Tag Archives: The Letters of Ernest Hemingway

Pandemic Perusal: Books I’ve been reading…

Letters of Ernest HemingwayIt’s been a while since I wrote a review for this site. It’s not that I haven’t been reading! How can anyone not be doing more reading with a pandemic right outside our doors? It’s just that I haven’t been reading books about the Beatles. So, until I feel inspired to pick up a book about our boys from Liverpool, here’s what’s come and gone on my end table over the past 5 months.

It was exactly 5 months ago today that I posted about the link between Ernest Hemingway and John Lennon, along with a review of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4. Well, since then, I have gone back and read Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway. I believe Amazon calculates it at a total of 1800+ pages, but that’s deceiving because of the indexes in the books. Still, these books have been a great way to pass the time while trying to stay home. Ernest’s parents were avid savers all of the letters they received from their oldest son from when he was a very young boy…when he could barely spell. And one of the funny things is, that he mentions often in his letters to friends, family and colleagues (well into his adulthood) that he is still a lousy speller, as is his good friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom he exchanges letters with often. I’ve become so enamored with reading Ernest’s letters to Fitzgerald, that I just recently bought a used copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters so I can read both sides of their story. And, not only have these books given me an interest in Hemingway’s life, I also ordered a copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway so that I can be more familiar with the stories that he’s writing throughout these first 4 volumes of letters (which only takes the reader up to Hemingway being just 32 years old and him having just published A Farewell To Arms (required reading when I was in high school)). Eventually, I’ll pick up a copy of Volume 5 to read while the world awaits volumes 6, 7, 8, etc. No telling how many will be published since each book is only covering 2-3 years (in 500+ pages each), but I am truly looking forward to reading them all. Not just for the letters to Fitzgerald, but the letters to other famous writers and letters to family about his daily life.

Last week on January 27th, it was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s 265th birthday. I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite classical composer (that honor would probably go to Franz Liszt), but I’ve had a strange fascination with him ever since the movie Amadeus came out in 1984. But anyone that has seen the movie has to be left wondering, “Was this musical genius really that erratic?”. And because I won’t be happy until I find out the true story, I just picked up a copy of Mozart: The Reign of Love…an 800+ page biography.

I’m really looking forward to reading all three of the above books, but not quite sure when (or in what order), I’ll get to them. I refuse to allow myself the privilege of buying volume 5 of the Hemingway letters until I finish what’s piled on my end table.

There was one other book that I read in January. I had bought a copy of the novel – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness back when it was first published in 2011, but it has sat, unread by me, on my bookshelf every since. Needless to say, my boredom from sitting around during this pandemic, combined with the cold weather outside, finally inspired me to read it. I hate to say it, but it probably would have been best if I just left it on my shelf to look good! I found it rather disappointing. Not only because the author covers the span of just 2 months in the lives of a witch and a vampire, but for some reason, I was not aware that the book was part of a trilogy and that I would have to read two more volumes to find out what happens. Hmmm…she covered 2 months in 500+ pages in the first book…do I really want to read another 500 pages to find out what happens in the next 2 weeks of these fictional characters? The answer is NO! I know some people find fiction and fantasy books an escape from the strife of real life, but I’m not one of them. You can figure out from all my talk early in this post, that I’m a fan of non-fiction and biographies. I need to come away from a book feeling like I’ve learned something. I’m not going to rate this book because of my own bias and knowing that some people really love these types of seires. I believe I told one friend that this book seems like an adult version of Twilight meets Harry Potter. But what would I know…I’ve never read either of those either!

 

 

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From Hemingway to Lennon and back again…

I’ve spent the last several months slowly reading my way through The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4. A friend of mine had sent me an article back in April 2020 that talked about some of the letters between Hemingway and his U.K. publisher, Jonathan Cape Publishing, contained in the book.

Jonathan Cape publishing was founded in London in 1921 by Herbert Jonathan Cape and his partner Wren Howard.  They would publish many notable and award winning authors, including: Robert Frost, Ian Fleming and James Joyce. The publishing house still exists today and is an imprint for Penguin/Random House.

In 1925, Jonathan Cape became Ernest Hemingway’s U.K. publisher and would publish the British editions of Hemingway’s In Our Time in 1926, followed by The Sun Also Rises, Men Without Women, A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon. But Hemingway was very open about his hatred of the publishing house’s namesake. Cape would often make edits and publish Hemingway’s works without asking the author’s permission, something Hemingway was very strict about. Once Hemingway was done writing and editing a book that was it. It was finished. Period. He hated changes of any sorts, especially when they tried to remove “dirty” works or rewrite scenes that were of the deeply intimate type. Many publishers, including his own would warn him that his books could be censored due to the questionable language, but he insisted that the words remain exactly as he wrote the or the whole story would go to hell.

On page 363 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway dated 12 September 1930 from Ernest to Jonathan Cape, Ernest is busy discussing royalty payments & publishing details, along with his successful hunting expeditions (he was in Montana at the time) and writing his latest book. Paragraph 4 (out of 5) of the letter reads as follows:

With best wishes for the season, – it seems Christmas weather; snowing hard in the mountains – to you and to Mrs. Cape and, if you see her, to Norah James, and to Mr. Wren Howard-

Norah Cordner James worked for Jonathan Cape overseeing the advertising for his firm from 1921-1929. Though this is the only time in all the 5 volumes of Hemingway’s letters that Norah is mentioned, there is no doubt Hemingway would have known about her work at Cape, since he often would remark to his publisher how horribly Jonathan Cape was advertising his books, even insisting that certain ads were to be taken down or reworded.

Norah was born in Hampstead, England in September 1895, would go on to be famous author herself after leaving Jonathan Cape Publishing. Her first book, The Sleeveless Errand, garnered a lot of publicity when it was immediately banned in England for being obscene before it even hit the shelves in 1929.

In 1939, Norah wrote her autobiography – I Lived in a Democracy. In this book, she says her family moved to St. John’s Wood in 1912 when she was 17. They were the 5th family to occupy the house at 3 Abbey Road…or as it has come to be known – Abbey Road Studios. One particularly amusing story Norah tells about her time living in the house, goes like this: Once my father refused to leave his room for twenty-four hours and I caught Mother throwing little packages of sandwiches into his window from the window in the passage above.

The Cordner-James’ moved from Abbey Road in 1920 and there would be two more owners of 3 Abbey Road before Gramophone would purchase the 103 year old house on Friday, June 28, 1929 and turn it into a recording studio. On June 6, 1962, The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Ringo strolled through the doors for the very first time to audition for George Martin.

In 1964, while The Beatles were busy becoming the greatest band the world has ever known, their leader, John Lennon published his first book – In His Own Write. His publisher was Jonathan Cape.

 

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