Since Allie Baker of The Hemingway Project has made interviewing Hemingway scholars, aficionados, novelists and others as the focus of her wonderful blog, I thought that I would present her an opportunity to be interviewed, too.
Allie, what is your favorite short story written by Hemingway?
I love so many of them, but “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is my favorite. “Hills Like White Elephants” and “A Clean Well lighted Place” are right behind it.
And what is your favorite novel written by Hemingway?
A Moveable Feast is memoir, so I’m going to have to say The Sun Also Rises. I read this book when I was in my 20’s and it didn’t make a big impression on me. When I read it again after living in Argentina for a year I was blown away by how accurately Hemingway portrayed the loneliness, excitement and sense of atrophy of being an expat, especially in a country where the currency is devalued and expats are living cheaply. I don’t think anyone has ever written about this as well since. I also loved it as a travel book – the writing was visual, and it gave me my first feelings for Spain. I took it with me last year when I visited France and Spain and saw Paris and Pamplona. I spent most of my time in San Sebastian, which I loved. The boardwalk along the beach and the clean beauty there were just as he described.
What is your favorite book about Hemingway including the biographies, scholar’s works, etc.?
That is a tough question because I still have so many more books to read in this area! I love Carlos Baker’s Selected Letters, I love the Michael Reynolds books, I like to read anything about the Murphy’s, the Hadley biographies of course. Right now I am reading David Earle’s book All Man! and I just love it! When I was younger I wanted to be Sylvia Beach, no kidding, so the Shakespeare and Company book really meant a lot to me. I keep the inter library loan people busy at my local college library and public library, too. They raise their eyebrows when a book comes in for me that is not about Hemingway or the Lost Generation.
I know what you mean about there being so many Hem books to read, as well as related books. I think it is obvious that Hadley was your favorite of the wives. Have you done much or any research on the other wives? Which one of the other wives is the next you most admire and why?
I think it’s going to be Martha because of her pluck. I bought Nothing Ever Happens to the Brave but to be honest, I haven’t had time to read it yet. I have been reading from the Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn every day and I am struck by her work ethic and how modern she seems. Even some of her slang seems very contemporary. She has a great sense of humor and she was also a big one for nicknames like Hemingway. I tried to read Mary Hemingway’s book The Way It Was and actually could not finish it. I’m not sure why but it just didn’t hold my attention. I think the years that Ernest lived in Key West are really interesting to read about, but I don’t know much about Pauline.
Even though you answered this in a previous question: Your reading of A Moveable Feast seems to be the start of your deeper interest in Hemingway and his life. Have you visited any of the Hemingway locales yourself? Which did you enjoy the most and find most interesting?
As I have said before, my interest in Hemingway is fairly new. Last year I got to visit Paris and Spain for the first time and I absolutely loved both places. Cuba has been on my wish list for a long time, even before my interest in Hemingway, so I have more reasons to visit there someday. I am planning to see Key West and Idaho later this year.
I notice you are a freelance writer. What other kinds of writing do you do?
Most recently, travel writing. I’ve had articles and poems published here and there (but under another name). No fiction yet. I am revising a series of essays I’ve written in the last few years to round out a collection. The essays are about travel, family and aging. I have been working on a novel about Argentina’s dirty war and the mothers without children there. Argentina is a complex country with a strong undercurrent of melancholy. The Hemingway Project is also percolating somewhere deep inside me and I am waiting to see which direction to go with it. I am in a writers group that has been extremely helpful to me in getting things finished and published. Their feedback and guidance has influenced the blog quite a bit.
If you could interview Ernest Hemingway, what are some questions you would ask him?
Oh, wouldn’t that be fun! I would ask him all kind of things: Why he didn’t go back to Michigan more often and did he miss it? Was he was ever able to credit his mother for any of his creativity and tenacity (even if only to himself)? What he would do differently in his life if he had the chance? Would he want to be a writer again in a next life? Who did he consider his best friend? What kinds of thoughts he had about God? What subjects would he have liked to write about that he never got around to? Did he felt exploited by his fame and at what point in his life did he grow tired of it? I would ask if later in life he felt like an American or did he feel more identified with Cuba, not politically, but culturally, as an everyday citizen. I would certainly ask him about Hadley, too.
Allie, as I asked Ed Newman/Ennyman, what books are most important to you? In other words, which books do you want to re-read in the future?
I always reread the books I love. Two books that really stunned me were Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, which I reread at least once a year and The Poisonwood Bible really knocked my socks off. Both of those books are tragedies, which somehow nourishes me on a very deep level. I love beautifully written books such as Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, the way Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote about time in Love in the Time of Cholera. And I have always loved poetry, in particular, Sharon Olds, Carolyn Forche, D.H. Lawrence, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Jack Gilbert. If you haven’t read the poems of Jack Gilbert, run to the nearest bookstore and buy his books – don’t even finish reading this interview – run!
I will definitely check out some of the poets you listed! Besides reading and writing, do you have any other creative hobbies? How do you like to relax?
I love walking, foreign films, getting friends together for dinner, travel, my family and home. I really enjoy conversation and getting to know other people and I think that’s what makes the interviews so rewarding for me. For about 15 years my husband and I had a 100-year-old letterpress print shop. The press was operated by a foot treadle and all of the type was set by hand. We had a lot of fun doing it, but as you can imagine, it was very time consuming! Since we sold it, I have had a lot more time to write.
I personally am enjoying your interviews with such creative people as Paula McLain and Brian Gordon Sinclair and admire your gumption in finding and interviewing different people with an Ernest Hemingway connection. Please keep up the great work. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions!