The question was to identify the real names of these characters from the book:
- Bobby Nightingoul
- Bobby’s wife
- Bobby’s wife’s lover
(A hint for #5: she was a poet)
And the answers are….
- Ernest Hemingway. This kind of annoyed me, I’ll admit. There were just too many parallels to Hemingway’s life, from the general (being from the Midwest) to the specific (the lost manuscripts, the connection to Gertrude Stein) that Anson was so obviously Hemingway and so then why not just use his name? And, if the author didn’t want to use his name, why not just create a new character whole cloth? This quasi-cloaking just distracted me and didn’t add anything to the story. A frustrating choice.
- Djuna Barnes. Her first name is revealed towards the end but just in case you missed it. The references to the problems with her lover are the earlier giveaway and alludes to her most famous book, Nightwood.
- Robert McAlmon. A pretty fascinating guy. The publisher of Contact Editions in Paris, he published Hemingway’s Three Stories and Ten Poems, among lots of other avant-garde writers of the time, including many women and unknowns. Shakespeare and Company was his postal address because he was married to…
- Winifred Ellerman, known as Bryher. Heir to a shipping fortune, Bryher did some incredible things with her privilege including helping women artists and saving Jews during WWII, but she married McAlmon as a cover for her lesbian relationship with the Imagist poet….
- H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). Friend of Ezra Pound, analyzed by Sigmund Freud, unapologetically bisexual, and a damn fine poet, H.D.’s life is also quite the drama.
Have I piqued your interest? My favorite books on these lives and this time period are:
Women of the Left Bank by Shari Benstock. A very readable and lively overview that packs a lot of history, criticism and juicy bits into its pages. It can be tough to track down but worth it.
Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation by Noel Riley Fitch. She was the best on pretty much every level (Avery got that very right) and one of the great tragedies of my life is that I wasn’t able to visit her in that store. (That’s Joyce there on the cover with her.)
A Moveable Feast by Hemingway. The book in which Hem burned many a bridge but gave us some powerful portraits of Fitzgerald (“the mouth worried you until you knew him and then in worried you more”) and the drinking (and writing) life in Paris. A classic—and so I will stick with that edition, rather than the restored. Not sure how I feel about that one yet.