15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating in-depth narrative
In this sophisticated and adroitly handled memoir, Valerie Hemingway details the years she spent with the Hemingway family-traveling with Ernest's entourage in Spain, working as his personal secretary in Cuba, assisting Mary with Ernest's estate after his death, and dealing with the psychological trauma of her marriage to Ernest's estranged son, Gregory. While the book...
Published on June 15, 2005 by M. Pilgeram
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You've got to be a real Hemingway lover...
Another personal memoir of encounters with Hemingway. It was an easy and compelling read, largely because the author offered occasionally compelling insights which gave the hope of more. Mostly, however, it reads like a list of places visited and a list of names met without any of the detail about the people. The author drops names and sometimes even shoehorns...
Published on August 16, 2011 by Chuzenji
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating in-depth narrative,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)In this sophisticated and adroitly handled memoir, Valerie Hemingway details the years she spent with the Hemingway family-traveling with Ernest's entourage in Spain, working as his personal secretary in Cuba, assisting Mary with Ernest's estate after his death, and dealing with the psychological trauma of her marriage to Ernest's estranged son, Gregory. While the book offers an intimate look at the final years of Hemingway's life that will be of interest to both scholars and Hemingway enthusiasts alike, it is also a finely wrought and intriguing narrative that details the life of a young Irish journalist who by chance found herself enmeshed in the exciting but often disturbing world of the Hemingway family. From her run-ins with literary and artistic figures in Europe, to her dealings with Fidel Castro in attempts to safely secure the Hemingway estate after Ernest's suicide, Valerie Hemingway observed first hand the last gasps of literary modernism as the culture entered the turbulent politics of the 1960s, and this cultural backdrop sets the stage for Valerie's account of her intellectual awakening. This book is essential reading not only for those looking for an in-depth look at Ernest Hemingway's final years and the aftermath of his suicide but also for those looking for an engrossing account of the author's captivating life.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pamplona and Beyond,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)Valerie Hemingway has written a superb memoir with sensitivity and insight into a complex man and his world. Writing about Ernest Hemingway, she strikes a difficult balance between adoration and objectivity. Her prose is pleasing--sweet in places--sometimes humorous, and altogether compelling. Valerie Hemingway's often forlorn childhood in Ireland is interesting, and the unlikely confluence of this convent girl and the macho author is fascinating. On top of that comes a romance with Brendan Behan, Ernest Hemingways's suicide, and Valerie's eventual marriage to Hemingway's son, Gregory, who turns out to be a transvestite. Valerie Hemingway spent 28 years involved with the Hemingway family, and her observations and comments are important additions to the lore about Ernest Hemingway, his friends, enemies, wives and children. "Running With the Bulls" is not happy reading in many spots, but it is always engaging.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explores new territory,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)I purchased and read this book because of my intense interest in the life of Ernest Hemingway. Memoirs by his family members or friends often disappoint, but I was impressed with this one. Valarie Hemingway writes well and sheds new light on Hemingway's last years, leading up to his suicide. Her tumultuous marriage to Ernest's troubled son Gregory is fully and truthfully explored here for the first time, and that alone is worth the price of admission. Running With The Bulls is an interesting and worthwhile look at the Hemingway family from a fresh perspective.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take It As It Is,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)When a non-literary or semi-literary character gets caught up in the wake of a great writer, an historical event or disaster or what have you, you have to take their memoir as it is. Valerie Hemingway, a teen when she met Hemingway, seems to have been an aspiring journalist and to have done some editing since, though obviously she makes no great claim as a writer. The question is what she has to say, and frankly this writer not only has some new revelations about Hemingway and his family which are more than mere gossip, but posesses a degree of wisdom and balance, all in all something to say about life.
The first half of the book deals with Valerie's relationship with Ernest and Mary Hemingway, in Spain and Cuba, 1959-1961. The author is eerily present in each line Valerie writes, well recognizable from other known accounts, but she adds her own valuable and to some degree deeper take. She was a perceptive girl who Hemingway (who always enjoyed tough young "Summer People" as he once memorably termed them) obviously had good reason to like. But just as obviously it has taken her years to meditate on this material and get it right.
Hemingway's funeral and her meeting with Gregory are then told, including her touchy relationship with Mary Hemingway. Here one perhaps wishes for a little more, but the fact is no one yet has been able to properly get an angle on Hemingway's fox terrier of a fourth wife who stuck it out for hell on earth and was thereby seriously damaged afterwords.
An interlude then concerns the Irish playwright Brendan Behan, by whom Valerie had a son. And finally the rest -- which comes to feel like the majority of the book -- concerns the third "bull" in her life, Ernest's third and tragic son Gregory, whom Valerie married. This seemingly private and sensational story, on the charming Dr.Gregory and his finally all-encompassing transvestism disorder, is nonetheles as relevant to Hemingway studies as the first half of the book. Gregory was the model for one of Thomas Hudson's sons in Islands in the Stream, and the subject behind the meditation in a little known late short story, "I Guess Everything Reminds You of Something." Gregory also wrote his own justly acclaimed take on Ernest which pulled no punches. The product of Ernest's stormy second marriage, there were scars from the beginning which are duly reflected in his realist father's letters and fiction.
Even more relevantly, the whole issue of family illnesses and psychoses, which emerges in the Gregory material, throws light back on Hemingway's fictionalized relationship with his own father in the Nick Adams stories, plus the whole issue of hidden psychic wounds in most major Hemingway characters first explored by the early and pioneering Hemingway critic Phillip Young. The fact is psycho-sexual issues permeate Hemingway biography because they lay under his body of his fiction like an iceberg. Those taking Valerie to task for the revelations herein, and arbitrarily labeling her a goldbrick and the 2nd half of the book as worthless, are simply uninformed. Gregory was apparently the saddest victim of something haunting his family for the three generations that have been documented. Valerie therefore has nothing to be ashamed of. Nor does she ask for your applause, either.
Moreover, her frank story of Gregory Hemingway's obsessive downfall is rather courageous. The very private sort of sexual psychosis Gregory had may well be more common than generally known, and will always likely cause shame and scorn to both the victim and his family to become known. Valerie could therefore only risk exposing herself to ridicule to publish this, and most people would have buckled to that threat. In that case a very important chronicle of a family's struggle with this sort of downfall would not be available. The telling is neither sensational, bitter, nor confused -- it is straight up realism professionally told. It is loving and quite starkly human. It will certainly help families burdened by the same affliction in their midst.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You've got to be a real Hemingway lover...,
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This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)Another personal memoir of encounters with Hemingway. It was an easy and compelling read, largely because the author offered occasionally compelling insights which gave the hope of more. Mostly, however, it reads like a list of places visited and a list of names met without any of the detail about the people. The author drops names and sometimes even shoehorns anecodtes awkwardly into the story, the purpose of which seems only to be to drop another name.
If the author felt compelled to keep Hemingway's secrets then she shouldn't have written a book. If she wanted to write a book, she should have included more substance that what is here. The result is a rather unsatisfactory tease. The writing itself is good. The author gives a real sense of what it was like to travel in Spain and France and to live in Cuba. What she doesn't do is give any real sense of who Hemingway was, what their relationship was like and how it developed into what must have been a close, intense bond. The author doesn't really ever convey the closeness of their relationship. It only comes across in the extracts of letter from Hemingway to her.
There are a few judgments in the book and a few inconsistencies that grate. For example, the writer seems to object to Hotchner writing a book and having access to the Hemingway letters for that purpose but then withholds her own letters from the public and uses them in her own book. The reader doesn't ever get a sense of what drew the author to Gregory in the first place which makes it almost impossible to understand why she persisted with him through the events which as they are described in the book, almostly universally paint him in a very bad light.
If you want to read everything ever written about Hemingway, then you'll find this interesting. If you want to read a memior by someone who knew (and still liked) Hemingway in his later years, read Hotchner's work or Mary Hemingway's biography.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Memoir,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)Valerie Hemingway's account of the last years of Ernest Hemingway's life, and his suicide that affected her in so many ways, is magnificent. She catches the author's insecurities as his abilities fail along with his eyesight. She records his obsession with suicide, countered by his lust for life and his enjoyment of the international acclaim he had won.
But this is also about an extraordinary woman, filled with tenderness, steely in her courage, who loved and nursed and nurtured and sometimes fought several Hemingways, including Ernest, Mary, and her husband Gregory, Ernest's ill-starred son.
This is more than a memoir: it is a superb study of genius and madness, the betrayals of Ernest's sycophantic friends, and the pain and joy associated with a celebrity life.
This is an important work, a great contribution to our understanding of one of America's greatest authors, and his family. She has written with grace and courage and beauty, and were Ernest Hemingway alive, he would be celebrating her achievement.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A VERY MIXED REVIEW,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)This is yet another "I knew Hemingway when" story. As my title states, I have mixed feelings and opinions about this one. The first portion of the book, where the author is actually with Hemingway and his wife at the time, Mary, is interesting and somewhat informative. It is always interesting (for me anyway) to pick up tidbits of the life of this author, i.e. E. Hemingway. After the death of Hemingway the book sort of goes into a bit of a decline. Some of the interactions with Mary Hemingway were interesting and indeed the horrible, sad story of her marrage (the author's) to Greg Hemingway was, while not facsinating, at least interesting, in a voyeuristic sort of way. I do have several problems with this work though. First, the author is by far one of the most profilfic name droppers I have ever read. This is okay I suppose, but in this work she really goes over the top. In addition (probably, no doubt, due to my complete lack of sophistication), I had no clue who 90 pecent of these people were and, in all truth, could care less. Secondly, the author is simply not consistent, even in matters concerning her own life. She goes from being a simple little Irish girl, to an ultra sophisticated world traveler who is wise in the way of literater, back to being a simple little Irish Girl, over and over and over again. Third, the author seems to hesitate to speak of anything remotely personal and intimate in dealing with E. and Mary Hemingway as if she does not want to break a trust. Hey, they are dead - most of the family is either dead or insane! The writing of this book alone broke a trust, per author's own admission, so why not be a bit more detailed? The book is an obvious effort to make a buck (no hard feelings there, I would have done the same, only earlier), so why not go into a bit more depth? That being said, I am glad I read this work and glad it was written. I just feel it could have been so much more and so much more informative. It did give me more information concerning the life of a great author. For that I am grateful.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autobiography par excellence,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Hardcover)Running with the Bulls is autobiography par excellence. Valerie Hemingway openly and frankly tells the fascinating story of her life, which began as Valerie Danby-Smith. Her mother was English Catholic, her father Irish Protestant, and their marriage failed. Young Valerie grew up in a convent in Ireland, literally, and she spent the summers of her youth, when the convent school was closed, at a country hotel that attracted artists and writers.
Aspiring to be a journalist, young Danby-Smith went to Spain. There she went to interview the American author Ernest Hemingway, then 59 years old and enthusiastically visiting sites from his earlier days. Thus the 19-year-old Irish woman began figuratively "running with the bulls."
Danby-Smith became Hemingway's secretary and confidant. She traveled in Spain and France with the Hemingway entourage. She moved to Cuba to help the writer, but soon the Cuban Revolution forced the Hemingways to leave Cuba. Danby-Smith went to New York City to pursue her career, and the Hemingways moved to Idaho. There Ernest Hemingway committed suicide. At his funeral Danby-Smith met Hemingway's youngest son, Gregory, long estranged from the family for reasons she did not learn until many years later. With Fidel Castro's complacency, she helped Hemingway's widow smuggle the famous author's manuscripts and art collection out of Cuba. For several years thereafter she sorted the Hemingway papers at the office of his publisher in New York City. When she married Gregory Hemingway, he was a young doctor in New York. The marriage took her to Florida, back to New York, and later to Montana, where the tragic drama of Gregory's life eventually brought the marriage to an end.
Nothing in this book is expected. If the book were a novel, the reader would not believe the story, the famous characters, the twists and turns. But the story is true, and Valerie Hemingway lived it. She tells her story with grace, discretion, and the skill of a fine journalist whose early mentor had been the legendary Ernest Hemingway.
At the time she was hired, Ernest Hemingway had stipulated that a requirement of employment was that she would not write about the family. She honored that requirement. But years have passed and others have written about her relationship with Ernest Hemingway, so the time came for Valerie Hemingway to tell it like it was. It was an adventure!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best, If Not THE Best,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Paperback)Surely, this must rank as one of the finest books in the Hemingway-bio ouvre. I ignored it for years as the contribution of a minor player. When I finally got to it recently, I was astonished on nearly every page.
Valerie Danby-Smith was Hemingway's personal secretary in his last years, and also the cataloguer of his letters and notebooks, now at the Kennedy Library at Harvard. That by itself would make Valerie something of an authority on the great man.
But there was more! Oh! So much more! Incredibly, astoundingly, Valerie then became the wife of Hemingway's mad and driven son, Gregory Hemingway, MD, and what a horrible, crazy life they had.
Valerie had already had one child, from a drunken knock-up with Brendan Behan in San Francisco. With Greg she bore three more children, and endured a grueling life that in highs and lows far exceeded any fictional imagining by Ernest Hemingway or anyone else. Gregory was the sort of manic-depressive charmer who could talk his way into any job, any lay, and then never show up. The sort of fellow who would tell people that the book he was writing would be featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review the following year--and then do exactly that, and have a real bestseller--but thereafter lose interest in writing. When top editor Michael Korda insulted him and dropped him as an author, Greg took revenge by chasing Korda and his horse around the Central Park bridle path early each morning (Greg was a serious distance runner in those days). A very scary guy, and Valerie was married to him for 20 years.
Valerie Hemingway answers many questions that always puzzled me. Here's one. Why did Mary Hemingway have such animosity toward Ed Hotchner, and try to prevent the publication of Hotchner's "Papa Hemingway," that explosive bestseller of the mid-60s? The answer is that Mary knew that Hotchner was nothing more than what he seemed to be: a macher whose only interest lay in exploiting Hemingway for his own personal gain.
Now, Mary was one of Valerie's closest friends and confidants. She knew that Hotchner was calling on young Valerie when she was sorting out the Hemingway archives for Scribner's in 1962-63, and suspected that Hotchner was stealing bits of correspondence for his own forthcoming blockbuster book.
Alas, Mary did not alert Valerie to her suspicions in time. By the time "Papa Hemingway" was published, the Hemingway archives were safely stashed away at Harvard and there was no way to prove that Hotchner had stolen material. Hotchner gave no credit to Valerie in "Papa Hemingway"; as with so many of the characters in that book, she appears as a wispy, semi-fictional extra. She is "Honora," from Glasgow. She is in one of the photographs but not identified.
Hemingway himself had recognized Hotch for what he was at the very start, when they met in a bar in Havana in the late 40s. But he had taken pity on him--for his sheer pitiableness and ineptitude. Maybe you know the story. Hotchner had flown down on assignment from Collier's, with a hopeless task. He was suppose to dog Hemingway and get him to write an essay on the Future of American Fiction. Gentleman that he was, Hemingway laughed and got the poor guy drunk. And for the next twelve years he allowed Hotchner to hang around as a tossing-dwarf and useful fool in the Hemingway entourage. Why useful? Hemingway sensed Hotchner might be a useful go-between with publishers and producers. It is true that Hotchner's efforts seldom panned out; he mainly was interested in getting Hemingway to appear, Alfred Hitchcock-style, as the host of a television series; but Hotch stayed with Hem as a loyal footman. Hemingway of course had his own little sadistic pranks to play on the fool. Most notably Hotcher was sent out into the Spanish corrida as "El Pecas," the freckled Jewish matador from St. Louis, Missouri, America. Hotchner never took the prank seriously till he was out in the ring and a real bull was charging down at him.
