Many words have been expended about Hemingway's tortured friendship with F. Scott Fitzgerald, forged in those Paris years.
Now, James McGrath Morris looks at Hemingway's closeness to another "Lost Generation" author, John Dos Passos.
An excerpt from Morris' "The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos and a Friendship Made and Lost in War" was published on the excellent Literary Hub web site on Thursday.
Dos Passos, author of the "USA Trilogy" and "Manhattan Transfer," was already well-known when he began his friendship with Hemingway.
As Morris relates, Hemingway, married and the father of a young son, was at the time nearly unknown. Both men had served as ambulance drivers during World War I.
Serving in Italy, Hemingway was seriously wounded, requiring a long convalescence that gave him the background for several stories and the novel, "A Farewell to Arms." He carried shrapnel in one of his knees throughout his life.
As with Hemingway's friendship with Fitzgerald, he became estranged from Dos Passos. Once a communist sympathizer, Dos Passos split with Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War, turning against the Soviet-supported republic, which Hemingway favored. Dos Passsos grew increasingly conservative before his death.
While the Hemingway publishing industry cranks on, I wonder if many readers turn to his work, especially his later novels. "The Sun Also Rises," based on his Paris years, is assigned in high school and college classes, and "A Farewell to Arms" still draws attention. "A Moveable Feast," his posthumously published memoir about Paris, appeals to young readers, but it's doubtful that many of his declining later works are read. For me, his short stories represent his best work, and I strive to reread them.
Dos Passos is even more forgotten, and Morris' book might spark a deserved revival of interest in his work. From my childhood, I've had a fondness for Dos Passos: Among my father's books that I grew up reading was a hardback copy of "USA Trilogy" in one volume: "The 42nd Parallel," "1919" and "The Big Money."
Published in the early 1930s, the trilogy displaysDos Passos' mastery of experimental modernist techniques from stream of consciousness to the interspersing of newsreel, radio and newspaper reports into the text. This collage effect gives a vivid portrait of the era.
Along with Morris' book, the season brings Mary V. Dearborn's new biography of Hemingway, which follows a number of others. The first, by professor Carlos Baker in 1968, is one of my all-time favorite books. I was also impressed by Paul Hendrickson's look at Hemingway's late career and the lives of his sons, "Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life and Lost." Yes, I'll probably look for Dearborn's book as well.
Hemingway's voluminous letters are also being published, showing the good and bad sides of his macho personality, as well as the vicissitudes of his several marriages.
Speaking of Hemingway, does anyone remember an ensemble movie with different versions of his Nick Adams stories? I recall seeing it on TV when I was young. Paul Newman gives a strong performance as "The Battler," the brain-damaged boxer whom Adams encounters while traveling around the country. The old fighter changes from friendly to hostile, giving the young Adams a tough lesson about the male psyche.
A bit of Internet research reveals that the 1962 film was called "Adventures of a Young Man," directed by Martin Ritt, with the screenplay by Hemingway, and Newman pal A.E. Hotchner. Richard Beymer, Natalie Wood's paramour in "West Side Story," played Nick Adams. Besides Newman, other stars included Jessica Tandy, Ricard Montalban, Eli Wallach, Arthur Kennedy and...Sharon Tate.