Category Archives: Ernest Hemingway

True at First Light- a book!

Ernest Hemingway’s book, True at First Light was assembled from his writings by his second eldest son, Patrick Hemingway many years after his death. I have read many of Hemingway’s major works such as A Farewell to Arms, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Sun Also Rises and even taught parts of The Old Man and the Sea. I can still see Spencer Tracy in the movie as he sat there in that boat while contemplating life. 

I went on to rent the movies after finishing his books to compare the likenesses and differences. I was impressed with how well Hollywood stayed true to the script, but we avid readers know that a movie can never fully embody a book, itself. And then, around 2011, author Paula McLain wrote The Paris Wife, and it reawakened my interest in Hemingway. 

Her book featured Hadley, his first wife, and their early years in Paris. Hadley believed in him wholeheartedly and was highly instrumental in helping him get his career off the ground. He never stopped loving her and in his later years, after the world became his oyster, he often reflected on those simpler times in Paris with her and their son, Jack. 

After reading The Paris Wife, I finally knew that it was time for me to make that trek to Oak Park. There are not that many great writers from Illinois, so I had to go see his museum for myself. The women who worked there told me that Paula McLain had recently been there for a book signing. There were artifacts from his life everywhere such as old typewriters, news reels from WWI where he fought, huge movie posters from movies featuring his books and we could even hear his voice from some news clips.

Also, I had the opportunity to walk about a block away and see his Boyhood Home and the docent was very knowledgeable about every detail of his life. We saw the library, the kitchen, the bedrooms upstairs and I could see the Marshall Field’s trucks leaving from delivering the mother’s finery, which he thought his doctor-father often could not afford. 

Afterwards, I furthered my study of his life and read Mary Welsh Hemingway’s book How it Was. I remembered it being a bestseller in the early 80’s when I worked at a bookstore. It is over 600 pages long as she gives a detailed account of their lives together. She was his fourth and last wife and many call her the real Mrs. Hemingway. She stayed with him for over 25 years and was there on that fatal day in 1961 when his life ended. She too was a writer and foreign correspondent and she learned how to let him have his plateau but would also argue with him when she felt he was wrong. 

So, True at First Light is not a tale nor a writer’s birds eye view of the happenings going on all around. It is more of a memoir told in a first-person narrative about he and Miss Mary’s (as he affectionately called her) time in Kenya in 1953. Here, we get to see how he felt about several issues, how he relaxed and what kept him up at nights. 

We see him in the role as Papa-one who had late night talks with his beloved Mary and one who even had an African girlfriend, Debba (fiancée) who wanted to become his junior wife. (Of course, Mary was not having that!) But it was told in a light tone that did not stress nor concern the reader. He was by that time, a Nobel Prize winning writer that pretty much ruled his own world. 

Mary is determined to kill a lion in the novel to prove whatever and though she gets the job done, he and another shooter had to help put the lion totally down so it would not retaliate. Her shots did not fully kill the old lion. But more importantly, we see him hunting on a regular basis to make certain that all depending on him ate and had regular meat. We see him as a doctor administering aid to those who were sick. We see him reading and cherishing news and updates in the mail, and we see him getting up and sitting by the fire to think things through when everyone else was sleep. Many relied on his judgment and depended on his ability to lead and by that time, he was known as Papa to those around him.

True at First Light is a light book but cannot be read in a rush because it is filled with dribbles of wisdom and life lessons for those who are truly attuned. I laughed out loud when he received a letter from a woman in Iowa telling him that he was immature, that he had four wives and asking him when he was going to write something substantial. He thought,” I have written something substantial.” He later referred to her as the Iowa bitch, two times. I hollered!  

I am so glad that I picked up this gem from a secondhand store. It has been sitting on my shelf, but I was working before and not really ready for this treat and trip to Kenya. But then the time came. Yes, it took me a little longer to get through it but all who know Hemingway understand that he is no one to be read in a hurry. Each word is a bite to be tasted, chewed and savored! 

Lynn M.
October 15, 2022

Hemingway in Oak Park!

Hem 2





From:   Boston and Beyond: Tyre & Phoenix

Boston and Beyond 2

Phoenix entered Oak Park and found parking on the street across from the museum. She gathered her things, made sure that she locked the car and crossed the street. She noticed the three oblong green banners that hung outside the museum bearing his name and picture. She knew that she was in the right place as she headed up the steps. Once inside, she paid the entry fee to the museum itself and also paid for a tour to his boyhood home which was about a block away.

She went into the museum and the woman working at the desk told her that it would take several visits to see all of the Hemingway artifacts. She saw several displays like one of his typewriters, pictures from different parts of his life, and newspaper clippings. She could hear his voice in the background which was obviously from one of his interviews. When she turned one corner, she saw old movie reels of men fighting in a battle during World War I.

The Hemingway Foundation had done a remarkable job of preserving his legacy and Phoenix agreed that she would need to make more visits to see it all. There were huge Hollywood posters which had advertised movies that had been made into film based on Hemingway’s books. She saw pictures of legends like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Rock Hudson. Phoenix sighed, “What a life!”

                                                        Hemingway inside - Copy


Lynn M.                                                                                        July 11, 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