Wiseblood Books

Hemingway Fan Fiction

Over the last few years, there’s been a surge of interest in Lost Generation writers and artists. I, of course, am a little annoyed by this, as my previously held and possibly unhealthy fascination with that lot now seems to be merely a part of the cultural shift in attention back to the days of flappers, gin fizzes, and desperation. But, I’ll have you know, I owned the book Gatsby Cocktails long before the Baz Luhrmann movie came out, and I was positively stuck on Hemingway’s stark prose—and dark machismo—eons before Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. (“Your blood coagulates beautifully.”) But really, I can’t actually be as snobbishly annoyed as I might wish, because this widespread interest means I get company in nerding out, and I get to read and watch the fan fiction and movies that have sprung up around those stories and their authors.

A few months back I was in an airport bookstore. They are, as you well know, horrible places. As I scanned the shelves of trade paperbacks, tried not to be sick all over the harlequin romances and the popular selections for today’s teenagers, I prepared myself to leave with the aloof sense of intellectual and moral superiority that customarily and scantly comforts me in lieu of a good book in such scenarios. But, my preparations were all for naught. Somehow, my eyes got around a slightly corny cover (yes, I do judge by them), complete with “artistic” scroll work, and saw “A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s.” ‘Nuff said.

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, is a novel about Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. It begins with their meeting and subsequent courtship, and follows their story through their years in Paris until their separation. From Hadley’s perspective, we see Hemingway’s emergence as a young novelist, insecure and raging and eager as he rubs shoulders with Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and, of course, the Fitzgeralds. In one of my favorite passages of the book, Hadley is awake, pregnant and hungry in the early morning:

I wanted muskmelons and a really nice piece of cheese, coffee and good jam and waffles. I was so hungry thinking about this I couldn’t sleep.

“Waffles,” I said to Ernest’s curled back near dawn. “Wouldn’t that be lovely?”

When he didn’t rouse, I said it again, louder, and put my hand on his back, giving him a friendly little shove.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” he said, rolling out of bed. “It’s gone now.”

“What’s gone?”

He sat on the edge of the thick mattress, scratching one knee. “The right words for the sketch.”

“Oh, sorry then,” I said.

I watched him dress and move toward the kitchen. Within minutes I could hear the coffee boiling and smell it and it made me hungrier. I heard him get his coffee and then heard the chair squeak back as he sat at the table. Silence.

“Tiny?” I said, still in bed. “What do you think about the waffles?”

He groaned and pushed his chair back. “There it all goes again.” (161)

Somehow, Paula McLain manages to write about famous writers without sounding like she’s writing about writers. She’s a good writer on her own merit, and doesn’t skate by merely with writing about people whose lives are already popular. Also, even though Hemingway was an indisputably flawed, oftentimes selfish and arguably morally depraved man, and even though the story is told from the point of a view of the wife whom he cheats on and ultimately leaves, McLain somehow manages to keep him a sympathetic character. Though his faults are blatant, they are nonetheless understandable on some level. And while she paints the characters admirably throughout, makes them real and believable and even lovable, she has also done the research to make her story historically accurate.

Be warned, however, that since most of these characters are artist-y sorts of “liberated” people, there’s a fair bit of promiscuity, some of it less licit than desirable. (See what I did there?!) That being said, none of it seemed gratuitous or written lasciviously or salaciously. So far I’ve lent my copy out to three people. All of them, readers and writers themselves, have loved it. I imagine you will, too.

Carla and Jaime

Arthur Powers

“Carla and Jaime” is an excerpt from my novel, Shadow Companion. In 1965, in a period of rampant inflation and weak democracy, the Brazilian military seized control of the government. After General Castelo Branco’s death in 1967, the hard-line wing of the military assumed control of the government. In 1968, there was a particularly severe crackdown. [Read more...]

Carla

Arthur Powers

SELECTED BY KATY CARL, EDITOR IN CHIEF

(Rio de Janeiro — 1968 / Paris — 1973)

1.

Carla Alves was twenty-three when she came from Rio de Janeiro to Paris: a woman of medium height, with dark blonde hair, a fresh white complexion, and thoughtful hazel eyes. At twenty-three she was an optimist by nature, raised in a home filled with love, and—despite all that had happened—tending deep inside to hope for the best, to trust people. But she was wary.

