Katie @basicbsguide and I cordially invite you to join in our February Book Selection for #𝐃𝐄𝐀𝐑𝐁𝐀𝐒𝐈𝐂𝐁𝐔𝐃𝐃𝐘𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐃𝐒. We will be reading the 𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐀𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝗪𝐢𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐫 and 𝐍𝐞𝐰 𝐘𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐁𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐫, 𝘚𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘜𝘯𝘣𝘶𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘥, 𝘚𝘪𝘯𝘨 by Jesmyn Ward. This book has been on my radar for years and I am thrilled to finally read it! As usual, this is a read at your own pace situation with a lively discussion via Instagram chats at the end of February! You must have a private or public Instagram account to join the discussion at the end of the month. If you would like to participate, please DM me over on @dearmrhemingway and I’ll add you to the group.
xoxo, Kelly P.S. Meet one of my 9-month-old Pekin ducks…..Lemon!!!! 𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬 “Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.”
I am here to share with you that today would have been Ernest Hemingway’s 122nd birthday. Just to refresh your memory, Hemingway was born in 1899 and died at the age of 61 years of age. He is considered one of America’s greatest novelists and short story writers of all time. This past spring, filmmaker extraordinaires Ken Burns and Lynn Novick made a three part series on Ernest Hemingway for PBS. Because of this, there has been a renewed interest in this literary genius! To celebrate Hemingway on this day, I am sharing with you one of his most controversial novels, The Garden of Eden.
The Garden of Eden was published posthumously in 1986 by Scribner. The story takes place in the 1920s in the French Riviera and Spain and follows American writer David Bourne and his wife Catherine on their honeymoon. Catherine announces to David that she has a big surprise for him and that she will be “changed”. She runs off to the local coiffeur (French barber) and has her hair cut short in a masculine style. She insists that David not refer to her as a girl during certain times and that he too, will be changed to… “her girl”.
If you are familiar with Hemingway’s other work you might be saying, hmmmmm. However, just when you think there is enough unexpected drama to work with here, Hemingway brings a woman named Marita into their lives and a new menage a trois develops. Through all of this, David continues on with his writing. He abandons his original piece documenting his and Catherine’s extended honeymoon and moves on to writing about Africa. Catherine does not like this one bit and they argue about his disloyalty to her.
So here is the scoop. I am an everyday reader and not an English scholar who can provide you with a deep analysis of this book. I can assure you, there are TONS of qualified people who have done that already. What I can tell you is that Hemingway worked on this book sporadically from around 1946 until he died. Because this book was published after he died, it was edited immensely. Literary scholars argue how much of this writing is actually his and how much was slashed or rearranged before publishing. With that said, I will tell you my thoughts.
The Garden of Eden opens up with a classic fishing scene and scrumptious descriptions of food and drink. My mind immediately went to The Old Man and the Sea and of course, A Moveable Feast. It felt very much like the Hemingway I was familiar with… straightforward dialogue, and an undemanding prose. What was different about this novel was its contemporary vibe. Hemingway was clearly exploring gender roles, transgenderism, and sexuality between the pages of his book. Catherine appeared uncomfortable in her own skin and was desperately trying to examine her gender and how she fit into the world around her. She had no guidance in this arena and instead not only leaned on David, but tried to incorporate him into her journey for validation and acceptance.
My thoughts on David are still all over the place. Yes he loves Catherine and accommodates many of her wishes, but I am trying to determine where he stands with all of this change. His own feelings on gender roles, love and even marriage are confusing in my opinion. His nickname for Catherine is Devil, which in all honesty, can be discussed for days on end.
The Garden of Eden is a tremendous read. Though it was a huge success in 1986, I wonder how it would have been received if it was published in the 1940s. I love how it was ahead of its time and fits so well into present day literature. I enjoyed how this wasn’t a plot driven story, but more of an exploration into the main characters. This is a book I plan on reading again and again and again. There is so much to unpack that I imagine each re-read will bring more clarity and perhaps even more questions to dissect.
