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A short story written by Ernest Hemingway in 1924 has surfaced, according to the New York Times, and it is causing a bit of controversy between those who wish to see it published and those who control his estate. “At present, the opponents of publication - notably the custodians of the Hemingway estate - are…

Ernest Bull

A short story written by Ernest Hemingway in 1924 has surfaced, according to the New York Times, and it is causing a bit of controversy between those who wish to see it published and those who control his estate.

“At present, the opponents of publication - notably the custodians of the Hemingway estate - are winning, according to several people on both sides of the debate,” writes Alan Cowell in the New York Times. “But that has not detracted from the long, twisty tale of the documents themselves: a two-page letter and a five-page slapstick account of a bullfighting incident written in 1924.”

The story is a thinly veiled sketch of a real encounter titled “My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stewart.” It, along with a letter, were given to Donald Ogden Stewart by Hemingway. It was then passed from father to son: Donald Stewart, who currently owns the material. Neither the letter nor story can be published without permission from the Hemingway estate, who to date refuses to give it, according to the Times. However, it does not stipulate that the material can not be sold at auction. It is believed that such a find could fetch $18,000 on the auction block, says the Times.

“The bullfighting episode was apparently inspired by an actual encounter in 1924 between Stewart, a well-known American author at the time, and an angry bull in Pamplona, Spain, where Hemingway had arranged for a group of friends to join him,” writes Cowell. “Stewart was part of a literary set in the 1920’s and 30’s that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. He was a close friend of Hemingway during the 1920’s and went on to write the Oscar-winning screenplay of “Philadelphia Story” in 1940. He was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and moved to London in 1950.”

Steward mentions the events, along with the “funny” story written about them, in his own 1975 autobiography, according to the Times. “Stewart, himself a parodist and humorist, was not impressed,” writes Cowell. “When he had sent me a ‘funny’ piece about myself to submit to Vanity Fair, I had decided that written humor was not his dish and had done nothing about it,’’ Stewart wrote.

Joe Ezard, an arts critic at The Guardian, also weighs in on the new find. In his autobiography, Stewart remembers being tossed around by the bull before he gains courage. Ezard quotes from Stewart’s book, By a Stroke of Luck: “And not only that, I got mad. I charged the bull shouting, ‘Come on you stupid son of a bitch’. The result was the same, unfortunately. But “Ernest clapped me on the back, and I felt as though I had scored a winning touchdown.”

“In Hemingway’s story, which is being sold with a letter, his fellow American is tossed around the ring like a rag doll,” writes Ezard. “Christie’s said: “The piece ends with a battered Stewart croaking out his final wish to Hemingway to tell the world of his exploits.” Hemingway embellished the episode to a journalist friend. The Chicago Tribune ran the story, which by now had a gored Hemingway tussling Ogden Stewart’s bull to the ground.”

Ezard writes, “Hemingway biographer Kennth Lynn said this was important in creating the author’s hyper-macho persona. “The story marked the take-off of the general public’s awareness of Hemingway the man. The mileage he got out of the Pamplona story was quite impressive."”

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 28 2004 • Books

Moral Cowardice

image"It must be the inborn human instinct to imitate--that and man’s commonest weakness, his aversion to being unpleasantly conspicuous, pointed at, shunned, as being on the unpopular side. Its other name is Moral Cowardice, and is the commanding feature of the make-up of 9,999 men in the 10,000. I am not offering this as a discovery; privately the dullest of us knows it to be true. History will not allow us to forget or ignore this supreme trait of our character. It persistently and sardonically reminds us that from the beginning of the world no revolt against a public infamy or oppression has ever been begun but by the one daring man in 10,000, the rest timidly waiting, and slowly and reluctantly joining, under the influence of that man and his fellows from the other ten thousands. The abolitionists remember. Privately the public feeling was with them early, but each man was afraid to speak out until he got some hint that his neighbor was privately feeling as he privately felt himself. Then the boom followed. It always does.”

