Wednesday, November 25, 2015
F: 2:40 a.m. So, Papa, I have been telling people, yesterday’s session was like the way two people get to know each other more and more intimately and then at some point the relationship gets so close that they begin to show each other their worst selves as well as their best.
And that is about the worst sentence I have written in years. Maybe it is too early for this.
EH: Or maybe you couldn’t force the sentence to say what you consciously intended to say, because it insisted on saying something else. That isn’t necessarily a bad sign. Nothing wrong with being in over your head.
F: Well, I am finding it hard to focus. Other stories running through my mind – [for instance] the Castle episodes I’ve been re-running.
EH: The real problem isn’t that, not your breathing, nor the fact that you haven’t had much sleep, nor even that it isn’t yet 3 a.m. The problem is that you are moving into disturbing waters, and not all of you is ready to do that.
F: Too bad. More of me is. Let’s proceed, and I’ll keep up as best I can.
EH: Then let’s continue exploring the various reactions going on within me when Martha came onto the scene and began reprising Pauline’s role [in the breakup with Hadley].
There had been a shift in our relative roles over the years.
F: Want to start again?
[Tuesday, November 24, 2015]
F: 9:50 a.m. Well, my friend, that was a shock. Granted, probably a salutary one, but a shock nonetheless.
EH: The secret to life is to pay less attention to what happens and more attention to what it leads to. I don’t mean don’t look around, I mean don’t invest so much in avoiding pain or trouble; invest, instead, in making the most, and making the best, of whatever happens. Of course this advice is like my advice not to worry – I know it’s good advice because it isn’t what I was able to do.
F: All right, then, let’s go back to your watching Pauline suffer.
EH: Don’t throw away the baby. That was one part of me. Other parts had other reactions, and they all had a fine time fighting it out. It made me dizzy, the twists and turns.
See, this is another example of the perils of foreshortening I was talking about. From a certain distance in time – if it is yourself judging – or distance in personality and information and preconception, a life’s bumps and veerings smooth out into an average course which may connect two points but does not accurately represent the journey. You could –
Let’s put it this way. If you were to ask every active strand within me – every strand that was actively involved, I mean – to write or tell the story of what happened, every story would be different, every one would be true, every one would be that strand’s best attempt to be impartial – and neither separately nor together would they add up to “the truth.”
F: This is a job for the Akashic Record! I’m smiling, but I’m sort of serious, too.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
F: 3:30 a.m. I guess I’m up for a while, Papa. Might as well use the time. I take it that we are
EH: You take it that we are going somewhere, assuming that I am not a long figment of your imagination.
F: I’m working, aren’t I? I’m not freezing up. But I am fully aware of how much I don’t know, and how blank I am sometimes about details you couldn’t have forgotten. It’s the same thing with Rita’s material: I sure hope it isn’t something I’m making up as I go along, the way it feels sometimes.
EH: What do you tell others?
F: I tell them you can’t prove anything, you can’t know for sure where or why or how or anything except, does it resonate? But people believe plenty of things because they want to, or you might say because, being who and what they are, they almost can’t help believing it.
EH: And so?
F: I just hope I’m not leading people on.
EH: I think you will find that some of your readers are going to be more impatient with this kind of doubt than I am. To them as well as to you, I say this: No matter what you read, no matter how persuasive the reasoning or how strong the evidence or how impressive the authority of the person writing it, you are always going to have to use your judgment, because there are no guarantees. How can there be any guarantees when the guarantee by the nature of things floats in the air? It’s like an army with its wing unsupported.
Monday, November 23, 2015
F: 6:10 a.m. Martha, Papa? Or something else?
EH: Martha was a catalyst for many things. I don’t know why she came into my life, but I can tell you that my life changed considerably because of her. For the moment, let’s try to hold to the time period we are considering – the mid-1930s. She and I were big influences in each other’s lives only about 10 years, from 1936 to 1945, but the main upheaval in mine came right at the beginning. Everybody knows she supplanted Pauline, but not everybody knows that that was not the deepest effect her presence had in my life.
You have to remember, by 1936 when she met me, I was still in my thirties. In other words, I was a young man still. Most of the injuries that would slow me down and draw down my stamina hadn’t happened yet. In particular, the war hadn’t happened – not the months of patrolling with Pilar as a Q-boat, not the concussion in London followed by six months’ hard campaigning in France, not the multiple injuries in the two African plane crashes [in 1954]. I was vigorous, healthy, successful, rich, famous, and in general on top of the world. Of course under the surface things weren’t so perfect, but maybe they never are.
F: Referring, I take it, to home life.
EH: Pauline and I had come to an understanding, but an understanding is not the same thing as being rapturously in love, and it is very much not the same thing as compatibility. The longer we knew each other, the more some basic differences surfaced, and the more they mattered.
[Sunday, November 22, 2015]
F: 2:15 p.m. I’m ready to try again if you are, Papa. The writers and Harry?
EH: It was a difficult stitching-together I was trying to do and, once again, I regret so much – and so much in vain – that I didn’t have the time I needed to work out the tactical problems. Things were moving so fast, I would have had to miss the war in Spain – and Martha – and another chance to be 18 –
But there’s more to it than that, because if it came to a cold-blooded balancing of the books, a new adventure or completing the work in progress, probably I could have stayed and finished. But the foundations were all crumbling. I could hear things snapping underneath me. All this is something I’ve visited before, and we’ll look at it some more, but just make a note of it. The snapping of the supports under my old life was the background for my finishing or abandoning or rushing the book. It’s the only time I let that happen, but I still can’t quite see how I could have prevented it. Other timelines didn’t necessarily work out any better.
