Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


On the Road for The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Part Two: California

Melissanne S.

Dateline: The Bay Area, November 1

Book Passage in Corte Madera lives up to their own tagline, “The Bay Area’s liveliest bookstore!”. Events Coordinator Johanna Rupp hosted a lovely event that resulted in a conversation among patrons and Sandy as opposed to the more-typical volley of Q&A between audience members and an author. It was fun to see the types of people who came out to the event, including a research assistant from Boise State who worked on the project (hi Lauren!).

Cuba was a core theme among the questions this night. People wanted to know in what shape is Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s home in Cuba that he moved into to avoid the tourists?  In a word: bad. How did Fidel Castro and Hemingway get along? They only met once and briefly; however, Castro was a fan of Hemingway and read For Whom The Bell Tolls for tips on guerilla marketing.

The second main topic guests wanted to know about was Hemingway’s mental health, particularly towards the end of his life. Someone asked if Sandy could detect any shifts in his health from reading the letters. Towards the end of this life, she shared, the letters do change and readers can feel his despair. There was a fascinating exchange about a recent New York Times article (on July 1st, 2011) by Hemingway’s friend A.E Hotchner describing Hemingway’s paranoia that the FBI was tracking him. Few took his claims seriously but in recent years the files have been opened and in fact the FBI, under Hoover’s direction, was indeed tracking Hemingway.

Book Passage and its very lively customers exemplified what makes a community bookstore so terrific.

Dateline: Los Angeles, November 2


Vroman’s has hosted hundreds of award-winning authors and Sandy fit right in to their line-up. A chilly night for Pasadena still brought in a great crowd to hear about Hemingway. Los Angelenos were curious about The Letters in light of some of the other Hemingway-related books recently released, particularly The Paris Wife. Sandy spoke warmly of this fiction work as it has renewed wide enthusiasm for Hemingway.

Sandy also reminded people of how politically astute Hemingway was; after all, he started his writing career as a journalist. The Letters of Ernest Hemingway contains many correspondences of what Hemingway was covering, in addition to his own opinions of the matter.

Sandy revealed that Hemingway was also wittily astute. When asked to write for the newly-launched Esquire Magazine, he quipped that it wasn’t a very wise name for magazine during The Depression.

The audience had a great time hearing these interesting stories about Hemingway. But after chatting with a book reviewer, Sandy had to fight her way through LA traffic and call it an early night as she had a 4:45 (AM!) departure the next morning. So much for the glamours of an author tour.

Read Part One: The Pacific Northwest

Stay Tuned for Part Three: Back to Where It All Began

About The Author

Melissanne S.

Melissanne is the associate director of sales and marketing in Cambridge's New York office....

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