Mark Twain
“The United States of Lyncherdom”
August 1901

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 25 2004 • Books

Biographical Behemoth

I believe this must qualify as one of the biggest books ever published. A story in today’s New York Times points out that the publishing accomplishment of the year, perhaps of the decade, is about to take place. Brian Harrison, working in Oxford, has completed editing work on the Oxford Dictionary of Biography--all 60 million words of it.

“This is a work which makes superlatives superfluous,” writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the New York Times. “Running 11 feet along the shelf and weighing in at a healthy defensive end’s 280 pounds, the D.N.B.’s 60 volumes contain 60,000 pages and some 60 million words. More than 10,000 contributors have written a total of 54,922 essays on the worthies (as well as the worthless) who make up the fabric of British history.

“It has been more than 12 years in the making. A special batch of indestructible acid-free paper was ordered from a Swiss paper mill. The Butler & Tanner printing works in Somerset were fully occupied for months printing, folding and binding. Each set requires enough sewing thread to go from one end of a football field to the other and back.”

Some history on the project from Wheatcroft’s article. “The O.E.D. had a sibling, begotten by Sir Leslie Stephen, don, critic, journalist, mountaineer, rowing coach and father of four, one of them Virginia Woolf. With that slightly demonic energy of his age - it was an empty week if he hadn’t written three essays of at least 5,000 words each - he began the D.N.B. He worked with the publisher George Smith, and Sir Sidney Lee (born Solomon Lazarus), a bachelor scholar, ardent Shakespearean and, in Mr. Harrison’s view, “the real hero” of the first D.N.B. Between them they produced their vast work between 1885 and 1900. It was updated throughout the 20th century in supplementary volumes, while it passed into the hands of the Oxford University Press.”

In 1992, according to the article, the editors wanted to create an updated edition, much like the work done on the Oxford English Dictionary, another work of extrodinary depth and breadth. Initially, some $5 million was devoted toward the project as seed money. “A contributor who toils away over one of these essays, after months of reading, writing, editing and fact-checking, may finally receive a gratifying word of praise from Brian Harrison - and a check for just about enough to buy lunch in one of Oxford’s more pretentious gastro-pubs,” writes Wheatcroft. “The project would have been impossible if commercial rates were paid to contributors, and no one writes for the D.N.B. for the money.” However, little did they know that when the project was said and done, the total bill would be more than $40 million, according to the Times article.

The book, or books rather, will actually be produced for sale. Designed for libraries and univversities, the 60 volumes of the new Oxford DNB, which are scheduled to be released today, will retail for $11,000 until the end of November, and then $13,000 after that. A completly cross-referenced electronic version available on CD-ROM is available for only $295.

It is doubtful the likes of this project will be seen again, Wheatcroft writes. “For Oxford University Press, the difficulty is that most libraries, let alone individual buyers, are going to prefer the electronic versions. As for the future, it’s more than likely that no such work on this scale will ever again be produced in book form. To stand before those 60 volumes may be like waving goodbye to the last Atlantic liner, on a glorious last voyage.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 23 2004 • Books

Readers Beware

I have to be careful; I own one of these. I didn’t realize I was “armed.” Here’s the story from the Associated Press:

“TAMPA, Fla.—A weight may soon be lifted off a Maryland woman charged with carrying a concealed weapon in an airport.

“It wasn’t a gun or a knife. It was a weighted bookmark.

“Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Florida, airport found her bookmark. It’s an eight-and-a-half-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end.

“Airport police said it resembled a weighted weapon that could be used to knock people unconscious. So the 52-year-old special education teacher was handcuffed, put into a police car, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

“She faced a possible criminal trial and a ten-thousand-dollar fine. But the state declined to prosecute, and the Transportation Security Administration says it probably won’t impose a fine.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 17 2004 • Current Affairs

The First Idea

imageThis sounds like a fascinating book: THE FIRST IDEA: How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans, writtten by Stanley Greenspan and Stuart Shanker.

