I once had dinner with Leicester Hemingway the younger brother and mirror image of Ernest. He looked so much like Ernest that I had to hold on to my seat because I felt I should be kneeling at his feet. Leicester was dressed the way we mostly remember Ernest - white shirt, sleeves rolled up, khaki pants. At the time, Ernest had already committed suicide but we had to talk about him.
I had been invited by Ann, a stunning black copywriter who was living with an art director very far west on 23rd St. in Manhattan. Ann’s most noticeable trait was her archness and she might have said something like - Your brother was the great American writer and the great American machismo. When she made her arch remark, Ann would hike one eyebrow. I think we had veal - veal scaloppini a la marsala. Leicester was jovial and answered pleasantly about his brother but he really wanted to talk about the country he was about to start. Yes, you heard me. I had to look up the word, ‘disingenuous’ because he seemed the complete naïf. “There’s no law that says you can’t start your own country,” Leicester told The Washington Post and that’s what he said to us, too. We indulged him because he made us feel we were eating with Ernest but he was serious. Ann’s boyfriend had been commissioned to design the stamps for the new country. As jovial and optimistic as he seemed that night Leicester, like his brother and father, committed suicide.
There is a line in The Great Gatsby “The evening progressed from phase to phase with the sheer nervous dread of the moment itself.” That’s exactly how it was on my evening with Leicester.
A subsequent brush with Hemingway was less dramatic but more bizarre. I was invited to a seder dinner and one of the guests was Frank Yablans who had been the head of Paramount Studios and was married to Tracy Hotchner. Tracy was the daughter of A.E. Hotchner who played Boswel to Hemingway’s Samuel Johnson and wrote Papa Hemingway. Tracy, by the way, has a radio talk show called Dog Talk and a recent blog post is titled: “Excuse me? How much kibble did you say?”