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The Will to Control: Ernest Hemingway and the Action of Writing

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Abstract

This chapter investigates Ernest Hemingway’s defense of writers and writing in the prefaces he wrote for himself and others. As a writers’ writer, he often commented on the constraints put upon writers in the literary marketplace. With his prefaces to specific works, including Green Hills of Africa (1935) and The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938), and the work of others, including books by Kiki (Alice Prin), Elio Vittorini, and Jerome Bahr, Hemingway produced a deliberately controlled persona that enhanced his authority, granted him greater public exposure, and allowed him to defend his positions on good writers and writing while denouncing the critical community. Writing meant action, while critiquing meant passivity; his prefaces reinforce this dictum.

Keywords

  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Critics
  • Writing
  • Authorship
  • Bibliography
  • Prefaces

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Notes

  1. 1.

    16 November 1934. See Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman, eds., The Sons of Maxwell Perkins: Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and Their Editor (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2004), 183.

  2. 2.

    20 April 1936. See Matthew J. Bruccoli, ed., with the assistance of Robert W. Trogdon, The Only Thing That Counts: The Ernest Hemingway-Maxwell Perkins Correspondence (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 243.

  3. 3.

    Ernest Hemingway, “Introduction to In Sicily.” By Elio Vittorini. 1949. Reprinted in Hemingway and the Mechanism of Fame, eds. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2006), 102.

  4. 4.

    Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935), 21.

  5. 5.

    Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, 23.

  6. 6.

    Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, 24.

  7. 7.

    Philip Rahv, “Into, the Trees and Out of Sight,” Commentary, October 1950, https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/philip-rahv/across-the-river-and-into-the-trees-by-ernest-hemingway/.

  8. 8.

    J. Donald Adams, “Speaking of Books,” The New York Times, September 24, 1950, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/07/04/specials/hemingway-speaking.html.

  9. 9.

    John O’Hara, “The Author’s Name is Hemingway,” The New York Times, September 10, 1950, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/07/04/specials/hemingway-river.html.

  10. 10.

    Robert O. Stephens, Hemingway’s Nonfiction: The Public Voice (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 135.

  11. 11.

    Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. 1987. Trans. Jane E. Lewin (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 221.

  12. 12.

    Jimmie Charters, Letter to Ernest Hemingway, 23 January 1934. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

  13. 13.

    John Raeburn, Fame Became of Him: Hemingway as Public Writer (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1984), 35.

  14. 14.

    Raeburn, Fame Became of Him, 35.

  15. 15.

    Stephens, Hemingway’s Nonfiction, 13; 135.

  16. 16.

    Stephens, Hemingway’s Nonfiction, 37.

  17. 17.

    Ernest Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse.” By Kiki (Alice Prin). 1929. Reprinted in Hemingway and the Mechanism of Fame, 15.

  18. 18.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 15.

  19. 19.

    Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929), 184.

  20. 20.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 15.

  21. 21.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 15.

  22. 22.

    Ernest Hemingway, Dateline Toronto: Hemingway’s Complete Dispatches for The Toronto Star, 1920–1924, ed. William White (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1985), 115.

  23. 23.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 15–16.

  24. 24.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 16.

  25. 25.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 17.

  26. 26.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 16.

  27. 27.

    Hemingway, “Introduction to Kiki of Montparnasse,” 17.

  28. 28.

    Robert E. Fleming, The Face in the Mirror: Hemingway’s Writers (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1994), 67.

  29. 29.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 208.

  30. 30.

    Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, vii.

  31. 31.

    William Wordsworth, “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.” 1800. Reprinted in Prefaces and Prologues: To Famous Books, vol. 39, ed. Charles W. Eliot (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–1914), 1.

  32. 32.

    Genette, Paratexts, 215.

  33. 33.

    Genette, Paratexts, 217.

  34. 34.

    Audre Hanneman notes that Hemingway insisted on adding a legal disclaimer to the second American printing of A Farewell to Arms, though it ceased to run with the novel after that printing. See Audre Hanneman, Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), 24.

  35. 35.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 203.

  36. 36.

    Death in the Afternoon features a long middle section devoted to a dialogue between “Old Lady” and “Author,” where Hemingway steps out of his writerly persona in order to characterize and subtly lampoon authority itself. See Hilary K. Justice, The Bones of the Others: The Hemingway Text from the Lost Manuscripts to the Posthumous Novels (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2006), 92–118.

  37. 37.

    Ernest Hemingway, Letter to Maxwell Perkins, ca. 14 April 1935. Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, Box 770, Folder 15; Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library, Princeton, NJ.

  38. 38.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 224.

  39. 39.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 209.

  40. 40.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 214.

  41. 41.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 214.

  42. 42.

    Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, 23.

  43. 43.

    Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, 24.

  44. 44.

    Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, 26–27.

  45. 45.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 214.

  46. 46.

    He had done this earlier in the decade with his “Introduction by the Author” to the 1930 reissue of In Our Time (which became the story “On the Quai at Smyrna”). See Ross K. Tangedal, “Breaking Forelegs: Hemingway’s Early Prefaces,” Hemingway Review 37, no.1 (2017): 67–84.

  47. 47.

    Michael S. Reynolds, Hemingway: The 1930s (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 205; 215.

  48. 48.

    Jackson Phillips in the book, based on Philip Percival, the white hunter who accompanied the Hemingways on their safari in 1933.

  49. 49.

    Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa. 1935 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1936), 7.

  50. 50.

    Reynolds, Hemingway: The 1930s, 214.

  51. 51.

    Granville Hicks, review of Green Hills of Africa, The New Masses, xvii (November 19, 1935), 23.

  52. 52.

    Quoted in Leicester Hemingway, My Brother, Ernest Hemingway (Cleveland, OH: World Publishing, 1962), 182.

  53. 53.

    Maxwell E. Perkins, Letter to Ernest Hemingway, 9 May 1936. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

  54. 54.

    Ernest Hemingway, “Preface.” All Good Americans. By Jerome Bahr (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937), vii.

  55. 55.

    Ernest Hemingway, By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, ed. William White (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967), 195.

  56. 56.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 244. Reynolds refers to To Have and Have Not as “an ambitious, complicated plan, a War and Peace in miniature.” See Reynolds, Hemingway: The 1930s, 233. Hemingway’s preface to All Good Americans reads, partially, as a reaction to complications arising from his own writing.

  57. 57.

    Maxwell E. Perkins, Letter to Ernest Hemingway, 18 Feb 1937. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

  58. 58.

    Hemingway, “Preface,” All Good Americans, vii.

  59. 59.

    Hemingway, By-Line, 218.

  60. 60.

    Hemingway, “Preface,” All Good Americans, vii.

  61. 61.

    William Charvat, The Profession of Authorship in America, 1800–1870, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 3.

  62. 62.

    Hemingway, “Preface,” All Good Americans, vii.

  63. 63.

    Robert W. Trogdon, The Lousy Racket: Hemingway, Scribners and the Business of Literature (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2007), 185.

  64. 64.

    Hemingway, “Preface,” All Good Americans, viii.

  65. 65.

    Hemingway, “Preface,” All Good Americans, viii.

  66. 66.

    Unlike his earlier books of the decade, the novel sold well—over 37,000 copies, compared to 11,592 for Green Hills, 18,300 for Winner Take Nothing, 20,780 for Death in the Afternoon, and 4275 for the Scribner’s In Our Time. See Trogdon, Lousy Racket.

  67. 67.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 261–262.

  68. 68.

    Known as “Captain” Cohn for his service in the French Foreign Legion during WWI, he published A Bibliography of the Works of Ernest Hemingway (New York: Random House, 1931).

  69. 69.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 263–264.

  70. 70.

    Reprinted in Trogdon, Lousy Racket, 195.

  71. 71.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 264.

  72. 72.

    Ernest Hemingway, The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1938), v–vi.

  73. 73.

    Ernest Hemingway, “Preface to The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories.” Corrected Carbon. Item 82B. 3pp. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA, 2.

  74. 74.

    Hemingway, First Forty-Nine, vi.

  75. 75.

    Hemingway, First Forty-Nine, vi.

  76. 76.

    Hemingway, First Forty-Nine, vi–vii.

  77. 77.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 263.

  78. 78.

    Verna Kale contends that Hemingway’s push and pull between parochial (a hard-working writer that can be appreciated by all kinds of readers) and cosmopolitan (well-traveled and cultured) personae comes through most effectively in his nonfiction. In Death in the Afternoon , he adopts “a self-consciously parochial understanding of the bullfighting practice,” which for Kale is “the ultimate cosmopolitan turn as Hemingway presented himself as a well-travelled citizen of the world.” Likewise, in his Esquire pieces and Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway “experienced the adventures that the world had to offer and wrote about them … so that his readers could glean this insider knowledge from the comfort of their own armchairs.” A similar effect takes place in the preface to The First Forty-Nine, a well-worn traveler keying readers in to the generation of his work by telling them where he has been, and where the work was done. See Verna Kale, Ernest Hemingway (London: Reaktion Books, 2016), 86; 98.

  79. 79.

    Hemingway, First Forty-Nine, vii.

  80. 80.

    See the following letters in Bruccoli, The Only Thing: Hemingway to Perkins, 21 April 1928; Hemingway to Perkins, 11 October 1928.

  81. 81.

    Bruccoli, The Only Thing, 71; 82. Fitzgerald wrote many stories purely for profit, a point Hemingway disliked. However, Bruccoli notes that Fitzgerald disparaged his commercial work as much as Hemingway did. See Matthew J. Bruccoli, Fitzgerald and Hemingway: A Dangerous Friendship (Columbia, SC: Manly, Inc., 1999), 92.

  82. 82.

    Hemingway, First Forty-Nine, vii. Hemingway played with a similar idea in Death in the Afternoon : “Our bodies all wear out in some way and we die, and I would rather have a palate that will give me the pleasure of enjoying completely the Chateaux Margaux or a Haut Brion, even though excesses indulged in in the acquiring of it has brought a liver that will not allow me to drink Richebourg, Corton, or Chambertin, than to have the corrugated iron internals of my boyhood when all red wines were bitter except port and drinking was the process of getting down enough of anything to make you feel reckless.” See Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932), 11.

  83. 83.

    Hemingway, First Forty-Nine, vii.

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Correspondence to Ross K. Tangedal .

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Parts of this chapter appeared in different forms originally in “Excuse the Preface: Hemingway’s Introductions for Other Writers,” Copyright 2015, The Ernest Hemingway Foundation. All Rights Reserved. Originally Published in The Hemingway Review. Volume 34, Number 2. I wish to thank the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, as well as editor Suzanne del Gizzo, for permission to reprint portions of that essay in this book.

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Tangedal, R.K. (2021). The Will to Control: Ernest Hemingway and the Action of Writing. In: The Preface. New Directions in Book History. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-85151-4_5

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