“Its authors, one a psychiatrist and the other a psychologist and philosopher, have teamed up to tackle the momentous question of how humans developed language,” writes Ruth Walker in a review in the Christian Science Monitor. “Fearing not to challenge some of the heavyweights of modern science, from Jean Piaget to Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, they present their own theory: The development of language is connected primarily with affect rather than cognition, with the emotional learning that occurs in infants in the arms of those who love them. That is, language is rooted not in genes, not in the wiring of brains, but in behaviors we have learned over millenniums.”

This subject has been an interest of mine for some time, and I am a great fan of Steven Pinker’s work. I am eager to see how the theories match up. Also, from my work at Training magazine, I came to know many of the theories regarding emotional intelligence. Walker writes, “Phrases like “emotional intelligence” and “the feeling brain” sound less oxymoronic today than they did before they appeared in the titles of groundbreaking works by Daniel Goleman and, more recently, Antonio Damasio. But in “The First Idea,” Stanley Greenspan and Stuart Shanker contend that “emotional intelligence,” as it is coming to be understood, is only one of the “roots and branches” of intelligence itself. “The trunk,” they argue, is a set of abilities they refer to as the “functional-emotional developmental capacities.”

Yet emotions play a significant role in developing language. Says Walker in her review: “Lived emotional experience is key to language learning, the authors suggest. “Mathematicians and physicists may manipulate abstruse symbols representing space, time, and quantity, but they first understood those entities as tiny children wanting a far-away toy, or waiting for juice, or counting cookies. The grown-up genius, like the adventurous child, forms ideas through playful explorations in the imagination, only later translated into the rigor of mathematics.”

It’s bound to be an interesting read for sure. I am anxious to see what other critics will have to say about the book. “It would be simplistic to say that the authors see games of peekaboo and patty-cake as the foundations of civilization,” writes Walker, “but it would not be completely wide of the mark. It is just this sort of nonverbal “conversation,” the authors argue, that was essential to the development of language.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 17 2004 • Books

Why Read, Part II

Scott Esposito has a good post (including the subsequent conversation) about the reasons for reading at his blog, Conversational Reading:

“Perhaps the best way to get at this is to talk about approach. I approach these books for my pleasure, not my improvement. However, the pleasure of the text is inextricably bound up with the text saying interesting things—not only interesting in the dramatic sense like “what’s going to happen after Hester gets the scarlet letter put on her”, but also interesting in the cereberal sense that the text is bringing something more than a well-told story.

“What is all comes down to is that it’s not utilitarian because I’m doing this for my fun and I’m willing to take the chance that I won’t “get something out of it”. In fact, I don’t expect to get anything out of literature like I expected to get something out of my college text books (and this may explain why I found some of them so damnably dull). What I do expect is that for however long I’m reading the book, it is going to hold my interest, both with good characters, writing, drama, and with interesting thoughts that will necessarily extend into the real world to some degree.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 17 2004 • Books

Nothing Magazine

imageHere’s a new concept in magazine journalism. “What would you call a magazine with no newsstand sales, just five articles, four ads, and an unknown, very small, number of subscribers?” asks David Carr of the The New York Times. “If you are the publishing arm of American Express, you would call it nothing.”

Beginning this week, according to the Times, this new nameless magazine will begin mailing to holders of the Centurion card, the elite credit card from American Express that features a design much like the corresponding magazine: “a black-on-black pattern designed by Tomas Maier, the creative director of Bottega Veneta.”

The cover of each magazine will be different, yet they will not have a name, say the magazine’s founders. “The magazine is designed to serve as a point of identity for holders of the Centurion card, the company’s most exclusive credit card,” writes Carr. “American Express does not like to disclose the number of the so-called black cardholders, but they have to spend more than $150,000 a year for the privilege of paying an annual fee of $2,500 for their credit card. And even then, they have to be invited.

So how many people actually have a Centurion card? asks Carr. “About the same number of people who can afford a Mercedes Maybach,” said Desiree Fish in the article, a spokeswoman for American Express, referring to a luxury car that can list for more than $300,000. At an industry conference in 2001, the company said that about 5,000 people have a Centurion card in their back pocket.”

