Photos, journals explore Hemingway’s early life

“Hidden Hemingway: Inside The Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park” by Robert K. Elder, Aaron Vetch and Mark Cirino; The Kent State University Press ($39.95)
“Hidden Hemingway: Inside The Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park” by Robert K. Elder, Aaron Vetch and Mark Cirino; The Kent State University Press ($39.95)

“My favorite authors are Kipling, O. Henry and Stewart Edward White. … I intend to travel and write,” Ernest Hemingway states, prophetically, in a journal featured in “Hidden Hemingway: Inside The Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park.”

This journal entry and 300 never-before published photos, memorabilia, movie poster replications and ephemera are available to scholars, collectors and Hemingway fans as they celebrate the life of one of America’s most decorated man of letters.

The four-color (and cloth-bound) book started as an article in Oak Leaves — the longtime community newspaper of the Oak Park, Ill., area — but expanded to a 230-page volume when author Robert K. Elder realized that Hemingway “saved every scrap of paper he ever touched.”

It is important to note that the chief reason this tome is essential for fans of American literature is that Hemingway never dramatized Oak Park, his hometown. It was sacred ground for the Nobel and Pulitzer-prize winner. In fact, when a journalist pushed for an interview with his mother about the city, Hemingway told him that he would stop financially supporting his own mother if the journalist kept prying for information. Hemingway did not like his privacy disrespected.

To support the memorabilia, photos, letters and poster depictions, the authors pen compelling text explaining the many facets of the author’s life as well as the story behind each book, movie and pivotal moment associated with each Hemingway project. Readers are also treated to a picturesque tour of Oak Park, including close-ups of Hemingway while he was a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School (track and football team photos), historic images and newspaper clippings.

Fans do have access to myriad biographies from which to choose, but “Hidden Hemingway” is unique because the authors worked arduously to cull the most important items from the Oak Park archives — items that have never been viewed before the release of this title.

Another example is handwritten pages from his sister Marcelline’s memoir, “At the Hemingways: A Family Portrait,” in which she states, “Dad’s revolver lay where it had fallen. From the hole in his temple, his blood poured down to a pool on the floor,” displaying the horrifying aftermath of their father’s suicide.

In another section of the coffee-table book, the authors refer to a letter that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to Max Perkins, his editor at Scribner’s: “This is to tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemmingway, who lives in Paris (an American) writes for the transatlantic review + has a brilliant future.” Notice the misspelling of Hemingway’s name, providing a glimpse into the nascent stages of Hemingway’s relationship with Perkins, who would become his longtime editor at Scribner’s.

Moreover, the title features never-seen-before bull-fighting memorabilia, high school assignments, diaries, letters to his mother, financial ledgers, a photo of Ernest on his wedding day to Hadley Richardson, book store receipts (displaying his thirst for the written word), and even the “Dear John” letter he received from nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, the inspiration for Catherine Barkley in “A Farewell to Arms.”

Additional inclusions are magazine covers and four-color movie posters with synopses about each movie. The movie summations explain how the producers selected their actors, who purchased the movie rights (e.g., Howard Hawks bought the rights to “The Sun Also Rises” and then sold them to Darryl Zanuck because Hawks believed the book was too difficult to film) and the amount paid for the rights.

This reviewer believes that the movie posters alone are worth the $39.95 price of “Hidden Hemingway.” It is a perfect gift this holiday season for book lovers, Hemingway fans and scholars, or anyone with an urge to relive literary history.

Wayne Catan has written book reviews for The New York Times, The Hemingway Review, Idaho Mountain Express and the Idaho Statesman. He teaches English literature at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix.