Sunday, February 26, 2012

FEBRUARY 2012 BOOKERS MINUTES - The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

“Make believe you are glad when you’re sorry.  Sunshine will follow the rain.”
         Nora Bayes “lilting and persuasive treatise on self-delusion.”

         Elizabeth Hadley Richardson Hemingway’s theme song

Pink, cherry, crimson, and red – the colors of St. Valentine’s Day – put on a show in vases of fresh flowers, bowls of heart-shaped candies, and 20 color-coordinated Bookers who met at the home of Daryl Daniels on February 14th.  Fittingly, our book selection for this month, Paula McLain’s historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, fit into the adoration theme as he once was quoted as saying, “(I) would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.”  Sadly, it took him four marriages to realize what he had thrown away.  However, a couple never doubting their choice of the other, Bernie and Joe Crudden, are celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary today.  Congratulations!

We began with a warm-up asking: “What do you love?” with instructions that it needs to be something other than the obvious – husbands, family, animals, book club, women’s club, etc…and ideally reveal something we don’t know about you.  I led with tacos, which was met with disdain (Did you know I love tacos…I didn’t think so!) but fortunately the rest of the group picked up my dropped ball and offered a variety – skylarking on the screened porch, the color green, the color gray, the Grand Canyon and rafting, “beach beds” at El Dorado Seaside Suites in Mexico, trees, mountains, cabins, pumpkins, New York New York, the great lodges of North America, when my husband cooks, sunsets and violins, sunsets on the beach and a glass of wine, this community and chocolate, bridge and the bridge group, a cup of coffee and being able to read the whole newspaper, travel, reading, experiencing new ideas in the kitchen, having family right across the street, and (I get another chance) – from the book – when Hadley saw for the first time “ a narcissus pushing through the ice and thriving” she wanted that kind of determination for herself…ditto!

Patty Evans led us in a “conversational and engaging” type of review of the novel, summarizing the events in the lives of Ernest and Hadley, giving us insight into what molded their time together, and inviting comments throughout the course of her examination of the book.  Meeting in Chicago in the era of prohibition, twenty-eight year old Hadley recognized her “dreamy youth” and her father’s fun-loving spirit in twenty-year old Ernest and that was enough to be swallowed up by his magnetism.  She fell deeply in love with the romance of love and she made him feel secure.  “Why were they instantly attracted to each other?”  Could it have been she mistook familiarity for love…did he see someone he could control?  “ Did Ernest’s war experiences drive his dark side (depression) or were there telling signs prior to that?”  From the book, “the War made them live in the moment.”  He couldn’t be alone…he couldn’t sleep in the dark and suffered from haunting nightmares.

 They married and moved to Paris to encounter the Bohemian lifestyle – marriage and children were not fashionable; excessive drinking, partying, and drugs ruled; and sexual license dominated the “couples” lifestyle.  Ernest reinvented himself surrounded by expatriates and mentors such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sherwood Anderson while Hadley still embraced Henry James’ style of literary realism opting for depictions of everyday and banal activities and experiences instead of romanticizing contemporary life and society.  The turning point in the book was when Hadley lost his manuscripts – three years of work gone.  Ernest never trusted her again and began to “punish” her by withdrawing the one thing that always kept them together – love.  He dismissed Hadley and shed the layers of friendship with those who had helped him like dead skin.  Comparing herself to Pauline, Ernest’s latest conquest, Hadley thought of herself as merely a “cheerleader not a critic.  I couldn’t tell him why his work was good and why it mattered to literature…Pauline could do that.  I couldn’t be fresh eyes and a fresh smile – I couldn’t be new.”

The differences in their worlds and personalities surfaced and although their marriage was most likely doomed from the onset, what ran true throughout the story was Hadley’s unending devotion to Ernest and his craft – in spite of everything.  In the end, he realized what he had thrown away.  Two months after a telephone conversation with Hadley telling her he had written a book about their life together in Paris, he took his own life, as did his father before him, his brother, and sister.  The three daughters of the only son of Ernest and Hadley, Jack (Bumby), have unsuccessfully battled the demons of Papa Hemingway also…Muffet became a heavy drug user in her teens and was later diagnosed as bi-polar – she is sixty years old and lives with a caretaker.  Margaux began partying in the spirit of her grandfather at the age of fourteen, was awarded a million dollar advertising campaign with Faberge, but after two failed marriages and an unsuccessful stint in the Betty Ford clinic, declared bankruptcy, battled bulimia, epilepsy and depression, and finally overdosed and died.  Mariel, forty-nine, is the subject of an Oprah Winfrey Network documentary is the lone “survivor” and is in the process of making a film based on A Moveable Feast, her grandfather’s memoir of his time with Hadley and her father, Bumby, in Paris.  Mariel has two daughters, twenty-one year old Langley, and twenty-three year old Dree who she says, “have a strong sense of direction,” and don’t live in fear of their family’s history. We all hope never to hear of another Hemingway who has succumbed to their legacy of tragedy.

We discussed the creative mind and how those individuals look at the world differently – like a game, a challenge, an experiment, an experience…Hem certainly personified this theory. Most of us didn’t like Ernest Hemingway, at least the older version, but the author admitted being infatuated with both Hem and Papa – it was his tenderness in his love letters to Hadley…he was a writer, but she felt the emotion from the heart and not the pen.

On the Business side:
For those of you who missed Bernie as Miss Manners at the PWC high tea and fashion show touting proper tea etiquette, you can catch this wonderful performance by going to YouTube, typing in Miss Manners B.MOV and you will see our star in living color on the world-wide web.

Also, thanks to Marlene Ungarean who found a link to an author interview with Ms. McLain and we were able to watch it after our discussion of the book.  It linked us to the home of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club in Jefferson, Texas and the only hair salon and bookstore in the world, Beauty and The Book.  Ms. McLain offered further details into the writing of this novel, agreed to a “flapper-time” makeover, which left her with finger waves in a bobbed hairdo.  She was asked what her favorite accessory was – Gin & Tonic – she would fit in at the Pinnacle – and walked us through the making of a Sidecar, a drink made famous by the Ritz Hotel in Paris…chances are Hem & Hadley had a few during their time there!  Cut and past the following to your browser:

Last month I failed to thank Patricia Mosley for the wonderful Southern Living cooking magazines made available to Bookers chocked full of yummy down-home recipes.

Kay Robinson sent a link to the Tri-County Library in Mabank,  Thanks partially to funding from the PWC, the Library has a new application allowing you to check availability of a book, and if checked out, when it will be returned.  Parts of the site are still under construction, but it should be very informative when completed. 

Last month we wondered the meaning of a poem in Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector.  I posted this question on her website, but she has not responded to date.  I’ll keep checking. is still “broken” as I’ve not been able to figure out how to again directly link to Amazon.  Sorry for the delay and confusion.  Leslie Mullins sent a link to an article from the New York Times about conventional publishing and the brick and mortar bookstores versus e-books, which was very interesting.  The bottom line is the major publishers feel very strongly the consumer needs to be able to browse through the bookstore to insure the success of the publishers and their authors.  If you would like to read the entire article, let me know and I’ll forward it to you.


                                    WHITE:                     LIGHT READ
                                    PINK:                        MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                                    RED:                          CHALLENGING

March 13th:                  Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
                                    Recommended by Beverly Dossett, Lee Durso, Alison Crawford,
                                    Jane Freer, Melanie Prebis, Jean McSpadden
                                    Home of Lee Durso, co-hosted by Kay Robinson
                                    Reviewer: Lee Durso

April 10th:                     The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
                                    Not yet rated
                                    Home of Donna Walter, co-hosted by Charlotte Pechacek
                                    Reviewers: Pat Faherty and Melba Holt

May 1st:                        5th Annual Wine & Cheese Evening Meeting, 6:00 PM
                                    Home of Melanie Prebis, co-hosted by Linsey Garwacki
                                    Book sharing meeting and discussion
                                    Bonnie Magee, Food czar will coordinate the menu
Note change of date

Summer read:               Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
                                    Home: Marlene Ungarean, co-host, Rosemary Farmer
                                    Reviewer: Patty Evans

Ms. McLain uses a bicycle analogy to sum up Hem and Hadley and the ever-present “other” person (his affairs), place, (his Paris), or thing (his writing) in their lives.  You see three bikes standing side-by-side and one way they look “very solid, like sculpture.”  In another way, you could see “how thin each kickstand was under the weight of a heavy frame – how they were poised to fall like dominoes or the skeletons of elephants, or like love itself.”

Happy Reading,

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