alcohol-soaked psyche. This is exactly the line of thinking which I wish to pursue, but I wish to look at it “backwards.” I think that such an argument is only half of the vicious circle that many critics have seen between Hemingway’s problems with the bottle and the way his characters are developed as drunkards and doubting Thomases. I happened on this volume after entering the LCSC heading into the LUIS system at ISU.
Beegel, Susan F. “Hemingway’s Gastronomique: A Guide to Food and Drink in A Moveable Feast (with Glossary).” The Hemingway Review 4.1 (1984): 14-26.
PS 3515 E37 Z6194 v8-9
This article jumped out at me from the table of contents in The Hemingway Review as I was searching for an article by Delbert Wylder on Hemingway’s letters. The title suggested that it would deal at least superficially with the kinds of food and drink in Hemingway’s fiction, so I started reading. Although Beegel’s treatment of the subject is necessarily narrowed, I found what I was looking for. One subtopic of the article was entitled “Wine and Harder Stuff.” In a very limited sense, I had hit the jackpot for my study of the relationship between alcohol and Papa Ernest completely by serendipitous good fortune.
Benson, Jackson J. “Criticism of the Short Stories: The Neglected and the Oversaturated–An Editorial.” The Hemingway Journal 8.2 (1989): 30-35.
PS 3515 E37 Z6194 v8-9
Benson’s insights into the availability of quality criticism of Hemingway’s short stories is especially valuable for me, in that it gives me the proverbial touchstone with which to test other criticism of Hemingway’s short stories. Benson’s article, actually a transcription of a speech, points out a need for further study of some of the “lesser great” stories, while cautioning against overkill and repetition in the criticism of such stories as “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and “The Short but Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” I have used Benson’s article already to weed out the names of some critics who are “repeaters” of other researchers’ ideas. I have looked at some works by David Kerner and Kenneth Lynn, and found them to be remarkably similar to Harold Bloom in their views about Hemingway’s stories, as Benson had predicted. Benson’s article appeared first in a search of the WILI database, and I subsequently found a number of issues of The Hemingway Journal in the LUIS catalog.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ernest Hemingway: Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. PS3515 E37 Z5865
Harold Bloom is, in some eyes, the great guru of criticism. He has recently come out with a book-length list of who ought and ought not to be included in the canon of “great” English literature. As pretentious as this sounds, Bloom is one of the few scholars who might be construed as insightful enough to be able to make such claims. Any collection of criticism which is, then, edited by Bloom can relatively safely be assumed to be of top-notch quality. Within this particular collection, I have found choice morsels by authors as noted as Robert Penn Warren (whose “Why We Write Fiction” defined that process for me), Steven Hoffman, and, at last, Carlos Baker! These three authors, especially, deal in Bloom’s book either with Hemingway’s short stories or with his alcohol problem. Especially telling is the transcription of an interview with Hemingway by George Plimpton. I hope that this book’s bibliography will help me to dig a bit more selectively through the layers of critical sediment surrounding the role of alcohol in Hemingway’s life and writing. This book turned up after a LUIS search and a long time searching through the stacks. It turns out that the library had just gotten this volume back from another borrower, and had not yet re-shelved it. Thanks to the quick eye of a reference librarian, I was able to locate this book on a cart on the third floor, waiting to go back to the shelves.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. Conversations with Ernest Hemingway. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1986. PS3515 E37 Z463
If, indeed, I have not been able at first to find Carlos Baker’s defining treatise on Hemingway, this collection of letters, essays from Papa himself, contemporary newspaper accounts, and criticism is a very goods consolation prize. The awed tone of the newspaper accounts of his life are contrasted sharply by the matter-of-fact-ness of the accounts of conversations with and about Hemingway. This volume even includes a few comments from the subject himself which deal primarily with his motivations for writing and his responses to public opinion of his works and his life. This book popped up on a second trip to the CML to check out The Hemingway Journal for another day’s worth of research. The only reason I even saw this book at all was because it had a black cover, and was mis-shelved with the volumes of THJ.
