Hemingway Was an Ass

According to The New York Times “A new edition of A Farewell to Arms, which was originally published in 1929, will be released next week, including all the alternate endings, along with early drafts of other passages in the book.” The new edition will be released by Scribner, now a Simon & Schuster imprint. The edition is a collaboration between Scribner and Hemingway’s estate and will include the original and alternate endings.

It is not surprising to me Hemingway rewrote the ending thirty-nine times or what some say was over forty. Having visited Hemingway’s Key West home February of this year, a birthday present, I saw firsthand evidence of the writer’s dogmatic work rituals. He had a thin walkway built from the second level of his house to the second level of the carriage house, where Pauline — his first, second, third, oh hell, I’ve lost count — wives, renovated the top room into a writing studio for him. I must make a side note here: Pauline also replaced all the ceiling fans with fancy chandeliers. I, for one, would have left her for that bit of fanciness. The Keys are far too hot in the summer for chandeliers in lieu of fans, which I experienced touring his home, sweat dripping, resulting in a particular distaste for the woman, though, I’ve never spoken a word to her. I will say, in her defense, my affections kindled when I learned how saucy she was. Hemingway/Pauline lore has it that Hemingway carried home a urinal one day — a memento of the evicted Sloppy Joe’s (the real Sloppy Joe’s) — and Pauline forbid the urinal in the house. Apparently, Hemingway plopped it on the back lawn in a manly way and said it was to stay put, so Pauline had it enshrined as a mosaic. It’s really quite lovely now. The cats still drink from it or rather from the fall of water above it. I’d drink from it, too, if I were a cat.

Hemingway’s walkway is/was a rickety thing, akin to a rope bridge, and high enough many a writer would be fearful to walk it. Apparently Hemingway woke early each morning and walked the bridge to his studio before speaking with anyone, until he knocked off in the afternoon for some fishing on the Pilar then drinking at Sloppy Joe’s, which was not the tourist trap/club scene it is today. The real Sloppy Joe’s is quieter, around the corner, a place where a person can have a beer and play pool for hours, a one-man show with guitar playing in the background. I found Hemingway’s style, or what I could make of it, comforting in a daily routine kind of way. He wasn’t so different than my Pappy, who fished on the Ohio River any chance he could and often took me with him. According to my Mammy, I was the only grandchild who could sit still in the tiny bass boat. Pappy and Hemingway would have likely gotten along fine except for the drinking and fighting. Pappy was a church man. Or at least he was when I knew him. Some family stories say different. Everyone should have stories like that, I think.

Another side note, as I couldn’t fit it gracefully elsewhere, is an odd bit of information that will likely stay with you as it has with me. Hemingway’s bathroom was in the front of the house. The toilet, in particular, directly in front of the window facing the walkway below. As the tour guide tells it, Hemingway would sit on his throne and yell through the window to passersby and visitors as he completed his business with the toilet. This strikes me as particularly enchanting. I never realized, until the tour guide recited this story, how literary my father was. I have apparently grown up in a very literary household.

As colorful and entertaining as Hemingway lore is, one finds it easy to have a love-hate relationship with Hemingway and his words. His female characters aren’t what one would consider fully realized and his prose is perhaps at times too simplistic, which may have been an effect of Maxwell Perkins, except that Perkins edited Fitzgerald, too, and I wouldn’t count Fitzgerald on the same level of minimalism. Then there’s the whole un-evolved male factor. But still, Hemingway has undoubtedly left behind works to be read. They should be read. By many ages. The Old Man and the Sea was the first “grown up book” my son read at the ripe age of eleven. It’s still one of his favorite stories. Mine too, though, trumped by The Sun Also Rises and “Hills Like White Elephants.”

I sometimes ask myself what it is about Hemingway that keeps me enthralled. Because I most certainly am. Enthralled. And a little in love with his passport picture. Maybe it is pure irony. The unapologetic maleness of him. He made no qualms about being an ass. His male characters are asses, usually, a notable exception being Santiago, but still, they are often and fully asinine. Still, Hemingway wrote truthfully and unabashedly from a male point of view. He didn’t mask it for the sake of politeness and as infuriating as that perspective might be at times, there is value in it. It is a record. An era. A mindset as timeless as Shakespeare’s Bottom. All in all, I’m not sure if Hemingway’s work would have been so poignant if he weren’t an ass. I suppose I wouldn’t want to read a story from “nice.” I prefer my characters brooding and flawed. Yes, Hemingway was an ass. And it’s one of the reasons I love his work so. All writers should dabble in being asses. And in the spirit of the moment, I’m going to be an ass now. I’m going to give you the ending to A Farewell to Arms, which may disappoint those of you who haven’t read the novel, so go ahead, turn away. Or better yet, pick up the novel and read it. Read the original. Read the new edition. Read it because to pick up a book well-voiced and rigorous is far better a thing than any.

