|Jed Kiley in 1925|
The Boulevardier, a satiric magazine for the English-speaking colony. Killey, who befriended and published Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis, became Hemingway's friend as well and introduced one of his first stories in The Boulevardier. The friendship lasted for the rest of their lives. The following story is from Kiley's book Hemingway, a Title Fight in Ten Rounds, re-published after Kiley's death with the new title Hemingway - A Friend Remembers.
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He was standing next to me at the bar. He was a big fellow. About twenty-five, I thought. He needed a shave and a haircut. And his sports coat looked like he had slept in it. But you could see he was not a barfly. He threw out a big hand in my direction. It was a hand you would not want thrown at you in anger. His coat sleeves were short and you could see the heavy black hair on his thick wrists. He had a short black moustache that looked like his eyebrows. He grinned all over. It was a pleasant grin, I thought. I winced as we shook hands. Some grip.
"Hello," he said.
"Hello," I said.
"Remember me?" he said.
"Sure, sure," I said.
Who is this guy? I thought. Must have met him up at my place in Montmartre. I had an American night club up on the Hill and everybody knew me. You could see he was a Yank by the way he held his drink. Had a death-grip on it. Like somebody was going to take it away from him. But that did not mean a thing. They had Prohibition then back in the states and that's the way all the tourists drank. Like somebody was going to take it away from them. Some law, I thought.
I said aloud, "Have a drink?"
"Why not?" he sad.
He knocked off his old drink at a gulp. You could not see what he was drinking. His big hand hid the glass. Alphonse brought us two fines. He had a paw wrapped around his before it hit the bar. Some hands. Wonder what he does, I thought. Probably one of those sculptors from the Left Bank. Did not seem to be holding enough dough for a tourist. Must have met him in one of the bars. Some drinker. Better let him talk some more.
"Been reading your stuff in The Boulevardier," he said.
Well, I thought, that's different. Erskine Gwynne and I were getting out a smart little magazine on the Champs Elysees and I was the to writer. They used to read my stuff in The Boulevardier and then come up the Hill to meet the author. You might say I was literary in the daytime and mercenary at night. I liked to talk about my stuff too. So I hooked my cane over the bar rail and ordered a refill on the fines. If there is one thing an author likes it is honest criticism from a stranger.
"Like it?" I said.
"No," he said.
"Oh," I said. What are you doing here besides drinking?"
"Writing," he said.
"Writing what?" I said.
"A book," he said.
"Oh," I said.
This bird is a wise guy, I thought. He has probably been around Paris three weeks , and he is writing a book about it. That is a way a lot of them do. They sat around the Dome drinking fines and Pernods and wrote books about Paris. The you never heard about them again. I had been around Paris for six years and still did not know enough about Paris to write a book about it. Maybe that's the way it was. The longer you stayed around the less you wanted to write a book about it.
"Like it over here?" I said.
"No," he said.
Better get out of here fast, I thought. The man's a poseur. Whoever heard of an American not liking Paris? No wonder he didn't like my stuff. The guy's taste is all in his mouth. I hooked the Malacca back on my arm and gave him the old night-club smile.
"Nice seeing you again Doc," I said
He roared out laughing and slapped me on the back. I can still feel it.
"The name is Hemingway," he said.
Well, what do you know, I thought. It's old Ernest Miller Hemingway from Old Park. Nobody else could have a name like that. Had not seen him since the war. Knew he was in Europe somewhere. He had come over in the French Ambulance in '17 when I had. But he had been in an Italian section. Heard he had enlisted in the Italian army and had been badly wounded. I hung the cane back on the bar and shook hands again. There is nothing wrong with his grip, I thought.
"Didn't know you with the false moustache," I said.
"Bar stance is changed too," he said.
That's wright, I thought. Used to stand with the other leg on the rail. No wonder I didn't recognize him. Must be that war wound, I thought.
I said aloud, "Have a drink,"
"Sure," he said louder.
Hasn't changed a bit, I thought. He was quite an amateur boxer, I remembered. Used to say he was going to be the world's heavyweight champion some day. And he might have made it. Guessed the wound must have knocked that idea out of his head, I thought.
"Still going to be the Champ?" I said.
"Yes," he said, "but not in boxing."
"Wrestling?" I said.
"No," he said.
"What?" I said.
"Literature," he said.
"Oh," I said.
Still shooting at the moon, I thought. Never pools his punches. Always in there trying. Why, when he was a kid in the school he used to pick up a tough five bucks acting as a sparring partner for the pros in O'Connell's gym. He didn't care how big they were either. Plenty of guts. Well, he could count on me to be in his corner over here. I knew the ropes. You know how it is when you run into a guy from your own home town. Might start by running something for him in The Boulevardier. You could see he could use the prestige. If he can write like he can drink, I thought, I'll take him in my stable.
I said aloud, "What's your record?"
"Just a couple of amateur warm-ups," he said. "Three Stories and Ten Poems and a six-rounder called In Our Time."
"Kayos?" I said.
"No," he said. "Didn't want to hurt my hands. I'm turning pro in my next bout. It's an eight-rounder that will put me in the semifinals. Then when I get into the main bouts and grab those big purses in the States I'm going to buy me a boat, a house on a tropical island, and go fishing."
"And retire with the title?" I said.
"No," he said. "I'll defend the title. You know, fight in spurts. Stall for the first two minutes of each round and then go in slugging the last minute like the champs do."
He's got it all figured out, I thought. Sounds like he means it too.
"What's this eight-rounder you are writing?" I said.
"The Sun Also Rises," he said.
"Come again," I said.
"The Sun Also Rises," he said.
The suns also rises, I thought. What the hell has the sun got to do with Paris? You never see it. You go to bed when it rises and you get up when it sets. What a title for a book on Paris, I thought.
"Better call it the moon also rises," I said aloud.
"Gertrude likes it," he said.
"Gertrude who?" I said.
"Gertrude Stein," he said. "She is my trainer."
Holy smokes, I thought. A champ is a champ is a champ. If he listens to those Left Bank oracles he's going to be throwing iambic tetrameters instead of punches. Better get him across the river and under the trees of the Champs Elysees fast.
"Ernest," I said, "how would you like to do a one-round benefit for The Boulevardier? If you got something short and sweet with a wallop I can run it for you. No purse, as you know, but plenty of prestige."
"Glad to help you boys out," he said.
"Well, it would help you too," I said. "To have the name Ernest Miller Hemingway up there with Sinclair Lewis, Scott Fitzgerald, and the rest of us."
"I have dropped the Miller," he said.
"O.K.," I said, "I'll call you Kid Hemingway, if you like. What kind of stuff are you doing?"
He feinted with his left, shot a straight right and picked up a big envelope from the bar.
"Here's a short left hook," he said. "Travels only about eight inches but carries authority. If it isn't a knockout, I'll eat it. It is not for The Boulevardier however. You guys would duck and let it go over your heads."
Oh yeah, I thought. I opened it up and looked at the title. "The Killers" it was called. I'll say it's not for us, I thought. "The Kissers" would have pleased me better. I ordered another round to give me strength, and glanced through it.
The story was all dialogue. It was all right as far as it went but it didn't get anywhere. Some gangsters were going to kill a Swede. They walked into a cafe where the Swede used to eat and waited for him with their hands in their pockets. Then they walked out. The Swede came later and when he heard they had been looking for him he couldn't eat. Just went home to his furnished room and went to bed. That's the way it ended. With the poor Swede waiting in bed. Sort of left you up in the air.
"Where's the rest of it?" I said.
"The rest of what?" he said.
"The story," I said
"Don't be silly," he said, "that's my style."
Well, if that's his style, I'll take vanilla, I thought.
"I'm sending it that way to the States," he said.
"Listen, kid," I said, "you gotta have a Hollywood ending for the States. Take a tip from me and have the two killers give it to the Swede with tommy-guns. They step out of the clothes closet and give it to him while he is saying his prayers. Then you got something."
"I'll make a note of that," he said.
I didn't like the way he said it. But I'll bet he does change it, I thought. If he doesn't they will blast him.
Then he shadow-boxed, drove a hard right into the inside pocket f his sports coat and hit me with a few crumpled sheets of yellow paper written in lead pencil.
"Here's a low kidney punch for that throwaway of yours," he said. "Don't change a word."
Get a load of that, I thought. Don't change a word. Here I am doing the guy a favour, and he starts ordering me around. I tell him how to end the killers thing and he fouls me. Offer to print his stuff in The Boulevardier and he calls it a "throwaway". What if he does know the magazine, I thought. He doesn't know me well enough to call it that to my face.
I glanced at the title. It was "The Real Spaniard". Sounded all right. Louis Bromfield, another young Paris writer, had a piece for us called "The Real French". Louis had already hit the jackpot with his second book. It got him the Pulitzer Prize. That meant the other Left Bank writers would be out gunning for him, I thought.
"Parody on Bromfield?" I said.
"Yeah," he said, "I give him hell."
That's O.K., I thought. We liked parodies in the book. But I didn't say anything. Just stuck the thing in my pocket without reading it. Might need it for wrapping up a parcel some day. I was still sore about the crack he had made about the magazine. Better change the subject, I thought. One more drink and I'd tell him what he could do with his wrapping paper. I put on my phony night-club smile.
I said, "Ever been up to my place on the Hill?"
"No," he said.
"Why?" I said.
"Too high," he said.
"The Hill?" I said.
"No. The prices," he said.
I said, "Come up any night. Be my guest. Bring your girl."
"Thanks," he said.
"Got a smoking?" I said
"A what?" he said
"A smoking," I said.
Can you beat that, I thought. He is writing a book on Paris and he does not know what a smoking is. A smoking is Paris argot for a tuxedo. I told him. You got to be dressed in my place. It;s not Left Bank honky-tonk. We open at midnight and close when the sun also rises, I told him. Might as well impress him that it was a classy joint. He might think it is another Hinkey Dinks in Chicago, I thought.
"There is no sawdust on my floor," I said.
"Too bad," he said. "But I'll give you a break for old times sake. I never play when I work but I'll come up when the book is finished. I'll bring Lady Brett with me."
"Lady who?" I said.
"Lady Brett," he said. "Belongs to an old English family, title and all that sort of thing. You wouldn't know her."
"Oh," I said.
"I'll bring you an autographed copy of the book too," he said.
"Thanks," I said. And I paid the check and left.
I had to laugh when I got outside. Here I had a whole bookcase full of autographed best-sellers like Sinclair Lewis's Main Street, Michael Arlen's The Green Hat, Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and lot of others. And that kid was going to give m an autographed copy of his opus. Not only that but he was going to lend a little class to my place by bringing Lady What's her name. Why, ever since the Prince of Wales started coming there I had them all. Wait until he sees the cream of British nobility hobnobbing with me, I thought. Lady Mountbatten used to say my dance floor looked like an illustrated copy of Burke's Peerage. The Duke of Manchester was there every night. They liked my jazz band. The Crackerjacks and the Argentine orchestra specializing in the tango, which was a new wrinkle then. Well, I thought, I only hope his story is up to The Boulevardier's standards. Those standards were high in one way and low in another. Look at Sinclair Lewis. He made the Nobel Prize, but he had a tough time making The Boulevardier. We turned him down twice. His stuff was too provincial for us.
In the taxi to the office I got thinking about Lewis. The only way he resembles Hemingway, I thought, is in his drinking. He was a swell guy though. H finally did make the magazine, too. That was when I cut a five-thousand-word yarn of his down to one thousand. He was delighted to make the grade and bought up half the issue to send to friends in the States. Never could do the short stuff, he always said. Nice guy. You don't mind helping out a writer like that, I thought.
I showed "The Real Spaniard" to Gwynne and told him Hemingway was another Bromfield. Gwynne read it, hit the ceiling, and grabbed a big blue pencil. "Where does he write, on rest-room walls?" he roared. I looked over his shoulder and there were two four-letter words. There were words that you heard around the office all he time. But you didn't see them.
"Well," I said, "he spelled them correctly, didn't he?"
And the guy tells me not to change a word, I thought. Gwynne tossed the sheets over to Arthur Moss. Arthur was the editor and said he knew Hemingway and wasn't surprised. He read the piece through and then turned over the last page. "Where's the rest of it?" he said. "You must have lost a page."
"That's all he gave me," I said. I read it myself. It's an unfinished symphony, I thought. But maybe he wants it like that.
I said aloud, "It's the latest style in literature and," - I added - "he comes from my home town."
"O.K.," Moss said, "Write an ending to it and we'll run it on page forty-two."
"Not me," I said. "Promised I wouldn't change a word."
"You don't have to change a word," Arthur said. "Just add a paragraph. I'll take the rap for you if he squawks. We go to press in an hour and we can't print it that way. The story stinks and you know it."
Of course I knew it. But I knew Hemingway too. Well, I thought, if he didn't give me all of it it's not my fault. Besides, Moss had agreed to take the blame. I wanted the yarn to get in that issue, and it wouldn't make the grade the way it was.
So I wrote an ending. I ghosted his style a little and it turned out swell. The story wasn't bad at all with my ending. Then we ran a little blurb about his book. That ought to please him, I thought.
But it didn't please him. The magazine was hardly on the stands before he was on our necks. Came roaring into the office with fire in his eyes and said I had spoiled the story. I told the truth; said I had not changed a word. I should have stood in bed like the guy in the other story, I thought. I glanced over at Moss. Would he take the rap as he had promised?
Li's Abner, as we called him, stood under five feet and weighed in ringside at 123 pounds. But there was no moss attached to him except his name. He had to bend his head away back to look at our detractor, but he looked the bull right in the eye.
"Pipe down, Big Boy," he said. "I am the editor and I rewrote your story for the better. What are you going to do about it?" Ernest looked like he couldn't believe his ears. He bent over to get a better look.
"Stand up and I'll show you," he said.
"I am standing up," Arthur said, and he was.
That broke the spell. Ernest stuck out his big hand. I knew he would.
"Shake brother," he said. "You got guts."
Then he walked out without a glance at me. That's gratitude for you, I thought. You try to help out a pal and he does not appreciate it. Show him how to write and he says you spoiled his story. Well, let him go back to his Gertrude Stein and see if I care. But that book of his needs a rewrite more than the story did, I thought. ...
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