Wednesday September 30, 2015
F: 8:30 p.m. So, Papa, you and Pauline and the church and a new life, next.
EH: Yes but just note that here and do something else. You don’t know how much this takes out of you, because it is so natural, seems so easy. Better once a day, not more.
F: All right, I can do that. Till tomorrow morning, then.
Wednesday September 30, 2015
F: 1:05 a.m. How about now?
EH: Well, we’ll see.
F: You know where we are. [long pause] Or maybe not quite yet.
EH: Probably better not. One or two more sleep cycles.
4:15 a.m. The clock said, clearly, two minutes to midnight, but I said to myself, “it can’t possibly be that,” and when I actually opened my eyes and got to a clock, it was 4:15. Two sleep cycles, as advertised. I sure had to force myself to my feet though. Interesting push / pull – my slightly wheezing lungs versus my reluctant frame. A little coffee should fix that.
So, Papa, let’s continue. Seems to me, Joseph Campbell’s statement quoted in Jeffrey Kripal’s book Esalen applies particularly to this phase of your life. [“If there is a path, it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”]
EH: Perhaps it does. But at the time, all I could feel was the breaking of the stones beneath my feet. I wasn’t trying to follow any one person’s path, but I had had a sense of my own – the struggling artist who makes good, you know – and now all of a sudden –
Well, my story never quite matched the stories I was trying to imitate, and from the very beginning I was adjusting the facts to match what they should have been if I was going to live up to the story. You know? You and I started with this question after you read the first book of [Michael] Reynolds’ five-volume biography.
F: I sure do. I could see the discrepancies but at the same time I couldn’t write you off as a phony and a poseur, and you helped me reconcile the outer facts with the inner facts of your life.
EH: And maybe if we hadn’t started off in that problematic way, you wouldn’t have gotten interested enough to keep going.
F: Maybe not, though that is hard to imagine now. And we’re going to have to come back to this, too, aren’t we, at different stages of your life?
EH: If we retrace the whole thing again, probably. But why would we do that?
F: Don’t ask me! I only work here.
So let’s continue where we left off, you having to start again.
EH: It will be hard for people to understand, soon. In my day, in my upbringing, people did not get divorced. They might spend their lives in unhappy marriages – even desperately unhappy marriages – but divorce was beyond the pale. I was rebellious against every feature of Oak Park, but that should tell you that I was still prisoner to its ways, or I wouldn’t have had anything to fight against.
F: Complicated subject right there. As I was writing it out, I thought of you visiting your family for Christmas, 1923 and not bringing Hadley or – most important – their 10-week-old grandson. You had reasons, but they were just reasons. You never did bring him to see them, and never did bring Patrick or Gregory, either.
EH: No. And as you know, it was emotionally complicated. I loved my father but I couldn’t be his dependent son, and it was even more so with my mother. And beneath all of that was my relationship not even with Oak Park but with the childhood that had produced me but wasn’t what I wanted it to have been.
F: Any more than the Red Cross was the Army or “an industrial accident” was war heroism.
EH: That’s it. I was still busy creating myself, and it took a lot of energy, papering over all those flaws in the scenery. [I think this should have been, “flaws in the background,” or in the pattern.]
F: But then – it just comes to me (interesting, this process. Detours or seeming inadvertences move me, position me, slightly, until I ask different questions from the ones I intended to ask, because somehow I am seeing things at a new angle) one of the many things divorce meant to you was liberation, in a way. And divorcing Hadley meant divorcing a more conventional part of yourself (romantic young artist making his way), which you did want – thus adding one more cross-current to how you felt about it.
EH: One more not-quite-conscious cross-current. No wonder I felt like I was being torn to pieces. Yes, and I loved Hadley – always did – but people stand in for so many things in a man’s life. Interesting. I’ll have a talk with her, see how she saw it. “Talk” is a translation, of course, but I don’t want to go into how we communicate here, it isn’t all that different from what you and I are doing now, and it isn’t the point at the moment.
F: No. So, I move the previous question. You and Pauline and the church and a new life.
EH: Pauline’s family was intensely Catholic. So was Pauline. And this presented me with an opportunity. If she had been one more Protestant, it wouldn’t have represented such a break from my past, and this was a break I wanted. That is, it was a break away from my “story” and toward what I really was inside.
F: I get that. Go ahead.
EH: No Hemingway was Catholic! And they weren’t southern, either, and weren’t commercial successes, except my damned Uncle George. The Pfeiffers were a world away from the Hemingways, not to mention the Halls. But this is all still external. The fact is, I was exposed to a simple Catholic country at my most impressionable age, and it took.
F: That’s going to take much more exposition.
EH: I know it, but we’re getting there. A summary statement doesn’t have to come at the end of an exposition, it can precede it just as well.
So let’s try to set it out. For the moment let’s disregard the other aspects of Pauline – her wealth, her Uncle Gus, her chic, her intelligence as a reader and editor – and let’s stick to one thing: her Catholicism, because in some ways that was the greatest of the opportunities this new life offered. People think I married her for her money. They don’t stop to consider, I assumed, and assumed correctly, that I was going to make a lot of money myself. Not Safari-in-Africa money, but that wasn’t in my sights then. Money to live well while I did my work. I knew it was on its way. I didn’t need Pauline’s money to support me. In fact, in some ways her money was a step backwards, into Oak Park respectability. That’s one reason I liked Key West so much. [I.e., it wasn’t.]
F: Tempting side-note but let’s pick it up at another time. And we can talk about “the useless money” you mentioned somewhere. But not now.
EH: There is a big difference between a Catholic and a Protestant way of seeing the world. Maybe less so in your day, I don’t know because you don’t know. But in the 1920s they were very different, and everybody knew it. Were, had been, and we assumed would continue to be.
F: Can you spell it out as you experienced it?
EH: I can, but I’m painfully aware of how little I knew about it, really. To me, Protestant meant Episcopalian, and it meant social respectability and a sense of moral and social superiority.
F: Oak Park, in short, rather than the church itself.
EH: Sure – but I didn’t do the thinking that would have been required to untangle it. Anyway, that was about all I really knew. Baptists, Quakers, other sects, not much. Methodists I might know socially, but not on religious grounds, if you understand me. Presbyterians, Lutherans, whatever.
For me – I can only talk about what I experienced, inside and out – for me, Protestantism was my parents – intend to do good and be good, to be a socially useful and socially respectable element and to follow a rigid code of behavior, no excuses. And especially with my father, as his mental illness grew on him – I can see that now – his own irrationality was so closely grafted onto his religious ideas that it discredited the whole thing. It could have left me with a grudge against God, if things had worked out differently.
F: I can’t understand why we haven’t filled more pages but it is past an hour and I can feel my energy flagging. Can we start again here next time?
EH: Better than trying to push through and risking glossing over stuff through more fatigue.
F: Okay, till next time, then.
Wednesday September 30, 2015