ERNEST HEMINGWAY SELECTED LETTERS 1917-1961

Baker has edited this first-ever collection of Hemingway letters with the sensible idea that everyone knows the life too well to need much explanatory material—particularly who's who; and while you may have to figure out some identities, it was well that Baker resisted the temptation to make the letters stand as a sort of Hemingway autobiography. Read them instead as a novel—some great, full-of-it romance of ego. But as the truth of his life, no; Hemingway seems to have been honestly incapable of telling that. What's fascinating, indeed, is how early all the more detestable traits of the man rushed out. Boastfulness and plain garden-variety lying are already in evidence as early as 1918: a letter to a newspaperman friend, while Hemingway was in New York before leaving for Italy and the ambulance corps, confides that he's engaged to film star Mae Marsh. As Baker drily notes, Mae Marsh never met him. But it's the company of other writers that really sparks the nasty fun. From his brief exile in Toronto, Hemingway writes back to Paris and solicitously informs Gertrude Stein: "They are turning on you and Sherwood [Anderson] both; the young critical guys and their public. I can feel it in the papers etc. Oh well you will get them back again." There's a strong suggestion that Hemingway's Sherwood Anderson-parody, The Torrents of Spring, was in response to Edmund Wilson's remarking that H.'s "My Old Man" read like Anderson; certainly, for the rest of his life, Hemingway's viciousness peaked when he had a secondary or tertiary scapegoat. The only one he was directly beastly to, of course, was "poor" Scott Fitzgerald—to whom H. wrote: you don't know how to think; Tender Is the Night is done all wrong (once Fitzgerald was safely dead, Hemingway would say that it was his best); women destroyed you; you're minor-league and can't finish anything. Before 1938, he could look back and analyze himself—see his famous letter to Stein, in which he says that "Big Two-Hearted River" is an attempt "to do the country like CÉzanne"; but after '38 or so, all of that was gone, blown away by fame so that only the personal gracelessness was left—plus the constant fear. The letters to Max Perkins and Charles Scribner, Jr., with reports of daily word counts, fornication tallys. The letters boasting of how he taught his youngest son an anti-Semitic joke, how he flattened Wallace Stevens in a Key West bar. A remarkably smarmy correspondence with Arthur Mizener on Fitzgerald and other assorted unarmed dead. A scatalogical vendetta against James Jones (whose From Here to Eternity apparently ventured a little too close). Only three sets of Papa letters come off as half-pleasant: to his various wives-to-be and those past; to Bernard Berenson (a late exchange, utterly quirky); and a true—if passive—concern for Ezra Pound in a mental hospital after the war. All the rest is irredeemably grotesque. Fascinating, of course, but strictly as a sort of story—one that dramatizes the tension between the fictional, heroic Hemingway and his mean-spirited creator.

Pub Date: April 6, 1981

ISBN: 0743246896

Page Count: 983

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1981

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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