(Ernest Hemingway at 24 – image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
I think it’s funny that Ernest Hemingway describes heaven & hell for his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald in this letter but only describes heaven for himself.
It tells you something about the way that writers see themselves in this world.
That Hemingway’s heaven would have a bullring and a trout stream is obvious. That he’d want one house with nine mistresses shows his youth.
But my favorite thing from the letter to Fitzgerald is the final couple of lines:
Well anyway were going into town tomorrow early in the morning. Write me at the / Hotel Quintana
Or don’t you like to write letters*. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.
Writing has to mean something.
This is perhaps the best letter I never read.
Slate recently posted this stellar breakdown of a get-well letter sent by three friends of the great writer during his convalescence after he received an injury while driving ambulance on the front lines in Italy during World War I.
I have been known to write a letter to my buddies back in Missoula. I’ll admit, it was only a letter. Perhaps I should rethink how I write my letters, as these men did.
Yes, alcohol is a main character in this story, but how could it not be among men responsible for saving lives in the War to end War?
And the fact that they characterized their friend based on something familiar and not at all menacing, as it would later become, speaks volumes about friendship.
The letter is a cheerful narrative of the three friends’ recent hijinks. In the salutation, the writers used a foaming mug of beer to represent Hemingway’s name (he was often called “Hemingstein”); clearly, these were men who shared Hemingway’s love for inebriation. Throughout the letter, alcohol plays a prominent part in their adventures.
As for me, I saved copies of these letters, and I’m going to spend some time trying to decipher them tonight.
Hemingway on Pound: He is obviously crazy
“It is impossible to believe that anyone in his right mind could utter the vile, absolutely idiotic drivel he has broadcast. His friends who knew him and who watched the warpeing and twisting and decay of his mind and his judgement should defend him and explain him on that basis. It will be a completely unpopular but an absolutely necessary thing to do.”