If you are a Hemingway fan or just an inquisitive reader, I highly recommend checking this one out! An excellent book club choice!
Happy 121st Birthday Ernest Hemingway! WOW!!!! As I continue to chip away at reading his work, friends are always asking where they can start on their own Hemingway Journey. As of right now, my recommendations remain the same…A Farewell To Arms, A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises. These three never fail, no matter how many times you read them. However, recently I have been working my way through many of Hemingway’s short stories. This has been a wonderful way to experience his work in quick bursts throughout the day. I have never been one to read short stories of any kind on the regular, but I am finding these tiny treasures to be beneficial to my reading life. Can you say instant satisfaction??? I love being able to read a story from start to finish in one sitting. Instant gratification!
If you would like to read more about Hemingway and how I began this journey, CLICK HERE!
Enjoy this beautiful summer day!
Happy reading my friends!
P.S. Check out The Complete Short Stories Of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. I absolutely loved Big Two-Hearted River…Part I&II.
It has been weeks since my last letter to you. Time flies by when you are on vacation, spending time with friends and family, and reading wonderful books! Nevertheless, summer is over 😢😢 and fall is in the air 😁😁. Today, I thought it would be great to recap a bunch of books that I’ve read recently. Now is the time to get everyone’s fall TBR piles stacked and ready to go. I look forward to writing to you often this fall Mr. H.
Until Next time!
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. I am looking forward to everyone’s comments on this post. I would love to know what everyone is reading!
The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney is a fantastic read. What started off as a thriller, quickly turned into so much more. Abby, a mother, surfer, and artist wakes up one day dazed and confused. She has no idea who she is or where she is. Her husband gently informs her of an accident that happened many years ago. Before I go any further, The Perfect Wife is the kind of book to read without knowing too much going into it. I was pleasantly greeted with surprises, twists, and sharp turns along the way. Without divulging too much information, I will say that this book is filled to the brim with mystery surrounding Abby and her tech-savvy husband. Delaney’s story is so intriguing that you will be hooked from page one. It is the perfect blend of domestic noir with a splash of sci-fi and the unconditional love of a mother. I had an extremely difficult time putting this fast-paced novel down. I highly recommend this read. It is crazy different and crazy good! Thank you to Random House (Ballantine Books) via Netgalley for an early look at this book. It is out now!!!!!
Wow!!!!!! The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr was an amazing read for me this summer. First of all, the cover alone had me at “Hello”! In addition to my cover love, Barr’s book was overflowing with passion, betrayal, and self-discovery (this is my jam). The story follows Sophie Bloom, a 42-year-old mother who discovers on her birthday that her husband has been having multiple (and I mean multiple) affairs. So what does she do??????? Sophie takes off for France to rediscover who she really is and what her life is now going to look like. Cheating husbands and marriages falling to pieces are not new themes in the world of fiction (or nonfiction). Barr manages to take it a step further by untangling the roles of infidelity, love, and friendship with her characters. Mt recommendation is to jump right on in with this book. It is fast, engaging, and “unputdownable”. Go grab it now!!!!
I am an absolute sucker for the classic frenemies turn lovers romance story. Nina Bocci’s new book, On the Corner of Love and Hate, met my romance reading needs this summer. Emmanuelle and Cooper have been friends since they were kids. Now that they are back in their childhood hometown and working in the same office, Emmanuelle realizes just how much of a grudge she holds against Cooper. When Cooper decides to run for town Mayor, Emmanuelle takes on the difficult job of managing his campaign and his personal life. Bocci’s story follows these two bickering “friends” as they both navigate the campaign trail and their feelings towards one another. As it gets closer to voting time, Emmanuelle needs to make some personal decisions that will have an impact on moving forward with Cooper and the race to a campaign victory.
I absolutely adored On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci. I loved all the characters in this small town romance story. The political backdrop was the perfect setup for Emmanuelle to figure out her true feelings for Cooper. Their relationship had the exact amount of wit, charm, and sarcasm to keep the pages turning. The romance was sweet and the steam level was extremely mild. Bocci’s story is an easy-breezy read that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. I look forward to future books from this author. Thank you to Gallery Books via Netgalley for the advanced read of this book in exchange for an honest review.
All you Great Gatsby Lovers out there are going to devour Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald. I am so amazed that the letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald were found and preserved. Even more impressive is that these letters were pieced together to form an intimate look at the personal life of this literary couple. On the outside, Scott and Zelda appeared glamorous and put together. Cocktails, great food, and artistic friends were only a small part of the equation though. Their attractive lifestyle was filled with alcoholism, health issues, mental illness, and financial struggles. I didn’t realize until I read this book, that Scott and Zelda lived a good portion of their lives apart. With Zelda in and out of mental health institutions and Scott traveling for work, caring for their daughter, and managing his own health issues, their relationship truly depended on their letters to one another. Even though their life together was filled with heartbreak, Scott and Zelda managed to hold on to hope and dreams for a better tomorrow.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a lover of literature and the works of great American writers from the 20th century. It was an honor to get an inside peek into the once private letters of such an iconic couple. Thank you to Scribner via Netgalley for the advanced read of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you are looking for an intimate read with unlimited depth, then On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is the book for you. Vuong’s main character and speaker in the story is named Little Dog. In his twenties, Little Dog tells his life story and his family history through letters he has written to his mom (who can’t read). He holds absolutely nothing back in what he has to say. In addition to talking about his mother’s past living in Vietnam during the war, he also describes their complex relationship and how it impacted his life. He also dives deep into his own sexuality and coming of age as a Vietnamese boy growing up in Connecticut. Vuong’s writing is extremely raw and profoundly tender. Not surprising considering he is also a published poet. I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Ocean Vuong at Print Bookstore in Portland, Maine this summer. It was a beautiful evening filled with words, passion, and wonderful people. His new book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is beyond stunning. His writing is lyrical, poetic, and breathtaking. When I finished Vuong’s book, I was completely speechless. I highly recommend picking up this book. It is truly a work of literary art.
If you have read anything by Blake Crouch, then you have a pretty good idea of how his books flow. If this is your first Crouch book…buckle up, it is a wild ride. The premise of his new book revolves around something the media is calling, False Memory Syndrome. Basically, individuals are having vivid memories of a former life they never lived. The memories are so strong and disturbing, that the victims of this syndrome are literally going mad, even resorting to suicide to escape the insanity. In comes Barry Sutton, a NYC cop who is investigating this phenomenon, and neuroscientist Helena Smith, who is working on developing technology to preserve one’s most important memories. Memories, the physics of time, and many twists and turns will have you on the edge of your seat! Warning…this book moves fast. Once you start, you are in it to win it. Crouch’s Dark Matter rocked my world, and Recursion rocked it again! Happy reading!
Happy 120th birthday, Ernest Hemingway! Kind of crazy, right? Born in 1899 and dying at the age of 61 years old, Hemingway was one of America’s greatest novelists and short story writers. He led a very interesting life, not always as fetching as it appeared on the outside. Yes, his life was full of friends, romance, cocktails, and travel, but it was also loaded with war, accidents, major health problems, and let’s face it, drama. Though I am intrigued by his life story, I am not a Hemingway expert. I am just a girl who likes to read his books and learn a bit about the man behind the writing. Because of this, I am sharing today when my interest in Hemingway started and how it continues to grow each day. Of course, it wouldn’t be a great book blogging post if I didn’t recommend a book either, so get ready for a wonderful Hemingway novel to put on your TBR pile.
I will be honest with you, I grew up reading a lot like most of the book blogging community. However, growing up I was not that girl sitting at the library immersing herself in classical literature or the works of famous American writers. While some of my friends were drowning themselves in Fitzgerald, Wharton, and Vonnegut, I was voraciously devouring Danielle Steel, Dean Koontz, Jackie Collins and Stephen King while laying out in the sun smothered in baby oil! I read these books loud and I read them proud. I was a non stop reading machine with all of this fabulous fiction from my local library. These books were the perfect escape that did not require deep thinking or over analyzing. As the years went on, my reading naturally expanded and evolved. I began to require a bigger range of genres and writing styles to quench my reading desires.