Call it magazine bling-bling.

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 14 2004 • Journalism

Republican Survey

For some reason or another, I received a copy of the “Official Census of the Republican Party” in the mail today. Let’s just say they missed their target audience with this piece of mail. Well, I actually know why I received a copy--Minnesota is a swing state and in the coming weeks we will be receiving a lot of attention. In fact, as I have already mentioned here on my blog, Bruce Springsteen will be giving a concert here in October to support John Kerry.

The letter accompanying the survey, begins: Dear fellow Republican. Boy did they guess wrong. I have heard that these letters have been sent, but I never have seen one until today. Perhaps they chose the letter’s recipients by zip code. It certainly isn’t from reading Web logs, that’s for sure. Sparking paranoia the letter mentions that a “broad coalition of liberal grassroots activists” are doubling their efforts to “identify and and get out their voters.” Thus, the reason for this letter, they say. The survey is also billed as a way for the party to get a “statistically reliable sampling of our party.” More than 5.5 million have hit the mail.

But it’s amazing if that is really what the letter is intending--to get a measure on how people feel. It’s only 16 questions long (or 18, if you count the last two questions: Did you vote in the last three elections? and, Will you join our party?), and every question asks for either a “yes” or “no.” To me, it’s just a way to rally the troops I suppose. Responding to the survey registers you in the party, and of course there is encouragement to contribute money.

The stuff in this questionnaire is a bit chilling in what in hints at for the party’s agenda in the coming years, should they be successful. A sampling of the questions.

* Should we build President Reagan’s SDI defense shield against nuclear missile attack?
* Do you support the President’s plan to increase military spending to meet our defense needs?
* Do you support the use of air strikes against any country that offers safe harbor or aid to individuals or organizations committed to further attacks on America?

Honestly, I’m not making this up. Those are some of the questions. And of course there are the natural GOP targets: Do you think U.S. troops should have to serve under United Nations’ commanders? Do you support the bans against partial birth abortion?

And then there are just those questions that leave me scratching my head: Do you support President Bush’s plan to make our schools more accountable to parents and to restore local control of education? (Sure I do. Then what does all of the federal bureaucracy and hoops created for teachers and administrators by No Child Left Behind legislation have to do with “local control of education”?) And another one: Do you support President Bush’s pro-growth policies to create more jobs and improve the economy? (When he creates a policy and creates at least one new job, give me a call. Instead he would rather strip six million workers of their right to overtime pay.) And more: Should small businesses be encouraged to grow and hire more workers? (I’m not even going to touch that one.)

Here’s the question from the Republican census that relates to this Web site: Do you agree that teaching our children to read and increasing literacy rates should be a national priority? Absolutely. And I am trying to answer that one without my tongue in my cheek. Please don’t ask that question as if those across the political aisle would not like to see this happen, or as if they have not worked very hard to achieve that end. Do not use that question as a setup for some couched political agenda. If you ask it; mean it. Place the topic in every speech. Make it priority number one. Reading is absolutely fundamental; there is no better gift for a child than teaching him or her to read. It’s a stupid question to ask in a political brochure.

And put your money where your survey is. To those in power, I say we still have a country to run. You don’t need an election to act on this one. I don’t think there is any political opposition to putting books into the hands of children. To those who set the agenda and control the purse strings (Republican or Democrat) shame on you for politicizing this issue. There are children who need your help right now. Fund schools. Begin after-school reading programs. Place special tutors in schools for those who have trouble learning. Build libraries. And I don’t care how much it costs. Mr. President: Spend $87 billion on increasing literacy in every corner of the country, and then see if your political opponent votes with you or not. Then you will have an issue to discuss. Do this and children will benefit; our country will benefit. What are you waiting for?

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 12 2004 • Current Affairs

Shakespeare Matters

imageAdam Gopnik has a good essay in this week’s New Yorker about why reading Shakespeare is still essential, as he reviews Stephen Greenblatt’s new book “Will in the World.”

