[I find the damnedest and most interesting things in my journal, long forgotten. David Poynter was one of my “past lives.”]
Monday, June 8, 2009
Yesterday, picked up Morley Callaghan’s That Summer In Paris, about the author’s friendship with Papa – at least, that is the aspect that interested me. I am about halfway through it, enjoying it (appreciating it) more than I would have thought I would. I vaguely remember something about the fight where Callaghan knocked down Hemingway while Fitzgerald left around go on and on, and it’s clear that the publisher counted on that story selling the book.
But I picked up this book to ask a simple question. Why am I always so moved at the thought of Hemingway’s valiant life? I know his reputation for being rude, abusive, self parodying (unintentionally), and all that. But – I’m on his side, all the time. I have come to fiercely identify with him even when objectively he’s wrong. Why is that? Always we are Lincoln men, Hay said, or Nicolay but I think Hay. Always I am Papa’s man. Why is that?
Thursday, June 11
On Monday I asked a question but could not make myself stay for an answer. Always I am Papa’s man. Why is that, and why does his valiant life so move me, when earlier it did not?
I don’t think I should ask papa. David, Joseph – anybody who knows – what is it all about?
Yes, David because it takes a writer. I didn’t quite read him, you know. He was becoming well-known as I was ending my life, but I wasn’t particularly interested – wasn’t particularly in sympathy with – the problems of young people in the new postwar world. They were in a most violently disruptive phase, savagely rejecting the world that had brought them the war, and a considerable number of babies were going out with the bathwater.
With Hemingway as with Yeats, you met him moving backwards from his last work. Therefore you saw him as no one – especially himself – ever saw him. And Hemingway who wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls, and The Old Man And The Sea, and Islands In The Stream, and even To Have And Have Not, did not exist in my time. Nor did the author of A Farewell To Arms and – especially – The Sun Also Rises exist in my mental world. If I did not pay attention to him, he could not directly influence me, of course.
Not that I did not know his name. Who could not know his name? But to know the name and reputation of Fitzgerald, say, is after all not to be influenced by him, necessarily. It may amount merely to being biased against him by what one heard or read.
All right. So – his effect on me?
Consider merely what he is to you. A partisan in some of your causes, and a representative of what you will never be, but admire, in other respects.
The physical man.
Well, just think what you were thinking yesterday. All that physical pleasure – too much trouble! All that pleasure seeking, experience-seeking, making his way – too much trouble. Not you, not your life.
No, not remotely. What we have in common is reading a lot.
Well, a little more than that. Hemingway was very attractive to, and attracted by, women, and regardless how he talked about sex, he was drawn to them by magnetism and by what they elicited in him, not mere physical appetite. In fact his physical appetite often confused him and left him unable to perceive or obtain what he wanted and needed from them.
And then, there’s his contrarian tendencies. He was in fundamental opposition to the intellectual currents of his age. He strongly suspected that “intellectualism” was corrupt at its source (and I would agree) but did not have the fundamentals, the credentials, to establish counter-movement except in so far as individuals could perceive it from his writings or – much more doubtfully – in his life.
Then there is that attractive force, the consistent helpfulness, the tentative belief in others until they proved him wrong. And his eagerness to be on equal terms with those he recognized (rightly or wrongly) as great. It came out looking like he had to be champ but it went in looking like, he had to deserve a place at the table, and doubted himself often and fiercely.
And there are the depressions. And the ungovernable rages. And the concussions. And the love of good writing. And the longing for companionship. Enough?
Quite a list. Surely many people share that list.
Are not many people his admirers? But how many of them assume the ability to contact him?
I’ll grant you that. There is his non-socialist, non-political sympathy with the victims of socially organized injustice, too. Remarkable that he kept it, having spent so much time among the rich, and having married rich, unfortunately.
Speaking as a sort of ex-socialist, that is another aspect of his reputation that was off-putting, you know. At a time that seemed to call for social solidarity, he seemed content with stories of individual bravery or betrayal, taking the scene for granted.
But I have showed that The Sun Also Rises is
Yes but I didn’t have you there then to explain it! And perhaps I could have seen it even if I had had you there (as, in a sense, I do).
In any case, surely you can see that the honest reporter, that day-dreaming self-romanticize her, the craftsman, all appeals to you.
The anti-fascist, anti-communist, clear-eyed observer?
And even when you differ so strongly, you have been where his times left him.
Yes. And anyway he was still searching.
Yes. As you pointed out in your little essay about the soul. Now, another time (for you are tired now) you might ask why Hemingway resonates to you. It isn’t as simple as that you are in the body and interested in him.