Hemingway, Gender and Identity

In this virtual event series, filmmakers and special guests explore the writer’s art and legacy. Conversations on Hemingway: Hemingway, Gender and Identity was presented by WNET New York Public Media and The Center for Fiction. It features Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, Mary Karr, Marc Dudley and Lisa Kennedy.

AIRED: March 11, 2021 | 1:08:38

- Hello, and welcome to the Center For Fiction and WNET

for this event celebrating the spectacular film

about "Hemingway" by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

I'm Nan Graham and I'm wearing two hats today.

Hat number one, I've been

on the board of the Center For Fiction

One of tonight's sponsors for a decade now

since well before we conceived of our move

to the brand new gorgeous building in Brooklyn

right next to BAM, Mark Morris, and the Apple Store.

If you haven't been, we hope to be fully open again

sometime this summer with our fabulous event spaces

indoors and out waiters rooms, sitting rooms

and a stellar bookstore that is open now.

Hat number two I'm the publisher of Scribner.

My predecessor Max Perkins left us the books

by two Giant of American literature

F. Scott Fitzgerald and yes, Ernest Hemingway

who came to Scribner with his second book

at the urging of his friend, Scott.

I've spent a lot of time reading

and figuring out how to introduce new readers in Hemingway.

And I found this documentary, a revelation.

I admire Hemingway more deeply after watching it

his sentences, his courage, his work ethic.

I load him more deeply for his destruction

of his wives and a few other people.

And now I feel a far greater compassion for him.

Hemingway changed the furniture

in the room as Tobias Wolff says

and the film does a brilliant job of eliciting eloquence

from other writers about how he influenced them.

Toby, Tim O'Brien, Edna O'Brien and Mary Karr

whom you'll hear from tonight.

We at Scribner found the discussion about the short stories

so powerful and eliminating

that we made a new collection that reflects the film.

Thanks so much to PBS and the WMDT group

for co-sponsoring this event and both hats off

every hat off to Lynn and Ken

for their absolutely stunning film.

And now to the WNET groups, inimitable Neal Shapiro

who will introduce the panel.

- Thanks, Nan and good evening.

I'm Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of the WNET group

home of the PBS station to the tri-state area

13 WLIW 21 and NJPBS.

It's my great pleasure to be here with you this evening

in partnership with the Center for Fiction

as we celebrate "Hemingway," the upcoming documentary

from America's premier storytellers,

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick in this, their latest documentary.

They examine the complicated man behind the myth.

I want to extend a special, welcome

and warm thank you to our supporters

and viewers who joined us tonight.

I look forward to the may it come soon

when we can all see each other together.

And in person, we recognize that your dedication

and generosity helps us bring outstanding works

like "Hemingway" to you.

And tonight we're fortunate to be joined

by both the directors, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

as well as poet and memoirist Mary Karr

and literary scholar and Marc Dudley

who both appear in the film

and conversation with accomplished writer, Lisa Kennedy.

Together they will discuss Ernest Hemingway's life and work

through the lens of gender and identity.

But first please enjoy your preview of "Hemingway"

and be sure to tune into 13

or your local PBS station on April 5th, sixth, and seventh

to see the full three part series, thank you.

(upbeat music)

- Hemingway was a writer who happened to be American

but his palette was incredibly wide

and delicious and violent and brutal and ugly.

All of those things.

It's something every culture can basically understand.

Every culture can understand falling in love with someone

the loss of that person of how great a meal tastes

how extraordinary this journey is.

That is not nationalistic, it's human.

And I think with all of his floats

with all the difficulties, his personal life, whatever

he seemed to understand human beings,

you see I'm trying and all my stories

to get the feeling of the actual life across,

not to just depict life or criticize it,

but to actually make it alive

so that when you have read something by me

you actually experienced the thing.

You can't do this without putting in the bad

and the ugly as well as what is beautiful

because if it is all beautiful, you can't believe it.

Things aren't that way.

It is only by showing both sides, three dimensions.

And if possible four that, you can write the way I want to.

(upbeat music)

- [Michael] Ernest Hemingway remade, American literature.

He paired storytelling to its essentials.

Change the way characters speak

expanded the worlds or writer could legitimately explore

and left an indelible record

of how men and women lived during his lifetime.

Generations of writers would find their work

measured against his, some followed the path he'd blazed

others rebelled against it, none could escape it.

He made himself the most celebrated American writer

since Mark Twain read and revered around the world.

- It's hard to imagine a writer today

who hasn't been in some way influenced by him.

It's like he changed all the furniture in the room

and we all have to sit in it to some,

we can kind of sit on the edge

of the arm chair on the arm or do this.

But you know he changed the furniture, the room.

The value of the American declarative sentence.

The way you build a house brick by brick, out of those

within a few sentences of reading a Hemingway story

you are not in any confusion as to who had written it.

- I can't imagine how it's possible

that any one writer could have so changed the language.

People have been copying him for nearly a 100 years

and they haven't succeeded in equaling what he did.

- If you're a writer you can't escape Hemingway.

He's so popular that you can't begin to write

till you try and kill his ghost in you or embrace it.

And I think identify that most about Hemingway

is that he was always questing.

The perfect line had not happened yet.

It was always a struggle trying to get it right.

And you never will.

- [Michael] For three decades

people who had not read a word he'd written

thought they knew him, wounded veteran

and battlefield correspondent, big game hunter

and deep sea fishermen, bullfighter aficionado, brawler

and lover, and man about town.

(upbeat music)

But behind the public figure

was a troubled and conflicted man

who belonged to a troubled and conflicted family

with its own drama and darkness and closely held secrets.

The world saw him as a man's man, but all his life

he would privately be intrigued

by the blurred lines between male and female, men and women.

There were so many sides to him.

The first of his four wives remembered

that he defied geometry.

- He was open to life.

He was open to tragedy.

He was open to feeling.

