HEMINGWAY AND HIS CONSPIRATORS by Leonard J. Leff

HEMINGWAY AND HIS CONSPIRATORS

Hollywood, Scribners, and the Making of American Celebrity Culture
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Though an entire book could be devoted to Hemingway's ambition or the cultivation of his popular persona, Leff's truncated work is too much a biographical recap. ``I want, like hell, to get published,'' the unknown Parisian expatriate confessed to a correspondent in 1923, long before he would become America's greatest authorial personality. Leff (Film and Literature/Oklahoma State Univ.) suggests that to do so, Hemingway made a Faustian deal with popular culture, ``cultivat[ing] publicity even as he pretended to scorn it''--the kind of publicity available through having bestsellers, serializing in Scribner's magazine, and selling rights to the Book-of-the-Month Club, Broadway, and Hollywood. Hemingway's career began as the all-American cult of personality was born, promoted by Time magazine, radio, and the movie industry. Leff brings up some interesting points, such as Time's puffing of the new author's image as an adventurer in its review of In Our Time, or the parallel reviewers drew (to Hemingwya's annoyance) between the nymphomaniac heroine of the cheaply bestselling The Green Hat and Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Mostly, Leff sticks close to familiar biographical material rather than analyzing the context, or the apparatuses, of Hemingway's rise to prominence. Leff, the author of studies on movie mogul David O. Selznick and Hayes-era censorship, does better toward his book's end, discussing the production of the 1932 film version of A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway was irritated to see studio PR rehashing the inaccuracies of his legend, but he was also taken in by Gary Cooper playing Frederic Henry, who was based, of course, on Ernest Hemingway. However, at the point where novelist's fame is secured, Leff abruptly leaves off, compressing the rest of his life into an afterword, almost impatient for the author to ride off into immortality. (illustrations not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8476-8544-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997