Monthly Archives: May 2017

Hemingway in Pamplona


The play Pamplona opens with Stacy Keach in a room in Pamplona, Italy.  It is after Hemingway’s 60th birthday party and he gets a call from a well-meaning friend who tells him that he ignored his wife, Mary while he flirted with others. He slams the phone down and uses a few expletives.

This one-man play is a long soliloquy given in a mediocre room in Pamplona. Hemingway has been using it as a space to write for over 30 years.  It is plain and somewhat sparse with a bed, a Persian rug, a Victrola for his music and a writing desk with his typewriter.

Keach delivers an 80-minute nonstop journey back through the years of Hemingway’s life.  He relives major and minor events and the stage designer uniquely puts huge pictures on the walls to reflect his thoughts.  For example, if he is talking about his time spent with F. Scott Fitzgerald or his first wife, Hadley, their black and white photographs are displayed on the walls of the room.

Throughout the  play, he is frustrated because he has writer’s block.  He has a deadline with Life Magazine on a memorable matador and cannot seem to come up with the right words.  He has already taken a large cash advancement, so he is feeling the pressure of producing a finished product.

As he moves through his life in a non-sequential order, he admits that he cannot turn out work like he did years before he received the Nobel Prize.  War injuries, car wrecks, and plane crashes have taken their toll on his health along with his four marriages and years of drinking.

Pamplona has a humorous tone and there is laughter after almost every other line though many of the things he endured are not laughable.  He shows how his major works were borne out of real events but how he added fiction to each piece.

He lost friends after writing, A Sun Also Rises.  His acquaintances from those Paris days saw themselves in his characters.  He felt that this was not entirely true and talked about reality versus what he wrote. He actually read the Dear John letter written by the nurse which inspired A Farewell to Arms.

In The Old Man and the Sea, he gave the main character the name of Santiago. Yet he got the idea from observing a fisherman with gnarled hands by another name. And, he admits that For Whom the Bell Tolls was spun from his relationship with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn.

He laments over his wives and he admits that he does not understand women. But then, he did not understand his insensitive mother. Towards the end of the play, he goes back to his humble beginnings in Oak Park.

Hemingway shares some of the difficult things like his grandfather’s attempted suicide and his father’s actual suicide both using the same gun. He shares his mother’s unforgettable betrayal when she used to dress him up as a little girl and tell the neighbors that he and his sister were twin girls.

Stacy Keach does a fine job of pulling off the essence of Ernest Hemingway.  It lines up with everything that I had read by and about him. Mary Hemingway’s book, How it Was, also filled in many of the small details of his life and the play Pamplona got it right.

This look into the remarkable life of Papa proved that the entire globe was his indeed his oyster.  He wrote what he saw, lived and experienced and he took his readers along for the wonderful ride!

Lynn M.                                                                      May 31, 2017

Emily’s Crown

Emily writing

A Quiet Passion is a thought-provoking film that sheds light on portions of Emily Dickinson’s​ life.  The movie opens at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts where Emily is already going against the grain.  Her headmistress reminds her that “She is alone in her rebellion.”

Her family comes to take her home to Amherst. The rest of the film is set in the house with her austere father, Edward, her brother Austin and her loving sister Vinny. All of them are daily affected by Emily’s headstrong ways.

Emily, her mother, is secluded and rarely seen.  It is unclear why she is so glum and unhappy.  However, when Austin brings home his intended, Susan, the mother comes downstairs which surprises the others.

The low lighting and slow action of the film seem to imply that there is a general tone of depression.  Perhaps, the outbreak of the Civil War contributes to the feelings of heaviness.  Young Austin wants to join the armed forces, but his father forbids it and makes him stay behind and work as his law partner.

Emily resents her position as a woman of the 1800’s because of her limited mobility and she tells Austin that he should spend one day as a woman.  She finds solace in her writing and gets permission from her father to write in the wee hours of the morning while the world is sleeping.

A few of her poems are published during her lifetime and she stitches her poems together into small booklets. Some are recited in the background while key events of her life unfold. For example, when she is holding Austin and Susan’s newborn son, she recites “I’m Nobody! Who Are You? (260)”

Vinny, her amiable sister, dutifully remains by her side; even when Emily is behaving badly.  They are sparing partners and Vinny tells her when she is out of line or being unnecessarily harsh to others.  Her father also corrects her on a number of occasions. He probably understood her private frustrations as a woman with an inquisitive mind in the 19th century.

Emily equated all partings to a form of death.  She grieved when friends moved away or got married and had a hard time letting go and saying goodbye. After her father passes, she goes into her room for about three days without eating. She finally emerges wearing the famous white dress though others are still wearing black to show that they are in mourning.  This is the beginning of her reclusive lifestyle and the white linen dress becomes her daily attire.

When others visit her, she speaks to them from upstairs and out of view.  She had said that she did not feel as attractive as Austin or Vinny, and this may have contributed to her eventual hibernation.  But, the mother also isolated herself and as the saying goes, “The apple does not fall too far from the tree.”

The movie spends an inordinate amount of time on Emily’s struggle with Bright’s disease.  Some of the scenes are highly disturbing as she has convulsions and epileptic seizures before succumbing to death at the age of 55.  Austin, Susan and Vinny surround her and the movie closes with her funeral procession while she can be heard reciting the poem, “I Could Not Stop for Death So He Kindly Stopped for Me (479).”

