hemingWay of the Day & Teaser Tuesdays: Hell and Good Company by Richard Rhodes


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. hemingWay of the Day is my own.


I was drawn to Hell and Good Company because of my interest in the Spanish Civil War, which in turn was born of my love of Hemingway, of course. So it’s natural that I’d be drawn to the lines that concern him. Sorry I’m so predictable! Hem is not the main star of this book – far from it – but I had to share these few lines.

About the Hotel Florida:

Its primary attraction was hot water. Such comfort, hardly available anywhere else in Madrid, came at a price: the Florida was directly in the line of fire from the nationalist artillery on Garabitas Hill in the Casa de Campo. Ernest Hemingway recalls people “paying a dollar a day for the best rooms in the front” of the hotel. “The smaller rooms in the back, on the side away from the shelling,” where Hemingway stayed, “were considerably more expensive.”

I like this for its dry humor, but also for its evocation of the strange circumstances of the war in Madrid: that life was carrying on, that Hemingway and others were visiting the front & literally dodging bullets by day and holding champagne parties by night in this hotel, where the best rooms had become the worst but otherwise things were carrying on.

And more about Hemingway, from poet Stephen Spender:

“A black-haired, bushy-mustached, hairy-handed giant,” Spender describes him, adding that in his behavior “he seemed at first to be acting the part of a Hemingway hero.” Spender wondered “how this man, whose art concealed under its apparent huskiness a deliberation and delicacy like Turgenev, could show so little of his inner sensibility in his outward behavior.”

This captures Hemingway nicely, and perhaps what draws me back to him as well: that he is so macho, so obnoxiously obsessed with being his own hero, also has that sensitivity & artistic talent, but feels the need to hide it. There’s nothing so fascinating to me as that interior conflict.

Of course, stay tuned for my review of this book, which I assure you (despite the above) is not nearly as Hemingway-obsessed as this blogger is.

This quotation comes from an uncorrected advance proof and is subject to change.

hemingWay of the Day: on the menu

My favorite bar has an every-Tuesday-night event called Imperial Andy’s Historical Cocktail Tuesday. Andy is my friendly British bartender. He finds a historical event coinciding with each Tuesday’s date, makes up four themed cocktails to go with it, and produces a one-off menu telling the story. I have long wanted to be a part of one. Many months ago I used the book my mother gave me (for Christmas?), A Reader’s Book of Days, to find a Hemingway event: July 8, which fell on a Tuesday in 2014, was the day (night) he was injured in WWI, which led to his meeting the nurse he fell in love with, who would jilt him, who would be the model for the novel A Farewell to Arms for which he is so well known. This event would also be a big part of his self-myth. I’ve had my short write-up of this historical event and its significance waiting since maybe January for July to come along so I could cue Andy to do a cocktail list for it. Obviously the possibilities are endless! Well, I ended up having an un-reschedule-able appointment on that Tuesday evening; I was pretty disappointed. But the week before, I dropped my piece of writing off with Andy anyway. He’s become a great friend. I said hey, if you use this, would you just save me a copy of the menu please? He said he would push the historical event back a week if I could make the following Tuesday! Which I could.

On Tuesday, July 15, I walked into the bar and he had his menu ready for me – but it stated the date of Hemingway’s injury as July 15! I said, you didn’t even acknowledge your rewriting of history! Won’t somebody call you on this?? He said, Julia, there’s only one customer I know who would call me on this, and I think I’m safe from that person tonight. Why? It’s YOU, Julia. Oh. Okay. (I’ve made a note to check every Tuesday’s historical event for accuracy from now on.)

