October 11, 2011


Once I took a course on Ernest Hemingway from a professor who made us read all his writings and most of the significant criticism about him — of which there is a great deal. Like flotsam and jetsam more articles continue to appear in an incessant tide. I don’t know why scholars take such delight in analyzing an artist’s life to an infinitesimal degree. I side with Mark Twain who cursed this contemptible habit of scholars. Most writers would prefer to be remembered for their art and not for their breakfast preferences.

Regrettably, more information on Hemingway is about to pour out of Cuba as the island where he lived for several years will soon release more of his personal papers. The documents run into the hundreds of thousands, apparently, and include a note to his cook on how to prepare his salads (“The Hunt for Hemingway,” “Vanity Fair,” October 2011). 

I have to wonder what kind of ego archives every thought that passes through it. Do I care how Hemingway likes his salads? Did he think posterity would care?  One can only be grateful for Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife, who did us a favor by burning a good deal of his correspondence after their divorce.

Perhaps I’m suffering from envy. No one will search for information about me after my death. An entire wing of the Kennedy library will not be devoted to my thoughts on the writing of “Heart Land” or “Gothic Spring.” No one will carethat I ate oatmeal for breakfast. But even if there were some demented soul with such an obsession, he would soon find himself facing a blank wall. Never would it occur to me to preserve my recipe for burning toast.