I liked that he fell in love

and he fell in love quite a few times.

He always had next woman before he left the existing woman.

- [Michael] He was off unkind and generous

to those in need of help.

And sometimes just as cruel and vengeful

to those who had helped him.

- [Man] I have always had the illusion.

It was more important or as important

to be a good man as to be a great writer.

I may turn out to be neither, but we'd like to be both.

- [Michael] Hemingway's story is a tale older,

even than the written word of a young man whose ambition

and imagination, energy and enormous gifts bring him wealth

and fame beyond imagining

who destroys himself trying to remain true

to the character he has invented.

- One of his weakness I was going to say failing.

And it was a great pity.

It's a great pity for any writer he loved an audience.

He loved an audience and in front of an audience

he lost the best part of himself

by trying to impress the audience.

- [Michael] I hate the myth of Hemingway

and the reason I hate the myth of Hemingway

get obscures the man

and the man is much more interesting than the myth.

I think he was a terrific father sometimes.

I think that he was a loving husband sometimes.

I think he was like so many people

except this enormous talent.

Hemingway is complicated.

He's very complicated.

The great thing is to last and get your work done

and see and hear, and learn and understand.

And right when there is something that you know

and not before and not too damned much after.

(upbeat music)

- Good evening.

- Good evening.

- Hello.

- Hello. - Hello.

- Wow well, let's get started.

I am Lisa Kennedy and I am visiting virtual New York

from Denver, Colorado this evening.

It's great to be back in New York.

And I wanna introduce just a little bit more

our wonderful panelists, starting

with the directors of this amazing challenging

and beautiful three-part series about Ernest Hemingway,

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick good to see you both.

And I also want to introduce

two people who will have a great deal to say

about gender and identity in the works of 'Hemingway"

and in the life of Hemingway poet, memoirist,

and oh yeah lyricist Mary Karr, whose bestselling memoirs

"Liars' Club," "Cherry" and let you know.

And possibly you also know her five books of poetry

her most recent being "Tropic of Squalor."

And then Marc Dudley is a Professor

at North Carolina State University

and he in 2019 published a book

called "Hemingway Race

"and Art Bloodlines and the Color Line"

And then, because he's not afraid of Titans

he more recently published a book called

"Understanding James Baldwin" which came out in 2019.

And I wanted to circle back to Ken and Lynn for a moment

because the list is very long.

So we won't go through the whole list of the works

that both of you have done

but you've done things that have really changed

I think have sort of expanded the vault

of how this nation understands itself.

And by actually going into the vaults often to the archives

as well as gathering amazing people to talk with

interview with as you did with this film.

And also just challenging the moment.

So some of those films of course

are like the "Dust Bowl," "Jazz", "Baseball," "The War"

and the "Vietnam War."

Lynn you have been a producer on a number of those films

but also you have co-directed along with Ken

"Hemingway," "The Vietnam War series,"

and also "Prohibition."

So I don't, and there are a lot of interviews

and I hear that we have this sort of massive

wonderful audience that's been following you all

from place to place to place.

So I think they know some of the awards as well.

Emmy's and Peabody's and there's not an et cetera.

There it's just like a wow there, but let's get started.

'Cause there's a lot to get to

in a fairly short amount of time.

One of the things I love about that introduction

is besides being an elegant introduction

to the scope of the three part series

it does something really interesting

which is it is a little bit of a bait and switch

because I think that my sort of reaction sometimes to

or hearing about this film before seeing it

was just a little bit like why now

Hemingway, why now at this moment

because this moment is so potent

for entirely the reasons we are gathered

for gender and identity, which includes,

I think sort of gender as identity,

but also ethnicity and race

as identity and American character and all those things.

So it's really interesting to have

Michael could talk us say sort of the things

that I think almost immediately make a person like me

get a little bit suspect about how this is going to be

sort of what is this gonna be like?

What is this it's not, I mean

neither of you are known for geographic films,

so that's not the anxiety.

The anxiety is just that it's really hard to shake off

or revisit the Canon sometimes.

And this is a writer that is absolutely essential

to the standard Canon of American letters.

And in fact, a great literature period.

And so I was intrigued by the kind of challenges

that you sort of knew going in that you would have,

and having this film exist in this moment in time,

and this moment has been going on for awhile,

but it has reasserted itself

in a lot of ways in terms of,

and I don't wanna get all hashtaggy on any of us

but there is a certain way in which this moment

is sort of understood in terms of me too, in some ways.

So that's gender and then also Black Lives Matter

and sort of the issues of like,

why now is this is this the guy we're gonna like

spend time with at this moment in the culture?

And I know that you are both too smart

not to have like, thought about these things.

So I'm really interested to hear from each of you,

how you wrestle with what your conversations were like.

And then if you had any conversations

with your sort of go-to writer about like

sort of maneuvering all this and how to have that rhythm

and also have respect for the character

and the writer and the person that is Hemingway.

- We've been thinking about this Lisa for decades literally

first from the early '80s that said

after "Civil War" do "Baseball" and "Hemingway."

And so Hemingway was always there

sort of just outside the yeses

that we said to the projects we were doing.

But a number of years ago, 10 years ago

we really began looking at it again

and started more than six years ago.

So not aware of what moment it would land in

but knowing from every other film that we've ever made

that it will land in something that resonates

not only with our topic,

but with new things that are going on

as if somehow we had designed the film

for a particular moment

I think just as life is subverted

by the inevitability of our death,

a theme that is constant in "Hemingway"

there's something wonderfully confounding

about how a deeper dive into Ernest Hemingway

subverts the kind of tropes that we expect.

And so the conversations

that we had with Geoffrey Ward our Writer,

and with our Senior Producer Sarah Botstein

were exactly that when in the context

of trying to lift the veil first

for us to leave our conventional wisdom

whatever baggage we had preconceptions

and to dive in, we didn't wanna make a film

that was telling you what we knew.