I enjoyed the drinks. And while we talked over drinks, we somehow came around to the concept of the green man. I told him Kingsnorth’s story as I remembered it offhand from an article my father sent me some months back (Andy being logically at least a little interested as a historical cocktail man as well as a Brit), and I sent him the link to the article too. And then, just on a whim, I looked up the date of the Battle of Hastings: October 14, 1066. Guess what day of the week October 14 falls on this year. You got it. That will be another Imperial Andy’s Historical Cocktail Tuesday. Too bad that’s not the week my father was planning to be in town… maybe he can reschedule.


hemingWay of the Day: How To Tell If You’re In A Hemingway Novel

This is totally silly, and doesn’t make Hemingway sound terribly smart, or interesting; but there’s room for that in this world, too. The man was sometimes a caricature. In fact, I’ve been doing some musing lately as I read Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, by Amanda Vaill. It’s a lovely book, that examines the experience of six individuals (three couples) in the Spanish Civil War; Hemingway and Gellhorn are two of the six. I have some thoughts to share, but will save those for that book review. (Hint: good book.)

Today for giggles and deprecations: How To Tell If You’re In A Hemingway Novel. Enjoy.

hemingWay of the Day: as an archivist

Oh my word, Liz does it again. Never was there an article more designed to make me sigh and daydream. From PRI’s The World comes

This came to me from Liz, who got it in turn from Jessamyn West (blogtwitter). A solid pedigree right there. I swoon; this is my dream job.

hemingWay of the Day: on sadness

A profound and, I think, true – but not particularly uplifting – thought for the day today courtesy of Papa:

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.

From what I think might be an underappreciated and understudied Hemingway novel: The Garden of Evil. I know one person who I love very much who I think might be just too smart and wise to be happy. These words ring true. But hopefully also, intelligence can help us map a path through this quite depressing world we inhabit, towards happiness despite it all. That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about Derrick Jensen: his ability to show us how f*ed up everything is, and still find things to smile at.

Of course, these words about a dearth of happiness sound especially poignant coming from a man who ended his own life with a shotgun. Or maybe we’re thinking too hard; he put this line into the mouth of a character rather than his own…

What do you think?

hemingWay of the Day: on being drunk

I am hoping to pick up some Hemingway next week while I’m on vacation. It’s been a while since I’ve read any, and I miss him. To inspire myself (and maybe you?) I have chosen a rather classic few lines from my favorite of his books, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

“No,” Pablo said, dipping up another cup. “I am drunk, seest thou? When I am not drunk I do not talk. You have never heard me talk much. But an intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend his time with fools.”

“Go and obscenity in the milk of thy cowardice,” Pilar said to him.

This is classic Papa because 1. it involves drunkenness; 2. it includes that oh-so-quotable line, “an intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend his time with fools” (which I picture as one of those I’m-with-stupid t-shirts, but the literary version); and 3. Pilar’s line is on the one hand crass and on the other hand, linguistically interesting. Hemingway has used the word “obscenity” in place of a presumed (ahem) obscenity, like bleeping it out; and “thy” translates the Spanish “tu.” For Whom the Bell Tolls also features some interesting Spanish-language word order, to emphasize the feeling that these Spaniards’ dialogue has been translated for our benefit. I like the flavor that that adds to the book.

That’s our short taste of Hemingway today. Hopefully I’ll have more to tell you about soon!

hemingWay of the Day: as reported by his son Gregory

I’m stretching the definition of my hemingWay of the Day feature just a little bit. This is a quotation, not from Papa himself, but from Gregory H. Hemingway’s book Papa: A Personal Memoir. Here’s Gregory writing, and quoting his father.

He said he loved to read the Bible when he was seven or eight because it was so full of battles. “But I wasn’t much good reading at first, Gig, just like you. It was years before I realized that ‘Gladly, the cross I’d bear’ didn’t refer to a kindly animal. I could easily imagine a cross-eyed bear and Gladly seemed like such a lovely name for one.”

Isn’t that sort of darling? Aside from being funny, I think it’s a good example of what charmed me so much about Papa as seen through Gigi’s eyes: that he was often a tender and loving father. Here we see him reassuring his son the late reader. Gigi’s book is still resonating with me weeks afterward; isn’t it nice when a book does that for us?


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