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.

4 Responses

  1. “There’s nothing so fascinating to me as that interior conflict.”

    I feel the same way. That tension is a big part of Hemingway’s appeal, and of his influence on my writing. I was talking on a blog once with a writer, a self-identified “literary” writer, who thought that the purpose of fiction was to get deep inside characters’ heads, probe their motivations and fears and so on, deeper and deeper, and then lay it all out for the reader.

    My first reaction was “ewww.” My second reaction was that I didn’t think my characters would enjoy that. My third reaction was that it didn’t seem realistic. That’s not how we know people in life — most of us don’t even know ourselves that well, let alone anybody else.

    I have always much more followed Hemingway’s “iceberg” approach, letting bits of people’s personalities appear in a word here, a gesture there, a slight indication. That’s how we learn about people in the real world, after all. In one of my stories there’s a love story, a sub-plot that’s never referred to in dialogue and isn’t noticed by the other characters — it’s all expressed in gesture and body language. If you’re not paying attention, you could miss the whole thing, which is pretty much how things are in life.

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one. 🙂 But I suspected I wasn’t: I agree with you, that that writer is nuts for hoping (yet alone expecting) to bare his? her? characters for the reader in that way. It’s far more interesting to figure things out for ourselves, and yes, more realistic as well. It’s called nuance, people.

  2. Hi, Julia. I just discovered your page today via a book review e-mail I receive (Shelf Awareness). I am so glad I discovered your pages and also that I discovered “Hemmingway of the day.” I completely relate to your thoughts re: what draws you back to him: “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.” I have had a similar preoccupation, shall we call it with Hemmingway and that “man’s man” persona. I am looking forward to reading more of your pages, and especially more of your reflections and thoughts on Hem, his life and his writing.

    • Barbara, I’m so glad you found me! Thanks for this very kind comment. I’m sorry to say, I’m not reading a lot of Hemingway these days, because I’m so busy with other things; but I have plenty (by & about him) on the shelves that I hope to get to at some point. Perhaps you’ll motivate me. I just got Lillian Ross’s Portrait of Hemingway. And, of course, hopefully there’ll be other content here for you! Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply to pagesofjulia Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: