In 1952, when Hemingway was hoping to dissuade critic Philip Young from writing a Hemingway biography or a psychoanalytic study disguised as criticism, he complained that "there are enough dead writers to deal with to allow the living to work in peace." In light of this, lots of living authors are safer than usual during the Hemingway Centennial, since no writer has proved better eagle bait than Papa himself.
Among the current reading pleasures is Leonard J. Leff's Hemingway and His Conspirators: Hollywood, Scribners, and the Making of American Celebrity Culture (Rowman and Littlefield, $16.95). True to its comprehensive subtitle, the book goes behind the scenes to the various rivalries and editorial sagas, as it gives the inside skinny on reviews, film rights and royalties. Leff shows Hemingway jockeying for position yet whining about having to read the barrage of "cursed clippings" that promote his legend. This volume is rich in anecdotes about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Katharine Hepburn and the whole economy of literary stardom.
Even more delectable is Craig Boreth's The Hemingway Cookbook (Chicago Review, $24). Sumptuously produced with well-chosen photos of the inns and restaurants featured in Hemingway's work, it's a cookbook cum history, cum culinary education. The book unfolds chronologically, with chapters from the life prefacing recipes and disclosing wonderful details about the food, restaurants and meals. In the section devoted to Grace Hall Hemingway's English tea cakes, Boreth tells how Papa's mama's recipe was shared and ultimately published in The Nineteenth Century's Women's Club Historical Centennial Cookbook.
Boreth's cookbook also includes the history of Harry's Bar, the origin for Hemingway's favorite martini, "The Montgomery," and even the recipe for "Coffee According to Hopkins" from "Big Two-Hearted River." And Hemingway fans who always intended to check out (but didn't) the difference between the Asti drunk in A Farewell to Arms, the Valdepenas in The Garden of Eden, and the Beaune in A Moveable Feast should toast the chapter on "The Hemingway Wine Cellar." Boreth gives, along with the right Hemingway quotation (and a citation), wine prices, longevity of the wine, the wine to drink with oysters (Pouilly-Fuisse), and advice: "First obtain your lion . . . hang overnight in a tree out of reach of hyenas." Though few readers will be preparing Eland Piccata, it was gratifying if not exactly comforting to learn that in Grandview, Idaho, a Hemingway Society member maintains a breeding herd of eland and that it tastes like veal. Even non-cooks will have a chance to succeed with some recipes, like the one for radishes, as served for lunch at home on the Rue du Cardinal Lemoine: Wash, pat dry, salt, serve on a slice of generously buttered bread. If no bread accompanies the radishes, "simply place them in a small bowl, drizzle with melted butter, and season to taste."
And to feast the eyes, there is Picturing Hemingway (Yale, $35), by Frederick Voss with an essay by Michael Reynolds. Hemingway's life has, of course, been frequently captured in coffee table books. Voss, senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery, gathers together less familiar images -- the view from the Hemingway kitchen window in Paris, the dustjackets from various first editions, a haunting photo of Hemingway in Cuba with Adriana Ivancich (the inspiration for his Across the River's Renata) and the Ketchum funeral. David Sandison's illustrated biography, Ernest Hemingway (Chicago Review, $24.95), has more pictures but doesn't approach the production quality of Picturing Hemingway and is marred by hazardous claims, e.g., that Hemingway and Fitzgerald were "destined to become, and remain, the best of friends."
In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway shares Evan Shipman's paramount longings for the "completely unambitious writer and the really good unpublished poem." I was reminded of this when reading Charles Whiting's Hemingway at War (Sutton; paperback, $11.95). Though it's hardly news that to attract attention Mary Welsh Hemingway often and proudly didn't wear a bra, there is something strangely retro about describing her, as Whiting does, as having "a very good bust." Even stranger is the decision to state that "Hemingway seems to have had little to do with whores, save talking to them." Hemingway at War's penultimate paragraph ends with a chipper exclamation point, and the book concludes with a smarmy "Don't you?" I didn't and you shouldn't.