It wasn’t really until a few years ago that I started to enjoy the works of Ernest Hemingway. On one of our family road trips, my husband recommended we listen to The Old Man and The Sea. This was my first time with this story. I remember sitting in the passenger seat completely mesmerized with what I was listening to. After that car ride, I began re-visiting some of Hemingway’s books that I had read eons ago (and certainly didn’t remember) and also read some new to me ones as well. I am s-l-o-w-l-y making my way through his novels, works of non-fiction and short stories. I am in no rush to complete all of his work by a certain time. Instead, I am absorbing his writing thoughtfully at my own pace with no deadline in site.
I will confess, I am a fast reader, but not with Hemingway. I read his writing unhurriedly and mindfully, often times re-reading sentences more than once. I am also not one to describe his work with a scholarly flare. That kind of analysis is simply not in my wheelhouse. My answer to why I like his writing is uncomplicated……… “I like his words”!!!!!! I adore reading or listening to his writing in the car, cozy by the fire, outside with nature and definitely with a glass of something wonderful to drink. To me his writing is something I can really meditate on and that I can sit with and savor. It is a true reading experience to cherish. There is a reason that there are t-shirts, mugs and signs with Hemingway quotes on them. His words stay with you. They are meant for the book lovers, thinkers and lovers of life to relish.
With all of that said, one of my favorite love stories was written by Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell To Arms was published in 1929 by Scribner Publishing. The story is narrated by Frederic Henry (Henry), an American who is volunteering for the Italian army during WWI as an ambulance driver. This story is as straight forward as they come. Henry’s roomate introduces him to Catharine Barkley, a British nurse who he soon falls in love with. This love of theirs is the good old fashion kind. A passionate kiss followed by time a part during the war strengthens their love for one another. Before you know it, they are reunited at an American hospital in Milan when Henry injures his leg. With a few blips in the road, Henry and Catharine leave behind the war for Switzerland in order to be free from all the nonsense. I will stop there with what happens next. This is definitely a book you need to experience as purely as possible. As simple as this story appears, its depths go deeper than one can imagine. Themes of love and war can really overtake a reader if they allow them to. There is much to reflect on when finishing this novel. When you are ready for it, A Farewell To Arms is a reading experience to treasure. Henry and Catherine will always make me swoon!!!!!
Until Next Time my Fabulous Readers!
P.S. Hemingway did not care for his name and preferred his peers to call him PaPa instead of Ernest. Happy Birthday PaPa!!!!!
Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. (Scribner) by Lili Anolik
January 17, 2019
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
Who is Eve Babitz? I can answer that it one word…Los Angeles. You know, The City of Lights, Tinseltown, La La Land. Eve Babitz was The L.A. Woman of the ’60s and ’70s. Daughter of Sol Babitz (a classical violinist) and Mae Babitz (an artist) and Goddaughter to Igor Stravinsky. She was an artist, a groupie, and a fixture on the L.A. social scene. Most of all though, Eve Babitz was a writer. In Hollywood’s Eve, Lili Anolik chronicles Babitz’s life using personal interviews and snippets from her extensive research. Her story isn’t told through lengthy narratives and timelines. Instead, this biography reads more like a personal account and a detective story wrapped in one. Readers will be launched into a gritty world filled with name dropping, wild nights, and artistic drive. Gossip lovers rejoice. Your thirst is about to be quenched.
