Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, July 29, 2013

And He Didn't Kill Her...

I have been rereading Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. I originally read it in the Bantam Paperback in 1964. It was his "memoir" of living in Paris during the 1920s and was published posthumously. Hemingway died in early July 1961 when he blew his head off with a shotgun. That head was fairly blown up inside by then anyway. The Feast recounts when he was still a young man struggling to sell his first stories. His first wife and he lived, by his telling, in near poverty at 113 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs.

(A moveable feast is a term usually given to religious feast days that do not fall on a set date, such as Easter. They move from year to year.)

One of the instances of those early year musings that stands out is found in the chapter, "Hunger Was good Discipline".  Hemingway tells of having his story, "My Old Man" selected by Edward O'Brien's for that years Best Short Stories collection, even though it had never been published anywhere. He then laughs about this being only one of two stories that survived his wife Hadley's (Hadley is pictured right on their wedding day in 1921) great blunder. Ernest tells it this way:

It was one of two stories I had left when everything I had written was stolen in Hadley's suitcase that time at the Gare de Lyon when she was bringing the manuscripts down to me to Lausanne as a surprise, so I could work on them on our holidays in the mountains. She had put in the originals, the typescripts and the carbons, all in manila folders...I had never seen anyone hurt by a thing other than death or unbearable suffering except Hadley when she told me about the things being gone. She had cried and cried and could not tell me. I told her no matter what the dreadful thing was that had happened nothing could be that bad, and whatever it was, it was all right and not to worry. We would work it out. Then, finally, she told me.

And he didn't kill her.

He did however, in the not so distant future, have an affair with their friend Pauline Pfeiffer, who soon there after became his second wife. (In the photo Ernest in beret sits between Hadley on his right and Pauline on his left.) 

If the loss of his work did not result in Hadley's sudden demise, it may have done so to their marriage.

In A Moveable Feast Hemingway passes this loss off as not too big a deal. Whatever brave and gallant front he may have put on, inside he had to be fuming. A writer can withstand the rejection of his manuscripts and the barbs of the critics, but it is devastation to a writer's soul to lose his work, and Hemingway had just lost all of his except two stories. He loss his first novel attempt as well. It is a wonder he waited until he was 61 to stick that shotgun in his mouth.

I have loss few of my scribblings and I mourn over them. I have since I was 12 meticulously kept my writings in duplications of duplications as backup. Even so over the decades I have managed through some moment of carelessness to lose some pages. (Granted there may be those who feel the world of letters would have been better off if I had lost them all.) I grieve for those passages. I think I lost portions of three stories. One was called "My Weekend Trip," which all that remained was the first page. I could not for the life of me remember where that story went. My friend in Florida, Stuart Meisel suggested some possibilities that I used to finish the tale. I credited him as coauthor. It was not what I had intended, but it works as a good yarn, so I am happy.

Two others that suffered this same fate were "Last Cold Spring" and "Beach Boy". Although I had penned these nearly 50 years prior to trying to rewrite them, I did remember enough of the plot to do so.

But there is one story I lost completely. Its title was "Where Are you Going, Little Man, little Man?" I do remember the plot, about an overbearing man who had to catch a train for an important business deal. He is driving to the station and experiences several delays. There was a long paragraph in the middle that consisted on one long rant of cussing and cursing that read like some bizarre poem. I personally do not curse. Yes, I know that is rare and to some even weird, but it is a fact. I do write characters in my fiction that curse, because that is real life, although I keep it to a minimum. Perhaps I overdid it in this story and that is why I lost it. I might try and rewrite it someday, but I know I will never capture the flow of that paragraph again.

Because I may someday rewrite it I will not reveal the ending at this time.

At least with my losses they were my own clumsiness, not another's carelessness. Perhaps if my wife had lost my work I would have been looking for a Pauline of my own. Or a shotgun.

 Young Hemingway in Paris.

 Young me in Philadelphia

 Old Hemingway (he died at age 61)

Old me (Taken at age 71)

1 comment:

Ron said...


I don't have any stories that I wrote on paper that I lost but I have lost several blog postings right after I wrote them, one being last week. You know how it is when "the flow" is going. I had written a fairly long blog posting and "pfft! It was gone! I tried to recreate it (it was only gone minutes) but I know I could never get the original flavor back. Thus I understand your frustration in trying to recreate a story that you wrote over 50 years ago. One thing is for sure these days, whatever I write in my blog is "out there" forever. That's a good thing about the Internet. Maybe bad too.