Cull, John G. and Hardy, Richard E. Hemingway: A Psychological Portrait. Sherman Oaks: Banner Books, 1977. PS3515 E37 Z615
Here is a truly Mickey-Mouse level book which puts a psychological pseudo-Skinnerian “spin” on the events of Hemingway’s life as reactions to the stimuli around him. Although I almost dismissed the book because of its ‘dumbed-down’ approach to the matter of Hemingway’s life as psychological study, I have kept this volume in my research because I now realize that I am, for all intents and purposes, not Freud, so to speak. The data in the book deals almost primarily with the various events which the authors posit caused Hemingway’s alcohol problems and led to his existential outlook on life (whatever that is. I merely paraphrase Cull and Hardy after having skimmed through the book). The authors cite the bottle as an escape mechanism in his life, much like my own argument that the characters in his fiction helped to drive him to drink. The authors believe that this is so, but they expand the causes to include the war, his wives, and the media’s reception of his works. So much for having an original argument. This handy tome cropped up on a routine LUIS search of the ISU catalog.
Forseth, Roger D. “Alcohol and the Writer: Some Biographical and Critical Issues (Hemingway).” Contemporary Drug Problems (Summer 1986): 361-386.
Forseth’s article treats the “culture of drink” as a psychological impairment, one of the same order and magnitude as schizophrenia and mania. He cites from many sources both from the psychological and non-psychological realms to support his argument that alcoholic writers (Hemingway in particular) are diseased individuals whose disease just happens to improve (most of the time) the quality of their writing. Forseth’s article interested me because it looked at Hemingway’s drinking from two perspectives: that the bottle drove Hemingway to write, and that his writing drove him back to the bottle. This second part of Forseth’s argument is nearly exactly what I wished to find in the more literary camps of criticism–an exposition of the possible reasons for a “vicious circle” argument. Although Forseth’s argument is couched in Skinnerian psycho-lingo, it is, for me, an easy one to follow. I intend to use Forseth’s line of reasoning as a jumping-off point for my investigations. I found this article through the FirstSearch database, and obtained it through the ILL system.
Hanneman, Audre. Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1967. Z 8396.3 H45
(See annotation below for this volume and its supplement.)
__________. Ernest Heningway: A Comprehensive Bibliography. Supplement 1967-1977. Princeton, Princeton UP, 1978. Z 8396.3 H45 (Suppl.)
Hanneman’s two volumes of wonderfully-documented entries were a joy to use. Simply by using these books, I was able to establish, with a fair amount of certainty, a copy text for Hemingway’s short stories which I wish to discuss. This bibliography is filled with all of the textual, literary, and contextual critical “goodies” that make source-hunting less tedious. Not only does Hanneman include a chronological listing of works which deal with or are about Hemingway (with have identifying marks for edition-hunting, abstracts, and are classified according to type of source), but she also includes another section, similarly organized, which deals with Hemingway’s works themselves. This is the source to which I turned to find reprints of Hemingway’s newspaper reports, different editions of stories, translations, letters, and other ephemera. Hanneman’s appendices are alpahbetized and cross-listed to the point of obssesiveness: a plus to the “stupid” researcher like me who ends up going through five “see also” listing before hitting the proper terms.
Hemingway, Ernest. “A Lack of Passion.” The Hemingway Review 9.2 (1990): 57-93.
PS 3515 E37 Z6194 v8-9
This “lost” story by Ernest Hemingway came to me by way of a citation in the Essay and General Literature Index. I could not find it, cited as itself, anywhere else, so a quick glance through the EGLI was worth it. When I looked up The Hemingway Review, ISU’s copies immediately came up on LUIS. I have no idea whether I can use this story as a piece of evidence in my argument, but I’d like to take a crack at some criticism of my own about this relatively “unargued” short story, and see if my argument holds up within the framework of this short story, as well. I have included this story in my discussions only to compare it to the more well-documented ones in Hemingway’s short fiction canon.
____________. The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953. PS3515 E37 A15
I have chosen this particular text as the “copy text” for Hemingway’s short stories for two reasons. Scribner’s was Hemingway’s favorite publishing house. This may have had to do with the editors with whom he worked, the large heaps of cash given him by Scribner’s, or a combination of both. In any case, Scribner’s was the only firm about which Hemingway was confortable enough to send cables like “you’ll get it [my manuscript] when I’m damn good and ready!” Second, the 1953 Scribner’s edition of his short stories is not the most all-inclusive (their 1987 edition has more, then-undiscovered stories), but is the most authentic. This edition of Hemingway’s short stories is the last one in which he had an editorial hand, saying what was (and wasn’t) being done in accord with his wishes. Manuscripts discovered later, like that of “A Lack of Passion,” must be guessed at and pondered over; giving such stories the stamp of “authorial intent” is more difficult.
Hemingway, Gregory H. Papa: A Personal Memoir. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976. PS3515 E37 Z617
In Gregory Hemingway’s book, the part played by alcohol in the life of his father Ernest comes out in force. This is prime ground on which to build my argument, for in this book, all of the specific details crop up that I had wanted to see in the collections of more “distanced” criticism. Though much of the book is a tell-all sort of Kitty-Kelly-ish can-you-believe-my-father-would-do-that sort of shocker, the instances where the author discusses his father’s alcoholism seem well thought out and (pardon the pun) soberly done. This is another book which came to me after a quick browse on the shelves near The Hemingway Journal.
Johnston, Kenneth G. The Tip of the Iceberg: Hemingway and the Short Story. Greenwood: Penkevill, 1987. PS 3515 E37 Z6535
Johnston’s book is a treasure trove of quips, quotes, and good solid criticism of nearly all of Hemingway’s short stories. He relies on the opinions of earlier critics where it is appropriate to do so, showing the reader that his arguments are grounded in careful research. This is not a book that repeats the scholarship of others, but builds upon such work to come to its own understanding of the message, medium, and messenger Hemingway. An interesting side-note appears in this volume’s acknowledgments: Johnston relied upon, among others, ISU’s own Joe Weixlmann for assistance and guidance in writing the book. Here is an “asking knowledgeable people” lead which I wish to follow up. I found this book because it fell off the shelf as I pulled out another volume.
Jain, S. P. Hemingway: A Study of His Short Stories. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1985. PS3515 E37 Z6496
This looks like a thesis masquerading as a book. Jain’s language is highly specialized, and the book’s structure is highly formalized. A further impediment to understanding Jain’s points is that this book was printed in New Delhi, India, and it is painfully obvious that many sections did not have a copy editor who spoke any English. It’s a shame that such things get in the way of his text, because Jain has a rather unique view of the role of alcohol in Hemingway’s short stories. From my quick glance at his topic sentences, it appears as though he discounts alcohol as any kind of factor at all. For Jain, the bottle is merely a plot device, and not related to Hemingway’s life or his overarching writing themes. I will read this book with special scrutiny, to say the least. This book showed up on a LUIS keyword search of the term .
Knauf, Andrew L. Alcohol as a Symbolic Buttress in Hemingway’s Long Fiction. Dissertation. Microfilm. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1979. OCLC 9727427
Even though the listing for this thesis on the FirstSearch system called it a microfilm, what I received through the Inter-Library Loan system was very much a bound, readable, text. Thank God for small miracles, say I. Knauf’s dissertation looks at the “flip side” of alcoholism in Hemingway’s works–how Papa used alcohol to reveal plot structure, theme, and character. Because Knauf centers his research on Hemingway’s longer works, his work is not of immediate benefit to my own research, but the themes upon which Knauf touches relate to my own research, in that he examines alcoholism as both a motivated construct in Hemingway’s fiction and a motivator which led Hemingway to do his writing in the first place. More on this dissertation when I have had a chance to thoroughly digest its contents. I found this source using the FirstSearch database.
Larson, Kelli A. Ernest Hemingway: A Reference Guide, 1974-1989. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990. Z 8396.3 L37
Although I have used Hanneman’s comprehensive bibliography to track down the greater part of my research volumes, its great drawback is that it stops at 1967. Its supplement covers the period from 1967 to 1977. Scholarship done since then has not received, as far as I can gather, the kind of thorough treatment that Hanneman has give her collection. In the abscence of anything better to use for finding up-to-date sources, I have turned to Larson’s bibliography. It is merely a glorified chronological list, with no identifying information for the scholar who wishes to find a particualr edition, no abstracts, no commentary, no tracings, nothing of value besides the name, rank, and serial number of the work in question. This bare-bones structure has hampered my efforts to collect more recent findings on the alcohol-Hemingway connection. Using Larson’s volume is better than winging it, but only slightly so.
Nagel, James, ed. Ernest Hemingway: The Writer in Context. Madison: University of Wisconsin UP, 1984. PS3515 E37 Z58695
Tom Stoppard wrote an article for this book! It is divided into personal remembrances of Hemingway (under which category Stoppard’s bit appears), the composition of Hemingway’s stories, and the catch-all “Interpretations Biographical and Critical.” Each section is full, it seems, of absolute dreck, save the article from Stoppard, which reads like a set of notes for one of his speeches. It deals with the manner in which Hemingway used language, or, to be more precise, Stoppard says that Hemingway’s language used him. It is this sort of reversal of the expected state of things that I wish to posit as a reason for the existence of the “other half” of the argument that Hemingway’s alcoholism shows up in his characters: I say also that his characters’ alcoholism shows up in him. Stoppard’s theory is akin to mine: “right church, wrong pew,” as they say. Nagel’s book was already on my bookshelf (I can’t quite remember why or where I got it in the first place), so it was an easy starting point to type in the author and title to gain a foothold in my LUIS, FirstSearch, and MLA database searches.
Ryan, Frank L. The Immediate Critical Reception of Ernest Hemingway. Washington: University Press of America, 1980. PS 3515 E37 Z79
This is merely a stripped-down version of Stephens’ monumental collection of newspaper clippings about Hemingway’s critic contemporaries’ views about his work. The reason I like this slim volume is that it includes much of the chapter-by-chapter, section-by-section criticism which is painfully missing from Stephens’ work. I plan to use the two volumes as a complementary set. This book came to me through a LUIS card catalog search.
Smith, Paul. A Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989. PS3515 E37 Z864
For each of Hemingway’s short stories, this book provides a cornucopia of raw data. each story is treated in terms of the history of its composition, publication history, sources, and influences. Each collection of data is followed by a piece of criticism, a list of other critical works, and a cross-referenced bibliography that is absolutely superb. Had I known about this work when I started my research, I would have used it as the starting point for finding other works relevant to my topic. Many of the works which are cited in my own bibliography are listed in Smith’s collections as well. This leads me to believe that a good number of Smith’s Works Cited entries which I have not come across yet may be good works with which to spread my net more effectively over a narrower area of research. It might be “cheating” a bit, but Smith also includes with each short story entry a bit of plot summary. It’s not exactly Cliff’s Notes, but it has already helped me to come to a short list of the stories about which I wish to talk in my own research.
Stephens, Robert O., ed. Ernest Hemingway: The Critical Reception. New York: Burt Franklin, 1977. PS3515 E37 Z5868
This weighty volume is a collection of newspaper articles which deal with the manner in which the press, the public, and the literati of Hemingway’s own time saw Hemingway’s work. Since this is as close I’ll probably ever get to hearing true primary criticism, Stephens’ book does me a great service: it saves me, at least partially, from having to dig through mountains of microfiches to find relevant newspaper articles. In this regard, Stephens’ book will not be one which will give me an argument with which or against which I may argue, but rather gives me some “backgrounding” in the spirit of critical writing between 1925 (“In Our Time”) to 1972 (posthumous publication of the “Nick Adams Stories”). I found this book through the LUIS card catalog system.
Thomas, Gary Nelson. The Influence of Alcohol on Ernest Hemingway’s Fictional Characters. Thesis. N. p., Eastern Illinois University, 1978. OCLC 4338563
Thomas’ thesis came to me through the ILL system, and I have found that this work, which I had thought would be a seminal influence on the way in which I shaped my argument, is absolutely ill-suited for my research. It takes the stance which I could have found in any good major critic’s work: that Hemingway’s alcoholism directly influenced the actions taken by his characters. In other words, even though Thomas includes many new examples of this established argument, he does not present any new argument. As such, this thesis may eventually serve me as a concise reference source which pulls together releveant criticism from Carlos Baker and his ilk, but not as much of anything else. I found this thesis through the FirstSearch database.
Wagner-Martin, Linda. Ernest Hemingway: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1977. Z8396.3 W33
I need to do some more browsing through this volume in order to determine what articles and books are out there which deal specifically with Hemingway and alcohol. Wagner’s sections on Hemingway’s major works and essay collections which deal with Hemingway are very sketchy; they are included not in the main text, but in the introductory roman-numeral pages. Entries in this work are merely cited, not commented upon or summarized. It is impossible to find a particular edition of a work using Wagner’s information, because no identifying information is given. The index in this bibliography is particularly weak, so I have been reduced to semi-weekly trips to the library to browse through this book and find promising leads. This volume was, sadly, listed in the back of Harner’s Literary Research Guide.
Workman, Brooke. In Search of Ernest Hemingway: A Model for Teaching a Literature Seminar. N. p.: NCTE, 1979. PS3515 E37 Z954
Since I am already familiar with the concept that teachers often ask the important questions, I went to this National Council of Teachers of English handbook to find out what other teachers considered the basic questions to ask. I chose the handbook geared to a high school syllabus because it would, I assumed, ask the broad questions which I, Hemingway dunderhead, could then narrow to suit my needs. I was horribly wrong, but pleasantly surprised. The questions and exercises posed in this handbook for high school students are tough and stress critical thinking. These strategies will help me analyze the more scholarly criticism through which I will be wading. The bibliography, geared to the teacher of a unit on Hemingway, is absolutely stunning! Here, in one place, are relevant books, journal and magazine articles, educational films from television, filmstrips, records, cassettes, pictures, posters, and Hollywood films which all deal with Hemingway in some manner. This will be the Virgil to my Dante! I found it collecting dust on the oversize shelf (I always check there because, I must confess, I love pictures of the things I’m studying).
Wylder, Delbert E. “The Critical Reception of Ernest Hemingway’s Selected Letters, 1917-1961.” The Hemingway Review 3.1 (Fall 1983): 54-60.
PS 3515 E37 Z6194 v3-4
I found this article in the bibliography of Harold Bloom’s Ernest Hemingway: Modern Critical Views as a reference source for some of the essays included therein. When I typed in the title of the article into the FirstSearch database, I found that it came from The Hemingway Journal. I had already found other articles in that journal, so I went right up to the PS 3515 E 37 shelf and grabbed the appropriate volume of journals. This article appears to be a good background source for my research because it includes the earliest (according to Wylder, anyway) known critical articles about Hemingway’s correspondence, often including anecdotes and explanations from the recipients of those letters. The scope of this article is necessarily narrow, but those subjects he does choose to include in the article are well-researched, and he reviews the reviewers: a valuable service to a Hemingway neophyte like me. I have also found out that Dr. Wylder is chair of the English Department at Murray State in Kentucky. Here is another good opportunity to talk to knowledgeable people. If I can find his E-main address, a query to him may be forthcoming.
Other Works Cited
Baker, Carlos. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1952. PS3515 E37 Z58 Brian, Denis. The True Gen: An Intimate Potrait of Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him. New York: Dell Publishing, 1988. PS3515 E37 Z58264 Flora, Joseph M. Ernest Hemingway: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989. PS3515 E37 Z5938 Hemingway, Ernest. The Art of the Short Story. N.p. Unpublished typescript, 1957.
(Held at U. Texas, Austin) Hemingway, Leicester. My Brother, Ernest Hemingway. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1961. PS3515 E37 Z62
1* Hemingway used the -edge ending to signify a quantity of something. The nickname means, literally, “full of Wem.”