[Read more...]

Diagnosis

Michael Baruzzini 

The doctor entered the room, looking at a medical chart with a somber face. The patient, sitting uncomfortably on the exam table in nothing but his boxer shorts, grew nervous at the doctor’s grave demeanor.

“I have some bad news,” the doctor said, and sat down on the little wheeled stool.

“Am I sick?” the patient asked, “I just came in for a check-up. I don’t feel sick.”

“No, no,” the doctor replied, “I’m afraid … you are healthy.” [Read more...]

Decoherence

Michael Bradburn-Ruster

Sincerely enough, I thanked Alex for lunch (the tuna casserole as delicious, the café just as charming as he had promised), and with an equal measure of hypocrisy told him the conversation had been fascinating. For the truth was, no matter how ingeniously he explained it, his talk of parallel realities and multiverses—citing the authority of Michio Kaku and some reputedly eminent Russian whose name I didn’t recognize—struck me as more than a little absurd, an impression only augmented by the enthusiasm with which my friend expounded it. [Read more...]

Ascending

Christopher Paolelli 

He cowered on the ruined balcony. Shriveled into a crouch, he screamed wordlessly at the inferno that was devouring the known world.

Sal called encouragement to him, but he wouldn’t listen or couldn’t hear. So Sal started toward him, cautiously, one shaky step at a time. Then something went wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. In a moment the balcony was gone. And so was the boy. [Read more...]

Why Can’t He Be You?

Eve Tushnet 

“Oh, Nina, you haven’t signed up yet—can you take one of the,” and Dorrie was turning the clipboard toward me with her usual unhappy smile, “morning slots?”

“Sure. Where is this place?” Cigarette. Cigarette. Cigarette!

“It’s a Planned Parenthood on 17th Street. There’ll be a carpool if you want.” Cigarette, dammit! I signed up for 10 A.M. and headed outside as fast as I could. Open pack, fish out lovely lovely cigarette, between the lips and hunt for the lighter and suck and oh, thank God!

Smoky dark gray chemical taste. Already the stress of the morning was falling back into the past. Oh, brilliant, beautiful. Oh frabjous day.

Then, of course, I realized that I’d really signed up for ten in the morning on a Saturday. [Read more...]

The Strawberry Effect

Lauren Schott

A symphony of color hung in the skies above Nicholas Harris’ head. The sun had exceeded even its own expectations that morning in producing resplendent reds and yellows. Black slated roofs and aluminum, accident-proof car tops obliterated the view for most people–people who rushed to work or golf or home after an extended evening party–but Harris had been awake for several hours already, tending the strawberry fields despite the arthritic bones that complained with painful pops and pangs with his every movement.

Harris did at some point raise his eyes from the ground at his feet to the sky, and some small corner of his mind registered the word “beautiful” in response to the colors before him. [Read more...]

Meat

Matthew Lickona
SELECTED BY BERNARDO APARICIO GARCÍA, PRESIDENT

It was time to test the meat.

Father Dunleavy squeezed his left hand into a fist, and, with the tip of his right index finger, pressed down on the bulging swath of flesh that stretched between the knuckles of his clenched thumb and forefinger. He noted the bounce of fingertip off skin, something like a drumstick repelled by the tautness of the drumhead. Keeping his fingers curled, he relaxed the muscles of his hand and pressed again. He still found tension there at the surface, but it was underlaid with softness—a jellified center. Father Dunleavy smiled. That’s it. [Read more...]

The Good Thief *

Joshua Hren

Bent in the corner-most seat of the final row of the Sorbonne lecture hall Simon felt claustrophobic, fought in his mind with the thickened crowd—to find an exit just in case. This was a harmless salle de conférence, lost in a labyrinth of hallways, small with a few hundred seats that dipped quickly toward the stage, but the stately arcades with their chiseled vines and flowers grew here a sense of majesty. Simon rubbed harshly the tendon of his neck, which was sore from swiveling brushes and pencils, small talk and war talk and the heart of the matter back and forth between the canvas and the prostitute until dawn. [Read more...]

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