PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Ernest Hemingway, Reporter

The years spent as a reporter painting the scene in Parisian cafes and on tuna fishing boats in Spain sharpened Ernest Hemingway's ability to carefully, confidently build a story.

By-Line: Ernest Hemingway

Publisher: Scribner
Length: 512 pages
Author: Edited by William White

A Moveable Feast

Publisher: Scribner
Length: 219 pages
Author: Ernest Hemingway

In Our Time

Publisher: Scribner
Length: 160 pages
Author: Ernest Hemingway

Between third class train rides and afternoons at the racetrack, Ernest Hemingway filed "Living on $1,000 a Year in Paris" with an editor at the Toronto Daily Star in 1922. After a stint as a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star -- where he was inevitably "forced to write a simple declarative sentence," he later explained -- the young writer was offered a job at the Canadian paper in 1920. Hemingway then took on a correspondent role at their Paris office and moved to France after marrying Elizabeth "Hadley" Richardson.

In less than 600 words, Hemingway tallies in "Living on $1,000 a Year in Paris" the considerable lengths to which he and his wife could go with the Canadian or American dollar in France's capital city at the time. It's due to "prices not having advanced in proportion to" the dollar's "increased value." Meals are compared to the "best restaurants in America" in his piece, and the lodging is "comfortable." These are indeed the spare declarative sentiments of a dry newspaper report, and it's a bit short for what appears to be a meaty collection of nonfiction at Byliner.com, where "Living on $1,000..." was submitted for perusal in early July of this year. Part social network, part digital publisher, Byliner launched in June. It connects readers to writers, but also to other readers, who are free to browse the hub's digital archives for worthwhile narratives as well as submit links to stories not already collected at the site.

As of my writing this, Ernest Hemingway is among the most read authors at Byliner. Even if this particular piece of original reporting from him is a bit skimpy, "Living on $1,000 a Year in Paris" arguably demonstrates Hemingway's acumen with observation at an early point in his career.

In the posthumously published A Moveable Feast, Hemingway wrote that in Paris back then you could forego buying new clothes and sometimes meals to live "very well on almost nothing." This memoir of his life in France during the 1920s may or may not have been pieced together from notes left in a trunk beneath the Ritz Hotel. It's rich with passages like this one, which details the first apartment he shared with Hadley in Paris:

Home in the rue Cardinal Lemoine was a two-room flat that had no hot water and no inside toilet facilities except an antiseptic container, not uncomfortable to anyone who was used to a Michigan outhouse. With a fine view and a good mattress and springs for a comfortable bed on the floor, and pictures we liked on the walls, it was a cheerful, gay flat.

Meals in the book are recounted with similarly palpable enthusiasm:

The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes a l'huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I ground the black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly. When the pommes a l'huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce.

Of Hemingway's writing, William White suggested, "If the details were sometimes slighted, the picture as a whole -- full of the emotional impact of the events on the people -- was clear, lucid in full." White selectively compiled the author's articles and newspaper and magazine dispatches dated between 1920 and 1956 for a bestselling book called, incidentally, By-Line: Ernest Hemingway in 1967.

I've read a lot of Hemingway's short stories, but have only just begun to work my way through By-Line, which includes his contributions to Esquire, Collier's, and more. And save for what was required of me in high school English classes, I hadn't really digested any of his stories until I picked up In Our Time at a used bookstore when I was an undergrad. In finally getting to Hemingway's fluid magazine work, I can't dispute that the years spent painting the scene in Parisian cafes and on tuna fishing boats in Spain sharpened his ability to carefully, confidently build a story.

Charles A. Fenton wrote in The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway that while his subject wasn't earning a lot of money for the Toronto Star Weekly pieces, "he had earned enough and written enough to legitimately think of himself as a writer." Sample the bountifully detailed vignettes that the author fit into his newspaper schedule during the 1920s to absorb the effect that reporting had on him as a storyteller. The crisp opening sentences of In Our Time's "The Three-Day Blow":

The rain stopped as Nick turned into the road that went up through the orchard. The fruit had been picked and the fall wind blew through the bare trees. Nick stopped and picked up a Wagner apple from beside the road, shiny in the brown grass from the rain. He put the apple in the pocket of his Mackinaw coat.

As far as mining Hemingway's journalistic efforts for the dazzling creative phrases that would influence his fiction, one could do worse than to cite "American Bohemians in Paris a Weird Lot," which appeared in the Toronto Star's weekend magazine supplement in 1922. It was nabbed for inclusion in 1962's The Wild Years, and William White subsequently added it to the lot for By-Line, too. "American Bohemians..." boils over with searing criticism of the trendy American expatriate crowd at Cafe Rotonde. The author seizes upon the opportunity to spike his tone here, as it isn't the platform that calls for the straight reporting he toiled over during the week:

For the first dose of Rotonde individuals you might observe a short, dumpy woman with newly blond hair cut Old Dutch Cleanser fashion, a face like a pink enameled ham and fat fingers that reach out of the long blue silk sleeves of a Chinese-looking smock.

In The Paris Review interview, Hemingway told George Plimpton that after a certain point, journalism "can be a daily self-destruction for a serious creative writer." White touches on this in his introduction to By-Line. He discusses Hemingway's sponge-like ability to soak up "matter for his short stories and novels," but cites the author's contention that newspaper writers work on deadline to "make stuff timely rather than permanent." White points out that this better equipped Hemingway for his craft -- not reporting, but fiction, where he could "always use his material to suit his imaginative purposes."

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.