Ernest Hemingway's 1920s letters have been collected into a book, and the Daily Beast recently excerpted one booze-soaked note sent by Papa to F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's kind of funny, actually, that you can read this private correspondence and buy this Cambridge University-edited collection for $40, because the letters are not, by any means, literature. Hemingway famously wrote while drinking. That was kind of how he, Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and other hard-drinking modern writers operated: you drank to write freely and creatively, you edited when you could more clearly see the mistakes made in buzzed inspiration. (Note: Anyone who has read The Sound and the Fury may not believe Faulkner ever edited.)
So the whole concept of a book of Hemingway letters is absurd. Because he's just bullshitting like any other half-in-the-bag dude—without the full benefit of the keen literary mind that created The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. In this letter, Hemingway describes to Fitzgerald his paradise, which veers into self-parody. He wants a bull fighting ring. He wants a place to trout fish. He wants nine mistresses and copies of The New Republic (a magazine he feuded with) to use as toilet paper. These are the words of a genius after several pitchers of Spanish sangria:
I am feeling better than I’ve ever felt—havent drunk any thing but wine since I left Paris. God it has been wonderful country. But you hate country. All right omit description of country. I wonder what your idea of heaven would be—A beautiful vacuum filled with wealthy monogamists, all powerful and members of the best families all drinking themselves to death. And hell would probably [be] an ugly vacuum full of poor polygamists unable to obtain booze or with chronic stomach disorders that they called secret sorrows.
To me heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on 9 different floors and one house would be fitted up with special copies of the Dial printed on soft tissue and kept in the toilets on every floor and in the other house we would use the American Mercury and the New Republic.* Then there would be a fine church like in Pamplona where I could go and be confessed on the way from one house to the other and I would get on my horse and ride out with my son to my bull ranch named Hacienda Hadley and toss coins to all my illegitimate children that lined the road. I would write out at the Hacienda and send my son in to lock the chastity belts onto my mistresses because someone had just galloped up with the news that a notorious monogamist named Fitzgerald had been seen riding toward the town at the head of a company of strolling drinkers.
Or dont 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.
Also, Hemingway once compared dick sizes with the author of The Great Gatsby. I just thought that needed to be included somewhere.
[H/T: Daily Beast]