“Greenblatt’s book is startlingly good—the most complexly intelligent and sophisticated, and yet the most keenly enthusiastic, study of the life and work taken together that I have ever read,” says Gopnik of the Harvard professor’s book. “Greenblatt knows the life and the period deeply, has no hobbyhorses to ride, and makes, one after another, exquisitely sensitive and persuasive connections between what the eloquent poetry says and what the fragmentary life suggests. A fully postmodernized critic, he knows the barriers of rhetoric and artifice that make us write the poems and then have the feelings as often as we have the feelings first. But he does not make the postmodern mistake of overestimating those barriers, either. Poets may often write things they do not feel, but they rarely feel things that they do not, sooner or later, write. The absence of one emotion in Shakespeare, the undue intensity of another are powerful indicators of a mind and a man at work.”

Shakespeare could have been motivated by his father’s financial difficulties, writes Gopnik. Perhaps this worldly ambition combined with poetic inspiration is what drove Shakespeare to write two plays a year for twenty years and “made him perhaps the wealthiest writer in England,” says Gopnik.

image"Shakespeare was something close to an overnight sensation before there were any,” writes Gopnik in the New Yorker. “He began working in London in the late fifteen-eighties, and b the early nineties he was among the most famous writers in the country. He managed, as few have done since, to play a perfect lowbrow-middlebrow-highbrow trifecta. His fame rested on his popular comedies: “The Comedy of Errors” and “The Taming of the Shrew.” His middlebro fame was made by his history plays, particularly by the now rarely performed three plays on the life of Henry VI—the snobbish wits of the day wer impressed by those, and began writing history plays of their own. He made a highbrow and aristocratic reputation with his polished neoclassica poems, “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece."”

This is a great essay about what seems like an interesting book. Why read Shakespeare. If I may, one more paragraph from Gopnik’s review: “Greenblatt ends his book with an evocation of the ordinariness of Shakespeare, now seen as a willed ordinariness, a determination not to be wild like the cavaliers or snobbish like the wits, but to see the world as it is. This ordinariness, which runs through all the portraits, is what makes him unique among reigning poets. To have Dante as your reigning poet is a noble but not exactly a daily sort of thing, while Racine and Molière, splitting the honors between them, help give French literary culture its neatly bifurcated shape. Shakespeare’s normalcy is not philistine or easy—in his plays, people lose hands, eyes, wives, minds, lives—and it entails a conservative obeisance to the common order: he believes in kings, bosses, authority. But he does not believe too much in those things, and in this lies the beginning of sanity. His skepticism is rooted not in a moral principle, much less a religious dogma, but in the observer’s eye for how many daily things—the cycle of seasons, lust, and laughter—escape a single rule:

“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 11 2004 • Books

Aesop's Moral

imageA fable from my local newspaper: A stolen copy of a limited-edition copy of Aesop’s Fables, the famous children’s book that ends each story with a morality lesson, turned up in the hands of a young woman who allegedly intended to pawn it at a Minneapolis bookstore, police said. The illustrated copy was valued at $450 by James and Mary Laurie Book Sellers on the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, where the book had been until it was spirited away Saturday morning.

The report from the Star Tribune: “The book, which bears morals such as the one that says misfortunes springing from ourselves are the hardest to bear, resurfaced Wednesday when the woman took it to Magers and Quinn Booksellers on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis’ Uptown area, said store manager Jay Peterson.

“The woman, who has not been named because she has not yet been charged with a crime, and her boyfriend were already on a watch list at three local bookstores after passing bad checks, said Peterson.

“They just came back to the well one too many times, and we caught the young woman this morning,” said Peterson, who kept her at the store Wednesday by telling her he needed to do some more research on the book—then called police.

“It was sort of a crime ring that this mid-20-something gentleman and his girlfriend had going,” said Peterson, who said they probably sold books at his store twice before being caught. The city’s independent bookstores trade information with each other to prevent just this sort of crime, he said. “We do keep pretty good records of people who sell books to us.”

“Honesty, it turns out, is the best policy after all.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on September 11 2004 • Current Affairs