We wanted to share with you a process of discovery.

And part of it was knowing

that this guy came with this gigantic macho image.

Some of it naturally organically come to him.

I mean, he did like to fish.

He did like the big game on, he did do that.

He was a brawler, all that sort of stuff.

And yet underneath it was this incredibly new layer

that we were getting at that had to do

with a kind of interest in gender fluidity.

You can notice his hair is getting longer

and his wives hair are getting shorter.

This is very conscious and deliberate on his part

that there is a kind of insecurity and anxiety

that underlies a lot of that macho posturing

which sort of seems obvious at first breath.

And then I think Nan said it in her introduction,

you're drawn, you're still blown away

by the power of the art

you're horrified by some of the action.

And then you end up not just end up, you also have

or make room for a kind of compassion

for the complexity of the person.

And so if that lands in this moment

it is a kind of accident of our excrutiatingly long

consciously attenuated process to try to get it right.

So lots of stuff happened in the six and a half years.

Things came and went

and re intensified reintroduce themselves.

And here we find ourselves in this moment

having just put our nose to the grindstone.

Somebody said that work is love made visible

and Hemingway was a good worker

and we've tried to be inspired a little bit

by the discipline that attended to him

until his demons overtook him.

That's way too long of an answer.

And it's not really an answer

Lynn we'll be smarter about this.

- I don't know I appreciate that.

Well I think the questions that you raised were

front and center to our inquiry from the beginning

and before we started working on the film, even.

So why do we wanna make the film?

What is it about Hemingway that draws us

and why would an audience wanna watch it?

And then it sort of drove who we spoke to

and what questions we asked.

And two of our great stars of the film are here today

to help us unpack some of this along with Abraham Bergeys.

So we saw the intro and an O'Brien.

So we asked everyone when we spoke to you about Hemingway

the same questions you just asked us,

and that helped to inform what the film would be

and how we would engage those issues frankly.

So we didn't know going in, but what we would discover

it was really asking ourselves,

why would people wanna watch a film about Hemingway?

Because he's a great, great writer

and a very complicated guy,

but then in a deeper way,

we are reevaluating the icons of our culture

and looking at our history differently.

And I think having much deeper understanding of complexities

of the relationships between men and women

and masculinity and all the things

it just made the thumb so much more interesting.

And I think I would have really fully been aware

of when we started talking about this 20 years ago.

- No, I think that's actually a really amazing thing

because in a certain way,

you both have just made an argument

for not only did this film wind up at this moment

but actually I think that this film is the beneficiary

potentially of this moment as well,

which is that we're asking a different set of questions

about identity and fluidity and non binary-ness

and all kinds of things and things

about race in terms that I think also like make us smarter.

It's just like, I know that Marc will talk about it

which is that Toni Morrison says,

the dreamer and the dream in some ways.

And so the into sort of question that is to also

open up a different understanding of the work,

which I always think is great, right?

It isn't just, it can't be just the myth.

It's really about the work.

And you all ended with a beautiful piece of writing

and that introduction that just sort of reminds us

and I think grounds us, this is where Mary and Marc

I think a little bit, which is that

we all know you guys do too,

but we're gonna go with Mary and Marc

that it would be a mistake to sort of say,

just like use them as synonyms,

gender and identity is wholly synonymous

with like misogyny and racism, because that isn't the case.

It seems to me, but I wonder what you all think.

And I feel a little bit like sort of

that improvisational thing where it's like and so Mary and--

- I mean, and look I have this theory.

I was very good go older writers.

I used to think you should just take every man,

born before a certain date

and just put them on an Island with a bunch of people,

non-binary women whatever we have rubber chickens.

And when they say something dumb, you just whack on

because there's so much swine dog out there.

I mean if we're gonna talk about gender and identity

or about overt misogyny or whatever,

it exists in stories that are being written right now.

I mean, it's like, does this not exist?

And so, and I also always loved

that checkoff line that you make a work of art

in order to define a problem.

And I love Hemingway, I adore these books.

I read them when I was a kid.

And so that noise that such a mass

just an amazing stylist and a massive,

he took American idiom and the poetry of American idiom

which in European eyes would have been called crude

and made poetry of it.

So, I mean I don't think a lot of what his women characters

have profited from being more three-dimensional

and less adoring.

Yeah they are I mean, just artistically speaking

I'm not talking about politically,

just if they had things they wanted to do besides have him

mans plain stuff to them already,

or in the Spanish, Shamila the Spanish Civil War,

heal me from rape and by having sex with me

and "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

I mean, it's really, you have to actually look

at what's being said, it's shocking.

And somebody who's very involved in these issues.

So I think it's necessary.

I love that Marc and I were both talking

or he said that if he gave his students a highlighter

or to find over misogyny say, are, fill in the blank racism,

that they would be able to find it.

I'm asking Marc I don't know.

- Yeah I think my suggestion was that

if I gave a highlight to a student

and asked them to point out instances

of misogyny or racism and more particularly

you probably have more highlights than actual texts.

And some of the stories that's not to say

and I'm trying to sort of unpack

where we're going with this, but that's not to say that

Hemingway's this antiquated artifact

that's gotten dusty and has no use today.

This is why I'm excited to be a part of this conversation.

It's sort of gotten me

re-energized about all things, "Hemingway."

There's a tendency to forget that he started a lot of things

and he started a lot of the conversations

that we're having now vis-a-vis just

in terms of social politics

whether we're talking about gender identity

or whether we're talking about notions of race

he had these conversations

peculating already a 100 years ago,

which for me is amazing that doesn't dismiss

any of the other things that we've been talking about.

But I think it actually makes him much more interesting

and it makes him to sort of borrow

from his own sort of language.

It makes him real.

It makes them all the more real for us

because he's flawed just like we are a 100 years later

no matter how, what we think we are.

- You could you could swing a cat around

and a room full of writers.

And how many of us would pass the woke test?

I mean, I fail it I just not so many.

but I don't think I've also spent

I spent a lot of time in China

where they had a cultural revolution

and you talk to writers and artists and painters

who had their history kind of locked off

and how bereft they are.

So I think for me, teaching "Hemingway"

which I've done is these students have you read

Toni Morrison you're being influenced by Hemingway,

You might as well see some of the sources that concision

dialogue or core anybody who's easy packer, Rachel Cusk

any of these new, young writers I think of

their inflict you can see that Marc.

And it's just, if you want to be autonomous as

and I'm teaching graduate students who wanna be writers

if you want to be autonomous

in your artistic choices and right.

I mean, you wanna and how can you do that?

If you don't understand the pressure of the cannon

how can you be free of it in a way as an artist

the anxiety of influence is bloom talked about worryingly.


- That's funny it's interesting because I think

that's precisely why, I mean market.

And as I think that this is the challenge is

this sort of dance that we all do.

And I don't think it's a bad dance.

I think it's an absolutely essential dance

for understanding a lot about

the American character American letters

and where we're going and where we've been

is to be able to balance the sort of questions.

So that's why I said, I don't think

that we're talking about just misogyny when we say gender.

And I don't think we're talking about racism only

when we say identity in this context, because it's richer

and more complicated and more complex than that.

And that's, what's been really interesting about this series

is the way in which it wrestles with that

that being said, let's go to the video.

When would you set up this next clip?

- Yeah so we've chosen a clip from our second episode.

At this point in his life Hemingway is very, very famous.

He's already published a farewell to arms

and sound also advises on the great short stories.

And he's living in key West with his second wife Pauline

and he has an out sized personality

and does everything to the max.

I think that's basically

and we're just gonna show a short clip that

relates to the things we've been discussing.

(upbeat music)

- I believe that the terrible thing about alcohol

for writers is that it works at first, that it works great.

You're anxious, you're wound up at the end of the day.

You have no way to calm down.

You have a few pops and you feel better

- [Michael] Once on Bimini the wealthy yachtsman drunk

and belligerent called Hemingway a foamy and the fat slob

Hemingway justice drunk knocked in cold

words spread fast across the Island.

When anyone is tight here or fields dangerous

Hemingway told a friend, they asked me to fight

Hemingway let it be known that he would pay $250

to anyone who could stay with him for three rounds.

No one ever claimed the money.

- I think the masculinity

must have been so constricting.

He's drawn to all these big butch things.

He could hit somebody and they feel the punch or whatever.

It does seem a little weary.

- I think ordinary life was anathema to him.

It had to be a life of adventure

and that adventure was in loo if that's the right word

of a deep seated loneliness and depression

- [Man] He has become the legendary Hemingway.

He appears to have turned

into a composite of all those photographs

sunburned from snows on skis and fishing get up

burn dark from the hot Caribbean

the handsome stalwart hunter

crowd smiling over the carcass of some dead beast.

Such a man could not have written Hemingway's early books.

It is hard not to wonder whether he has not hunting

brought down an even greater victim, the new republic.

- So my favorite word is weary


I love very using weary for this

because I think that it really sort of taps into something

about I mean, it sort of showed up

in the conversation about Hemingway and celebrity

which is this sort of notion of like having to be a persona

to like have built a persona

and then have to kind of keep feeding it in some ways.

And then the sort of weird feedback loop

that he experienced with that

that served him and also didn't serve him in some ways.

But what I really love about weary

and that notion of persona is to sort of

shifting it a little bit.

And thank you, studies for helping us do this

which is to sort of talk about the performative

in terms of masculinity in terms of gender.

So that I thought was what,

one of the things I think is really amazing

about this moment.

So there's this sort of notion that

he has to kind of perform that.

And not only does he perform it

it's like America then sort of like also performs

that version of masculinity to some degree.

I wonder what you think of that, Mary

and then I have a slightly

different question for you, Marc which is

is there a similar thing in terms of like race performance

like the performative in terms of race?

I think there may be, but I'm curious of what you think so--

- Go ahead, Marc.

- All right let me see if I can unpack some of this.

Let me speak to the masculinity, the gender portion

just for a moment and say

when I hear conversations like that

I think of a couple of things, Mary, you use the term weary

and I'm glad that you sort of glommed onto that.

At least it must be tiring.

I've had conversations with people about this before, right?

The idea of always sort of having to put up

this front for the world, Hemingway like all celebrities

I think felt that to his last day,

as far as masculinity goes, though,

I would say suggest this.

I mean I'm sure it's some of these conversations previous

have talked about the idea of the cold hero.

He was always sort of aware of this in his writing

as well as his life the idea that he's a sportsman

that he's got the male bravado, sexual prowess,

the hard drink or all these things

that make him a manly man, along with all the things

that he writes about

the code here on necessarily

being an action oriented person,

he's a doer he's not a talker.

Think about how many times

you have a Hemingway character who says nothing.

And the narrative tells us expressly

that the character says nothing.

So it was always about the silences.

And what's not said that it's important with Hemingway

and that's why it's so fascinating for me.

The other thing I was gonna suggest though about that was

I hear this kind of language

always being surrounding comedians.

I hear conversations about certain

maybe members of the audience

or certain comedian saying so and so always seems to be on

the need to be on, have that for game face on

Hemingway was very much aware of that predicament you.

Another thing I would say, though,

that immediately came to mind about

just that portion of the question was

if you have not read to have, and have not

read it for that reason only

some would say it's a horrible book.

It was handled by most critics

but I would say the beginning of noir fiction

as we know it starts there.

And the number of times did he use the word Cajones

is is laughably ridiculous.

- It can be you tricking game.--

- People are aware of that absolutely.

To the point of clarity, I think he understood

that he was putting on a show always

to the race question absolutely I will simply say this.

Maybe there'll be time in the conversation afterwards

after this question,

but I went to a number of short stories,

something like the "Battler" which I've written about.

And I talk about, you can point out any number of places

where Hemingway expressly talks about characters

in terms of race as a marker,

walked like a Negro, Negro's voice, that kind of thing.

The entire African Safari documentation

you could suggest is at one grand performance.

And in that light

he's necessarily making himself into the great white hunter

And posturing all along the way

realizing that there's no audience

feeding on that kind of persona.

I don't know if that answers your question but I think--

- It certainly starts to, we're gonna return too

and you set up my setup for Lynn,

which is like I think we'll go to the next clips

so that we can just get even deeper into this as we go.

So, Lynn, yeah.

So the next clip we have is actually

as Marc just suggested Hemingway in Africa

but it's the second trip to Africa in the '30s.

He went to Africa with his first wife Pauline

and did exactly what Marc just described.

He went back with his fourth wife in the '50s

and we'll see that it's a very different experience.

And one of the themes that the film has been following

in addition to his posturing

as much as described is this relationship to androgyny

and gender role playing.

And that's something that's been

he's hinted at in his fiction.

And in private correspondence, his mother dressed him

and his older sister as twins, sometimes as boys

sometimes both as girls until he was five or six.

And there's amazing photographs of that.

And we've talked about that.

So this kind of fascination with the other gender

and what role to play speaking of the performance,

we've just been discussing.

We found really fascinating.

So here we are in Africa in the 1950s.

- [Michael] In the summer of 1953,

20 years after his first visit

Hemingway returned to East Africa with Mary

for a month they were the sole foreigners permitted

in the Southern Game Reserve 40 miles South of Nairobi.

- Kenya government had set him up on this.

They just had a major insurrection.

It was affecting tourism.

They wanted him to have a good time.

And boy was he having a good day?

- [Michael] Patrick now owned a farm in East Africa

and worked as a guide and hunter,

despite a Guerrilla Uprising against white colonial rule,

they hunted for a time

but Hemingway was drinking even more heavily than usual

shot poorly once fell from his Jeep.

He finally stopped shooting altogether,

driving out from camp instead each morning with Mary

just to see and photograph the animal.

(upbeat music)

He loved Africa, a member of his party remembered

he loved to sit in it and watch it.

He had natural knowledge of what animals do

and where they should be.

- Hemingway, I think was also really interested

in the people and who they actually were

a lot more interested than he was in the 30's

when he was just there really to hunt

and not paying attention to what was actually going on.

- When Hemingway comes back East Africa

and colonialism is literally under attack.

And he sees an Africa that is less tolerant

of some of the behavior that he exhibited early on.

It was wrong to call say

those grown men who were serving him boys

and not wanting to actively get to know them.

- [Michael] He now considered the Kenyan guides

and servants, friends, and brothers.

He wrote everyone had his duties and everyone had a name.

But when Mary went off to Nairobi

to do some Christmas shopping

he somehow persuaded himself that in her absence

he should join the Wakamba people and marry a young woman.

He shaved his head, dyed his clothes to imitate theirs

and tried hunting a warthog with a spear

despite his bizarre behavior in Africa,

he and Mary were as close as they had ever been.

- [Man] Mary is a Prince of devils

and almost any place you touch her

it can kill both you and her.

She has always wanted to be a boy and thinks as a boy,

without ever losing any femininity.

If you should become confused on this, you should retire.

She loves me to be her girls

which I love to be not being absolutely stupid

in return she makes me awards.

And at night we do every sort

of thing which pleases her in which pleases me.

I loved feeling the embrace of Mary,

which came to me as something quite new

and outside all tribal law.

On the night of December 19th, we worked out these things

and I have never been happier.

- So beautiful.

- It's good writing, so beautiful.-

- So beautiful Ken what you guys have wrought?

- That's Jeff Daniels, reading Ernest Hemingway.

It's Peter Coyote reading our Jeff Ward's narration.

It's Meryl Streep, Martha Gellhorn and Sarah.

I mean Mary Louise Parker and Carrie Russell

and Patricia Clarkson reading other voices.

When you have actors like that

then all of a sudden you have people inhabiting the words

and the nuances of this

we'd worked with a really good scratch

Hemingway for a long time

but Jeff delivered the meaning and know better than that

particular quote about that letter.

That is so transcended

I mean we are caught in the binary all the time

and what's so interesting is that

at times he's really slipped that away

despite all the other places that he's so infuriating.

- Yeah what I think is extraordinary sister tenderness

of that we're all responding to

because the language is really beautiful.

It's so unexpected, so deeply touching

and regulatory and it's intimacy.

And, but the clip also has like these vaccine moments

and sort of exhausting moments of like

sort of the racial prerogatives.

And yes, I understand that.

Well, it was better than it was when they went before

but there's still some fairly interesting

sort of challenges.

So I saw that there was a question

from a young lady in Ohio who's

and Marc I'm just gonna throw this at you for the moment

that's in Ohio and his reading "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

And I know that you teach Hemingway and race.

And one of the things I thought was really extraordinary.

You had done a podcast

when sort of on the occasion of Toni Morrison passing

and where we talked about race in "Hemingway."

And one of the things that you said that really struck me

among a number of things that you said was that

you sort of have to build your students' tolerance

to some degree.

And I think that we would be making a mistake

if we all assume,

'cause a number of us are sort of around the same age.

And I think there's a certain kind

of tolerance that we have for

'cause it's already been built in to some degree

for us to sort of go, but whatever,

and sort of be able to do those balancing things.

But I think that you all must be seen as teachers

and you Marc trying to teach this stuff,

that there is a way in which

you should be introduced to some of the work.

And I think that's an interesting moment.

So she was asking about, and let me say who she is

as opposed to just like, because

it's Annalise and she's from Ohio

and she's reading "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

And she was wondering if you could talk more

about race and the role of women in that book.

So maybe both of you could sort of talk about that

because I think the challenge to some degree is that

re-introduction for a new generation

that is not necessarily on board for being,

thoughtful about even the vulnerabilities

of someone that like Hemingway, who wasn't extra.

I mean, I would want them to be compassionate

but I don't think that people are necessarily

when they're young, always ready to be compassionate.

- Am taking this. - Guess you are.

- I want to know Marc how you build up their tolerance,

because I have a hard time I usually do it later.

I would do it later in a semester.

So I am looking for help here.

- You guys are on the front line


- Thank you I guess, let me suggest this.

I mean, where I always like to start with any conversation

about "Hemingway," especially for the uninitiated

and Linda and I have had plenty of conversations about this,

even on the day of taping, a lot of conversations

in which I couched everything

in the language of the classroom.

I start with underscoring,

just how much of a historian Hemingway was,

how much of an avid reader he was

and how deliberate he is and everything that he does.

So within the bounds of race,

I will go right along with my students

and suggest how easy it is to point out the epithets.

I wanna come back to something like to have and have nots

where he's just an equal opportunity offender.

He offends the Asians, he offends Latinex people.

He offends African-Americans equal opportunity offender.

But if we start with the supposition

that he's doing it for a reason,

I think that students are a little more forgiving.

And if we understand that he's not coming

from a space of ignorance,

then I think that readers are maybe more to understand

that there's something more going on here.

So within the framework of something like

"For Whom the Bell Tolls," the big question is

should there be an allowance for an artist

to sort of inhabit the space of another,

which is what he's doing there

and he's doing it in so many other works--

- And habits there's an interior life to these women.

And it's often, again, almost

just feels like he didn't ever talk to any.

I know he must've talked to some of them

or and I know he talked to her so--

- In that particular book

you could point to a handful of really strong women

pillars that were very strong woman

- The woman, a Pablo--

- Right absolutely.

- But she has the same kind of hypertrophied masculinity.

It seemed to me she's walking around with a hatchet

or something and everybody's kind of scared of her.

And I mean, she's like rabid leftist, who's in the fight,

till the last breath in her body

and then by contrast, you have this girl,

he calls her a girl he's sleeping with

so many calls rabbit.

And just the description of her

is I'm a sexual assault survivor,

as somewhat as that description of her assault,

where she's fighting the entire time and just beating know

they have to tie her mouth and they have to bind her.

And any woman would be beaten almost to death

in that with a gang of men,

with a gang of people in that circumstance.

I mean, just descriptions of that kind of thing.

And her asking him to make love to her to take that away.

But also his kind of, he said I love me.

And that sort of sweet formal Spanish pronoun deal.

But she said there was a flatness to his face

when he saw it and I still love that book.

I love that book it's beautifully written--

- It's all about context, right?

It's all about context and in the case of that novel.

Yeah, absolutely and then that's where you have to start.

I mean, I have to remind my students that

this is a 100 years old

if we're talking about something

that was published in the '20s

like the sun also rises where again

you can make the case of Lady Brett Ashley

being a strong character and she is,

but if you wanted to flip the script

and suggest that she's tragic from the beginning

I would say full stop all of the characters are tragic.

So if you take a look--


- Absolutely ell, yeah, absolutely.

- What's so great about the documentary is

the pathos that you guys get at somebody

who that thing of performing masculinity

and just the relentlessness

and how a bad his writing was going

and making fun of Fitzgerald's sexual proclivities

in the memoir "Moveable Feast"

there he seemed to have some real self-awareness

of how he was a dick--

- If I jump in and say I think that's sort of

what he writes about a lot at the time.

- Absolutely.

- Is men being just that thing you're saying

and he clearly seems to reveal

some kind of self-awareness of themselves, his friends,

the New Year the period of time like Marc is saying

that this is I think at one point

he was called an unliterary transcriber of life.

One of the reviews said of in our time

and clearly it's not that simple.

You don't just transcribe what you see.

It's a lot more complicated, but he is reflecting

some of the ugliness that we see men

and women relating to each other.

And if we don't like that

it doesn't seem right to blame him for that.

That's he's putting it in front of us, right.

Because it's hard to look at.

And that's what I find also so interesting.

The world he grew up in and his parents being horrified

by the topics he chose, they didn't want him

to write about divorce, sexual assault, abortion,

they were horrified venereal disease, right?

So he's pushing--

- They were real Puritans

- Yeah.

- The thing is if that connects Marc

and what Lynn said is that he is aware of this.

He is invoking these things

that can be infuriating out of context,

but he's aware of it he's a student of life.

And so you see these things.

So you've got a wonder in up in Michigan or Hills,

like white elephants.

Is that him literally raping on a first date

is that him pushing an abortion on somebody

or all of these things are so familiar

and he's willing to expose them at a time in Gertrude Stein.

Who's no slouch is saying, this is obscene up in Michigan

and this should not be published.

And as you know, better than me that this up in Michigan

is not in the second edition of in our time

because of this scene on up in Michigan.

But I just wanna say, even as I'm saying,

there's racism there, sexism it's ubiquitous.

He had a particularly good case of it that's all I'm saying.

And so but I also yeah, I'm sorry, Lisa.

- Go ahead Marc.

- I was just gonna say, let me just

I would qualify all of that by saying

I agree with everything you just said, Mary

but I always also would just underscore

which I'm glad the through line of this whole narrative

the six hour grandiose narrative is

the complication of the man

because while he's doing all of these things

committing all of these sins

I think that there is a someone,

I think Mary you suggested there's a pathos.

There was a pathos to the narrative

into the storytelling almost each and every case

that we're giving here.

And so I'll quickly say,

something that we could have spent even more time

is a conversation engaging his notions and engagements

and notions of and engagements with native Americans.

If you take a look at all of the stories

in which those are featured players

there's a pathos there that speaks to a national tragedy.

I would make a case for it.

- Yes.

- so it's complicated.

- Very important.

- Yeah you know what Mark we have in our editing room

a little cursive neon sign that says it's complicated.


That this is what,

since the very, very beginning for 40 years,

we have just tried to resist the temptation

to have the easy and Fazil layup

in favor of complicating,

all of it without perhaps explanation or resolution.

And because that's what it all is.

And the greatness of "Hemingway" is how much is unspoken

how much in this spare pros that we like to elicit

is actually not about that

it's back to the music his mother gave him

it's the intervals it's not the notes.

It's, what's not, it's the space between the notes

that makes the music.

And it's the art that is between the words

that is so spectacular.

But also, as I said, at the beginning, it's subversive

and it's confounding and it's infuriating

all at the same time.

And there's no way that that can be packaged

in a way that will be satisfying to somebody

that needs the simple moralistic one thing or the other.

- Oh, I think you guys did a great job.

I mean, I don't think you could,

when you say there's no way it can be packaged.

I think you guys, I disagree I think--

- We're contained pretty wild animals, right?

- And you are indeed.

Yeah, no, I mean, I think what's amazing is that

there was this sort of assumption

at the beginning of the intro, this notion of like

it's just humanist, it's just universal.

And I think that one of the things I love

and that's why I said it was a bait and switch

is I actually think this wrestles and says that

you have to actually go through that

readers have to go through it,

watchers have to go through it.

We will have to wrestle this beast

in order to understand the value of "Hemingway"

at this moment and to sort of can continue to navigate

and negotiate that.

And I think that Marc and Mary have said that really well

but I also think the thing that speaks most eloquently

to that is the six hours of the documentary.

We have a bunch of questions

that I wanna get a couple of in if we can

but before we do just final words

from the filmmakers about--

- Let's leave all the space--

- Let those people speak it good all right.

This is one of the questions is just like,

what did Hemingway read, what influenced him?

And I think that you'll, I mean,

because I think that that's interesting,

it's like, were there people

that you felt like influenced him

that might be surprises in that?

And neither of you just chime in.

- I will simply say

if you wanna get a sense of what he was reading

if your would be scholar, take a look at

and this is another North Carolina state connection here

because he was there while I was a master's student

read Michael Reynolds biography set a massive biography

but also take a look at the catalog of Hemingway's readings

those things that were on his shelf at the Finca.

And that'll give you some sense

of all the things that he was into

a very varied and a wide breath I would say.

I would just say it's quite astonishing

I guess maybe it shouldn't be, he didn't go to college.

So he's completely self-taught.

So there's no professor telling him much already.

He's deciding what to read them

is quite a tribalist.

- Is real forger.

I mean, I guess the question then would be

Marc and you may know this and Lynn

Ken you may know as well.

It's just like, are there women on that list?

Are there any people of color on it?

Are there any black men on that list?

I would say probably given America at that moment.

- Yes but the list is sparse, as you would imagine it to be.

- Poetry when you've written an awful lot of poetry

and he was Prince for those for pound.

I always think of them as posing as kind

of American primitives--

- Monsters.

- Yeah, exactly kind of gestures and pools

and having boxing matches and duals

Pam was scheduling people to duals

and what it was the cat's it was Paris in the truck.

- Yeah and who needs a professor if you've got that.


- And Cezanne and Stravinsky

and Zetty and Joyce and you know

what do you want to you're missing, where's your syllabus.

I don't know I lost it.

- So Mary, someone had asked, just so

because you had mentioned in the clip his drinking

and that sort of need it's like

how do you think his drinking attack

affected his identity as a writer,

especially later in his life and his decline?

- No, I think it's any drug you depend on for your writing,

it eventually destroys your talent.

And I think certainly he had some accident that,

he might've had a neurological event

he suffered from depression, alcohol's a depressant drug.

It doesn't help your mood that's a problem.

It does it first and then you're dependent on it

but it's making things worse

and they used it for anesthesia.

So you're also kind of blunted in a way

and kind of blocked in yourself.

So I traveled to his house and and I knew Patrick

and I saw the that room where he killed himself

and it's having to perform at that level

of knowing everything.

I mean, all those characters they know everything.

They never say I don't know.


- Wonderful this is for Lynn and for Ken.

I just think that you've spent an awful lot of time

thinking about this gentleman and then researching him

and asking the other people lots of questions.

And I wonder sort of what surprised you most,

or just has resonated most deeply with you about "Hemingway"

the man and the writer and his relationship

to the culture at large any of those things,

what sort of stays with you that feels different

than when you went into this?

- Oh, I don't I think it rearranged

all our molecules about them.

It's so hard to remember exactly what it was.

I think being able to strip away

a few of these sort of mask layers

to get at some of these confusing things.

There's so many, the tragedy is extremely painful

still to relive again and again, and again

all of the governors on his engine, the governor of alcohol

the mental illness, the toxic masculinity, or the lies,

all of that stuff becomes Shakespearian

in the way it kind of accumulates and then ends

is so perfectly balanced with how the thing begins.

But to me, it's the way in which

just the way we all came out of that last clip

in a kind of reverie for the ability of someone

despite the mountains

or the all the balls and chains that he carried around

to have written something like that.

- That was so perfectly written

so simple and basic and so generous.

And so to me I keep the short stories by my bed

and you don't need heroin if you've got,

Hills like white elephants, you don't need booze.

If you've got this snow of Kilimanjaro

you don't need anything cause you, there he is.

And to me, it's just the way he's endured.

It's what Mary his fourth wife who suffers the most

is reading the freshly typed manuscript

for old man in the sea and she said,

Ernest I forgive you for all the rotten things,

and you just suddenly realized,

there is this point it's Marc's context in a perverted way

where it is transcendent.

- Right Lynn.