And here are the last words of Papa’s Arms

“But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”

 Goodbye, Papa. And happy late birthday. We miss you.



Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, Scribner Book Company. New York, NY. 1929.

The Ernest Hemingway Collection is located at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Hemingway Home in Key West, FL

Hemingway’s Wives

  1. Hadley Richardson
  2. Pauline Pfeiffer
  3. Martha Gellhorn
  4. Mary Welsh

Original Location and Vibe of Hemingway’s Sloppy Joe’s: Captain Tony’s

A Lot of Fun but Tourist Trap Club Scene: Sloppy Joe’s

Scribner to Release a New Edition of A Farewell To Arms


According to The New York Times “A new edition of A Farewell to Arms, which was originally published in 1929, will be released next week, including all the alternate endings, along with early drafts of other passages in the book.” The new edition will be released by Scribner, now a Simon & Schuster imprint. The edition is a collaboration between Scribner and Hemingway’s estate and will include the original and alternate endings.


Living on $1000 a Year in Paris by Ernest Hemingway

“Living on $1000 a Year in Paris” by Ernest Hemingway is republished with permission by The Paris Review.


Toronto Star, February 1922


When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21, The Paris Review
A Conversation with George Plimpton in a Madrid Café, 1954

Paris. Paris in the winter is rainy, cold, beautiful and cheap. It is also noisy, jostling, crowded and cheap. It is anything you want and cheap.

The dollar, either Canadian or American, is the key to Paris. With the US dollar worth twelve and a half francs and the Canadian dollar quoted as something over eleven francs, it is a very effective key.

At the present rate of exchange, a Canadian with an income of one thousand dollars a year can live comfortably and enjoyably in Paris. If exchange were normal, the same Canadian would starve to death. Exchange is a wonderful thing.

Two of us are living in a comfortable hotel in the Rue Jacob, it is just back of the Academy of the Beaux Arts and a few minutes’ walk from the Tuileries. Our room costs twelve francs a day for two. It is clean, light, well heated, has hot and cold running water and a bathroom on the same floor. That makes a cost for rent of thirty dollars a month.

Breakfast costs us both two francs and a half. That totals seventy-five francs a month, or about six dollars and three or four cents. At the corner of the Rue Bonaparte and the Rue Jacob there is a splendid restaurant where the prices are a la carte. Soups cost sixty centimes, and a fish is 1.20 francs. The meals are roast beef, veal cutlet, lamb, mutton and thick steaks served with potatoes prepared as only the French can cook them. These cost 2.40 francs an order. Brussels sprouts in butter, creamed spinach, beans, sifted peas and cauliflower vary in price from forty to eighty-five centimes. Salad is sixty centimes. Desserts are seventy-five centimes and sometimes as much as a franc. Red wine is sixty centimes a bottle and beer is forty centimes a glass.

My wife and I have an excellent meal there, equal in cooking and quality of food to the best restaurants in America, for fifty cents apiece. After dinner you can go anywhere on the subway for four cents in American money or take a bus to the farthest part of the city for the same amount. It sounds unbelievable but it is simply a case of prices not having advanced in proportion to the increased value of the dollar.

All of Paris is not so cheap, however, for the big hotels located around the Opera and the Madeline are more expensive than ever. We ran into two girls from New York the other day in the Luxembourg Gardens. All of us crossed on the same boat, and they had gone to one of the big, highly-advertised hotels. Their rooms were costing them sixty francs a day apiece, and other charges in proportion. For two days and three nights at their hotel, they received a bill for five hundred francs, or forty-two dollars. They are now located in a hotel on the left bank of the Seine, where five hundred francs will last two weeks instead of two days, and are as comfortable as they were at the tourist hotel.

It is from tourists who stop at the large hotels that the reports come that living in Paris is very high. The big hotel-keepers charge all they think the traffic can bear. But there are several hundred small hotels in all parts of Paris where an American or Canadian can live comfortably, eat at attractive restaurants and find amusement for a total expenditure of two and one half to three dollars a day.


Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899 – 1961) American author, war hero, journalist, hunter, fisherman, Pulitzer winner (The Old Man and the Sea), and Nobel Prize winner (1954). He was also well-known for A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many more works depicting a minimalist style termed modernism that would impact writers for generations after him.