The movie is worth seeing for those scholars who like all things Emily; however, she had to have had more good days. She could have been shown working in her garden or cooking some of her favorite dishes. It is said that she was a great cook. Or she could have been seen lowering her famous basket of gingerbread down to the neighborhood children.

The writer-director, Terence Davies, did in-depth research which was revealed through the credits but surely there were sunnier days in the life of this renowned American poet.  Yet, her life still intrigues many and she undoubtedly meant it when she wrote “And I choose, just a crown.”

Lynn M.                                                         May 27, 2017

The Olive Branch!


I recently saw the movie Gifted which I chose after careful consideration.  I wanted to see a reflective film that I would remember and later ponder.  I was not disappointed. It was about a six and half-year old mathematical genius named Mary (McKenna Grace).

When the movie opens, she is attending school for the first time after being home-schooled by her Uncle Frank (Chris Evans).  He is raising her after her mathematical whiz mom took her own life.  She left Mary in her brother’s care and he wants to make sure that Mary doesn’t follow down the same unbalanced path.

In spite of her exceptional math talents, he wants her to  have good social skills and live as normal a life as possible.  When, she starts going to a public school, problems ensue because she is lacking in the people department.  She provokes the principal, breaks an older bully’s nose while protecting a class mate and generally causes an uproar in her second grade class.

In the midst of the upheaval, her estranged but wealthy grandmother steps in and wants custody of Mary.  She has never shown an interest in her before, but she has her own private agenda.  She wants Mary to help her solve a mathematical equation that would give her a long-desired fame.  She also went to school to be a mathematician, but had to put her career on hold to raise her family.

The movie takes a lot of twists and turns as the court battle plays out between the uncle and the hard-hearted grandmother (Lindsey Duncan).  Roberta (Octavia Spencer), his landlord, is supportive and acts as a surrogate to young Mary on a daily basis.

This sensitive movie shows the uncle fighting for Mary’s chance to have as normal a life as possible.  He is haunted by his sister’s suicide and remembers her lack of personal happiness. He wants to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to his niece even if she does eventually attend a gifted school.

For a while, he plays along with the court’s rulings and lets Mary live with a foster family.  But he finds out that all is not well and that the grandmother is still privately working her plan to exploit Mary’s gift.

He finally reveals a long withheld bargaining chip and plays it like a winning chess piece. It makes the affluent grandmother back down and give him full custody of Mary.  See Gifted and discover what illusive olive branch he extends to save Mary’s life!

Lynn M.                                                                                                May 20, 2017

Characters Choose!

“Character is who and what you are in your essence, after much that is transient and superficial is stripped away.  It includes your inner and outer life but is best revealed in the many things you do -especially those little things that you do without much thinking.”   (The Healing Power of Stories by Daniel Taylor)

Healing Stories b

When I think of character, I think of Shakespeare’s plays where he lets his characters reveal themselves through their private thoughts and outward actions.  They inevitably show themselves and do as Taylor says, act without thinking.  It shows what is truly in their hearts.

When we, as writers, create characters we show them making decisions which may sometimes be quick or even rash in nature.  From their actions we may deem what type of persons we are dealing with in a variety of situations and under different circumstances.

We ask ourselves a host of questions about a character.  Are they honest?  Are they sincere?  Or are they deceitful or underhanded?  Are they trustworthy?   Do they make sound decisions?  Or do they flip-flop and appear to be wishy-washy?  Is this person a gossip that carries tales? Or does this character protect others’ private information like sacred scrolls? Would we feel safe in this character’s company? Is this a person that we would trust in life-threatening scenarios?

I am currently reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and war has just broken out in France in 1940.  Young Isabella has to quickly decide if she can trust a young convict named Gaetan whom she met on the road.  All of the people are walking and in motion and she has to be a quick judge of character to see if this is a man she can trust.  He subtlety reminds her that if he wanted to do her harm, he had every opportunity to do so.  He offers her food and shows that he is concerned about her safety and she decides to trust him during this time of great peril.

Characters mirror real life and the decisions that they make speak volumes.  There is an old saying that says, “Who you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.”   More simply put, “Actions do speak louder than words.”

Do you agree?

Lynn M.                                                                                                       May 13, 2017

The Thought!


The true thought behind something makes it either a blessing or a weight like an albatross around the neck.  This thought came to mind the other day when I lost or misplaced an expensive estate ring.  I bought it at Macy’s but the saleswoman told me that it was considered to be an estate ring upon purchase a few years back.

After losing it, I had to work through the process of letting it go.  I wondered whether the original owner would even want me to wear it.  Perhaps I was sporting something that was not indicative of well-wishes.

However, I enjoyed its beauty for a few years; but in all honesty, it had been slipping off my finger quite frequently in the past few weeks.  Like anything else, it was subtly saying that it was time to let it go.

With a little more wisdom, I could quietly release it and ponder the spiritual lesson being taught in this situation.  I thought about the whole notion of gift giving and realized  that if something is given to us in a begrudged fashion or in a sense of indebtedness, it probably will not fare well for long.  Eventually, it may become a source of remorse.

Yet, a child  can give us something as simple as a picture of a flower on a post-it note and that picture can light up the home like a candle.  That is because it was given from the heart and in a spirit of love.  The thought behind a gift can make all the difference in bringing on tears of sorrow or smiles of joy!

Lynn M.                                                                                        May 6, 2017