- Wow I mean, I guess, just to piggyback

on what Ken said so beautifully is,

sort of a rediscovery of his work

and affirmation of his influence,

which I kind of knew intuitively

but I didn't fully understand

and speaking to so many writers from around the world

and reading so much about his influence

and sort of how his rearranging of the furniture

like Tobias Wolff set is coming down through the generations

has been really beautiful to see.

And, just for a small example,

sitting down with that know Brian and hearing her

praise Hemingway and stick it out, his influence on her.

And some of the things she said

we didn't really have them tricks all the details of that.

But I recently read her first novel

and there are passages in there that sound like

they're taking from inspired by a farewell to arms

descriptions of the landscape and I'm moving through it.

And I would never have known, I would never have seen that.

And just thinking about the way that he chose

to describe things and the things the way he used words

how that's just part of all

is a really profound gift of this project.

- The physical world is a character in that work--

- Yes that is so important Mary, I think that's great.

And we bypass it because we get right to the animals

he's shot in it, or the fishy hooked in it

and got eaten by sharks.

But this is an enormous observer of the natural world.

I mean, look at, Ralph Ellison is saying,

look we all wanted to be writers.

We wanted to be like, Hemingway, we love this stuff

but I've been hunting since I'm 11.

And I finally, he taught me how to lead a bird.

Right now maybe the ultimate purpose is to shoot the bird.

But when he talks about

in "Big Two-Hearted River" about the trout catches him.

- Yeah.

- It's the other end of the line.

Like who's bate, it's some amazing stuff

- I grew up planting and you do pay attention.

- Yeah.

- Yeah if I can dovetail a couple of comments

with those comments, I would suggest that

I'm glad Ken you brought up "Big Two-Hearted River"

I looked at a couple of the in previous episodes.

And I recognize myself in some of the comments

that were made about not loving Hemingway

the first time around being too young, not ready for him.

I wouldn't have been ready for "Big Two-Hearted River"

where I 16 even say 22 in college

that's work I came to for the first time,

I think in grad school.

And over the years, I've really grown to appreciate it

for the reasons you enumerate it's process oriented.

It's about the natural world

where you see reverence instead of destruction.

And also it's about I don't know which one of you said it

but it's also about the concrete things that matter

in a world that's quickly changing

and dissipating and being destroyed.

"Hemingway's" all always going to those constants

those things that will be there in nature is always there.

And that there's something reassuring

and reaffirming about that and beautiful I think

Lynn, our film on Vietnam interviewed a woman

named Layman Qay who was a young teenage girl,

went down the Ho Chi Minh

as part of a grade dangerous work, repairing the damage done

by American planes on the whole team and trail.

And she took with her

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" and said she survived.

She survived because of what Hemingway taught her

and that's and who's flying up above

but John McCain who thinks he's Robert Jordan

and any key if you really wanna know the Rosetta Stone

to an excludable complicated infuriating politician

like John McCain, it's Robert Jordan.

And he just says it flat out that's who I am from age 14.

That's pretty amazing.

And his opponent in the presidential election

is also talking about Robert Jordan.

- He also, well, he taught stoicism

and stoicism is a very functional, great philosophy.

If you're a perfect soldier,

that thing that's in those stories

and is complicated gender stuff

well, I'm gonna shut up now.

- That's a great point yeah.

- Can I say one more thing?

I don't know how we're running on time

- We are close to running out of time, but absolutely.

Until I get a hook I'm like Oh.

- There's so many great points

of entry for cover station here.

Several times we've heard the conversation.

So during the conversation

somebody has alluded to, it's a Tobia Wolff's great quote

about having Hemingway rearranging the furniture

that made me immediately think of an interview that I saw

from a few years back in which Ernest Gaines talks

about the process of writing, where he learned too.

And it's sort of domain

of where we're going with this conversation tonight as well.

Because one of the things he says is

he uses the same metaphor but he uses it differently.

He says that Hemingway actually

and a few others checkoff gave him the ability

to build the structure of the house.

And it was his job to put furniture on the inside.

And I just think it's a great metaphor.

And also, I think just

in league with our conversation tonight

if Gaines is willing to forgive Hemingway for his foibles

and sins then, and Ellison is, and Gail Jones

and others who have looked to him for some kind of guidance

then maybe we ought to give them a shot as well.

- Well, great artist

- Absolutely.

- And a key, if you're writing in English,

you're being influenced by him.

You can like it or not like doesn't matter, right?

He's got his hand on your pen


- You kill the ghost or embrace it as Abraham said.

- Well, there's definitely some sense that

the series forces us to expand and embrace.

I mean, you just, aren't allowed

to sort of shut things down

and have a simple easy answer for the man,

the moment, our moment, his moment.

I think that that is, what's really interesting.

I remember Marc says complicated there's also a complex.

It's like, it's all that, he's all that.

And it's absolutely vital and in a place.

And it really is about us becoming smarter thinkers

smarter readers, smarter citizens, ultimately to like

sort of embrace into the wrestle with this stuff.

So I did get the hook a little bit.

And so I wanted to thank all of you

for this real, I don't know.

Thank you it was great for me to be in your company.

I also want to thank our host WNAT

and the Center for Fiction for being so generous

and allowing for this platform.

It's great reminder that

this is actually something you can see

starting April 5th through sixth and seventh,

and on your local PBS station, "Hemingway."

And you can go to for more information.

And also I think that

there's some more of these conversations

that are gonna be happening.

You can go to pbs.org/hemingway,

and if you're interested in reading,

I don't know how you couldn't be,

because I really do feel that's what happens

having these conversations,

but also watching that series

is that you return to that man's writing

because it is that astonishing often

and difficult, but also incredibly beautiful.

And if you're hankering for a book

then our friends@centerforfiction.org, have you covered,

so dis at them.

Thank you again, everybody for--

- Thank you. - Thank you, Lisa.

- Thank Marc

- Thank you everybody. - Thank you everybody.

- Thank you. - Wonderful.


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