Early in her career, Eve Babitz worked as an artist designing album covers for major record companies. Through the years, her writing was published in Rolling Stone Magazine and other publications and eventually into her own books about L.A. Even though her writing was not always well received, Babitz continued putting words on paper. While writing in the 60’s and 70’s, she rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol, Don Henley, Harrison Ford, Steve Martin, Joan Didion, Dan Wakefield, Michelle Phillips, Julian Wasser, Yoko Ono and Warren Beatty, just to name a few. Let me also kindly add that she was very hot and heavy with The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison and photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Eve Babitz exuded an alluring vibe that attracted a crowd. She wasn’t necessarily glamorous like Marilyn Monroe, but instead more of a natural beauty. She lived a fast paced life where alcohol, drugs and sex fueled her creativity. Her pastimes included writing and fraternizing with the famous and yet to be famous crowd at Hollywood’s biggest hot spots (i.e. Troubadour, Ports and The Chateau Marmont). Babitz was no joke. Anyone who carried their diaphragm in a matchbox in their handbag was ready to play. She had no interest in adulthood and marriage wasn’t on her radar. By not trying at all, she inadvertently became the “It Girl” of Hollywood. Babitz’s alcohol and drug abuse eventually took its toll on the quality of her writing. With her books out of print and an accidental fire leaving part of her body severely burned, Babitz fell off the literary grid. How she got to where she is today (yes, she is still alive) is unveiled as the book continues through her later years.
What I love about Hollywood’s Eve is that it truly captures the spirit of Eve Babitz. Anolik did her homework. Her research on Babitz was stellar. Her writing is raw and her words are razor sharp. She introduced me to a powerhouse of a woman that I never knew much about. She transported me back in time to an L.A. I will never experience, but felt like I was a part of while reading her book. In writing Hollywood’s Eve, Anolik sparked a renewed interest in Babitz’s life and body of work. Recently, Babitz’s writing has been dusted off, reprinted and back in the eyes of its readers where it rightfully belongs. At age 75, Eve Babitz remains a Hollywood icon whose writing not only is socially significant, but has stood the test of time.
I hope this book dazzles readers like it did me! It’s just that cool.
Until next time Mr. H.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. To piss off her then married boyfriend (1963), Eve (age 20) posed nude while playing chess with artist and fully clothed Marcel Duchamp (age 76) for Julian Wasser (photographer). Little did she know at that moment how powerful this photograph would be. This iconic photo turned Eve Babitz into an overnight sensation.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a 29-year-old woman having to serve two (not one) consecutive life sentences? Oh, and did I mention that in addition to this sentence, there would be zero hope (zilch) of ever seeing your young son again? The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner tells the fictional story of Romy Hall (San Francisco, 2000’s) and her journey to and her life long residency at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California. Romy is a single mother to her son Jackson and a former stripper at the club, The Mars Room (a seedy at best strip club). The short of it is that Romy kills a man who was seriously stalking her. I will admit, I am not a huge fan of murder, and crimes of this nature typically deserve some type of consequence. But here’s the scoop: Romy was assigned a public defender and had no say in the matter. Now, I do not have a law degree or pretend to know of these affairs, but based on what I read, Romy was totally under defended and the flaws in the justice system were made very apparent. Sadly, the odds were stacked against her from the start. With a past that was anything but stellar and her socioeconomic status/lack of resources, it was made clear that her case was basically abandoned.
Throughout the story, Kushner adds in the backstories of other characters and prisoners from the book. I could see how a reader may consider these additions confusing and just plain choppy. I found myself acknowledging this detail, but not overthinking it. I found the individual stories of the others only added more flavor to what I was reading. My curiosity and fascination with Romy’s path and prison life in general propelled me forward.
Kushner makes it evident that behind bars is no place to be. The Mars Room is not a book that aims to entertain. It makes you think, really think. It makes you uncomfortable. It makes you look at pieces of your life that you may just take for granted. It will show you how fragile human existence can be. It gives you an ending that will haunt you long after you read the last page.
I truly hope that others will give this book a go and expand their reading boundaries. I look forward to writing to you soon.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. If you enjoy chasing a shot of tequila with a lime, you may enjoy chasing this book with a Danielle Steel book (circa 1980’s). You get my drift!!!!!