Every once in a while, it’s great fun to savor a favorite author by finding out more about how he or she came to write a book that you truly admire. That’s why, when I found out that Sean Hemingway, the grandson of Ernest, was speaking in New York about A Farewell to Arms, Alex decided to check out the event with me. So we hopped on a train and made our way to the East Side, undaunted by the 90+ degree heat steaming around us. It was well worth the trip!
Sean is the son of Ernest Hemingway’s youngest son. He never met his grandfather, and yet, he’s come to know him and to admire his writing through several projects he’s undertaken. One of them is the new edition of A Farewell to Arms that includes many revisions found in Ernest’s notes available only to scholars until now (see 47 Endings).
Sean talked about the book’s opening and how different it was in the original draft; during his revisions, Ernest decided to begin the book with a short, very lyrical couple of pages that he moved from a later section in his story. In all, Sean noted, the novel took Ernest two years to write and went through many substantial changes during the revision process. Sean also commented that Ernest had a “tremendous capacity for writing in his head” and a “tremendous work ethic” even as a young man.
After the talk, Alex and I stayed to talk with Sean for a few minutes; we’re now the proud owners of a copy of A Farewell to Arms signed by a Hemingway! Ambling down the street afterward, we chatted about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and writing. Our bookish ramble was a wonderful treat — and just what I needed to brush away the cobwebs from my brain after a day of trying to decode the mysteries of book publishing on behalf of my YA novel. Sometimes you need to immerse yourself in someone else’s writing life to reenergize your own. Thanks, Alex! Write on.