But anyway, Harry and the writers. Harry was the linchpin of the story and every other element had to relate to him. But that wasn’t so easy in the case of the writers in Key Wes. Other than an encounter in a bar, where were their lives going to touch? If he had still had his boat, I suppose he might have taken a party of writers fishing, and maybe that could have been made into an effective scene, but it wasn’t possible and by that point Harry was well beyond the captaining of sports fishermen.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
F: 3:15 a.m. All right, Papa. Yesterday you said we’d look at To Have and Have Not as it turned out, and you started with Harry Morgan. Shall we continue?
EH: Describing Harry was one way of describing Key West as I experienced it, and beyond the one island, the keys, and beyond the keys, a whole human ecosystem.
Now look at that word ecosystem. It is one of yours, not one of mine. In the 1930s common language didn’t even have such a word – in other words the idea wasn’t common, for many reasons, mostly that in those days we weren’t divorced from life in the way your time is, so it didn’t occur to us to separate ourselves [conceptually] from the world we lived in. The only thing is, we didn’t think to question that we could do whatever we wanted with it, and to it. It seemed so big, so impervious. Who would have thought you could fuck up the air or the water or the food we had to eat? Yes, it could happen in the biggest cities, but we didn’t think of them as merely an exaggeration of what we were doing; we thought of them as different.
This is a side-trail and yet not. It is, in that my prime concern at the moment is to describe the society I was portraying. It isn’t, in that the very fact that people were—
Well, let’s go at it a little systematically.
[Saturday, November 21, 2015]
10:25 a.m. [Abruptly, without any preamble by me]
EH: Now look at the book [To Have and Have Not] as it finally emerged, and take it apart to inventory its contents.
First, Harry Morgan, a hard-handed sensible matter-of-fact guy who makes his own way in the world. He doesn’t ask for favors, and he doesn’t expect any. He has been independent all his life, living on his knowledge and his skill. Harry is a law unto himself, a throwback to – or rather a survival of – the frontier ethic. Like The Virginian, say [in Owen Wister’s novel of that name], he does what he thinks right in any given circumstance as it arises. He is clear-sighted, unlikely to be surprised by evil or, let’s call it, someone else’s exaggerated self-interest.
Now, I know the critics think I made him up out of whole cloth, but they are just wrong. Harry as I created him was one of a type, and it wasn’t just Joe Russell. Those men still existed, and they lived on the fringe of society as they lived on the fringe of America, not because of some flaw in them but because of the time and the place they lived in.
Harry starts off doing all right; he gets cheated and he has to kill a man to regain the money he needs. Don’t forget – I don’t quite see how anybody could forget, but people do – he is always thinking of his family and how they depend on him. Harry is not the lone cowboy who rides into town, drifting. He is the homesteader, scratching out his living.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
F: 6 a.m. Papa, if you know where you want us to go, let’s go. Otherwise I’ll have to skim the past few days’ entries.
EH: I know just where we’re going – which ought to reassure you.
I was thinking to examine the question of revolution in To Have and Have Not – or I should say in the idea for the book that became To Have and Have Not. What I did and what I had wanted to do were vastly different. Now, we have touched on aspects of this before, but maybe it’s best if we examine it without reference to past attempts. It will be less patchy. It’ll give the scholars something else to do, too, comparing versions.
F: I know that’s a joke; some readers might not. It isn’t like we’re expecting ever to be taken seriously by scholars.
EH: Don’t be too sure. Times change, fashions change, modes of intelligence and perception change. Moby-Dick resurfaced after sixty years.
F: In any case it won’t affect us in my few years left.
EH: Probably not. So – that means you don’t have to worry about the, doesn’t it?
Friday, November 20, 2015
F: 7:10 a.m. Awoke with the sun already up. Strange feeling, like I’m already behind.
I have forgotten where we are and where we were going, Papa, except that in a general way we’re still centered on the description of the revolutionary novel about the keys.
EH: Not so much about the keys, as set there, and in Cuba – mostly Havana. That was the concrete physical setting in time and space for a novel that was about a knottier problem that I had once thought would be set in Europe and once at least partly in America, but also centered in Europe. Nobody thought about revolution in unknown out-of-the-way places; we thought in terms of Europe.
F: But the Latin American countries were always having revolutions.
EH: No they weren’t. They were always having coups. All that amounted to was one set of bastards being overthrown by another set of bastards but nothing changing. The same mordida flowed to other hands, but the system didn’t change. It might get better or worse the way the tides get higher or lower, but that’s it.
F: So you were wanting to write about a true revolution in things?
[Thursday, November 19, 2015]
F: 8 p.m. Okay, Papa, here’s something from Hemingway and Pound that may lead us onto a subject I have meant to discuss. “Hemingway went on to satirize [Glenway] Westcott in The Sun Also Rises as Roger Prentiss, who appeared in the novel’s first bar scene.” (p. 46)
Not that specific question, but a more general one. People have noticed that you put all sorts of friends and enemies into your books and stories, and many people assumed you did that out of malice. I rather think it wasn’t for that reason at all, though I am sure you enjoyed the process of skewering them. Comment?
EH: Any artist who lets his personal vendettas interfere with the necessities of his work is a fool. If the story doesn’t require or at least accommodate a given type of individual, you can’t just shovel it in, any more than you can throw in extraneous incidents or editorializing without distorting the fabric. Is that such a smart thing to do, when you could much more easily write malicious letters or tell titillating gossip? People allege all sorts of things that they wouldn’t if they knew the business they are discussing.
[Odd, now as I type I can hear / feel / sense Hemingway wanting to revise what he said, in this instance substituting catty for malicious. But I don’t think I’m going to give in to such impulses, or I’ll wind up spending as much time revising as he did!]