Another question: whatever happened to poor old Mary Welsh Hemingway in her last days? She hung around for decades on the East Side of Manhattan, after Ernest died. Mostly she drank Tanqueray Gin, according to Valerie. Valerie tried to take to her a Broadway play opening for her playwright friend Brian Friel, but Mary was in no shape for an experimental play with a long opening monologue (delivered by the star, James Mason). Mary screamed and cursed and was thrown out of the theater, pausing on the way to insult the playwright.
Biggest question of all: what was the 'true gen' about Hemingway's third son, the only one who managed to get through college, let alone medical school? Well, Greg Hemingway, Valerie's husband, was quite simply, quite arguably, the most brilliant of the clan. No one could charm or impress like Greg, at least for the short-con. Alas, his thoughts were too big and his human skull was too small. Also, his ears stuck out. Perhaps only someone like Valerie Danby-Smith, daughter of an Anglo-Irish manic-depressive drunk and a mad English mother, could possibly have lived with this unpredictable and irredeemably charming character.
Greg was the kind of husband who would take your passport, dress up in your clothes, and travel all over the place under your name. Then when you looked around for your passport, he would say (having burned your passport in the meantime), "Gosh, I don't know, I haven't seen it." Greg was a kind of "secondary transsexual," a type all too familiar today: an obsessive transvestite who thinks he can become a woman while still somehow remaining a man. This, more or less, is what Greg eventually did. He talked about it for 20 years, then had a sex-change operation at the Stanley Biber mill in Trinidad, Colorado. Greg posed for at least one Polaroid soon afterwards with his son Edward (1995; reproduced in the book--big wig, clearly drunk). But Gregory never really changed his sex. After all this surgery he went back to being Greg, although now and then he did put on a dress. He had long since divorced Valerie, and married and divorced a gold-digger named Ida Mae. But Ida Mae didn't have much money, while Greg got fat quarterly installments from the Hemingway trust. So they remarried, in the eyes of the law, and remained married when Greg died in a women's lockup in Florida in October 2001.
Around the time Greg died, someone proposed to Valerie that she might write a book about her years with the Hemingways. So Valerie, the long-ago journalist, attempted the project, very tentatively. She pushed it aside. It was all too unbearable to describe. Later on she took it up again. We are so lucky she finished this tale of excruciating frenzy and torment.
The most astonishing thing of all: the action of this book mostly takes place between the 1950s and the 1980s. And it's still shocking.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Running of the Bulls in Pamplona,
This review is from: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways (Paperback)Valerie Hemingway is the wife of one of Ernest Hemingway's sons- and she gives a unique perspective on life in and around the Hemingway family in "Running With the Bulls". Although many books in the "I knew Hemingway" category have come out in recent years, this one manages to give us some insights into the depth of the man, his weaknesses and strengths, his frailties, passions, rough edges and all. Being with Ernest Hemingway during the running of the bulls in Pamplona- which just took place about ten days ago and occurs every year on the Festival of San Fermin- must have been an exciting time, something most Hemingway fans would cherish. We see it on T.V. and grimace at the scenes of people barely escaping the bulls' horns- or worse- those who get gored, ending up in the hospital. Yet Ernest Hemingway lived it and relished it- and actually ran at least once himself- although the book focuses on his later years, when he was content to sit at cafes, drink the local "Riojo" (red wine) and enjoy the tasty Spanish tapas and other delicacies.
"Running With the Bulls" gives us a glimpse into the mind, the heart and soul of this great writer in the final years of his life, when things weren't going so well, when health problems and the cumulative effect of three divorces weighed heavily on him. We still see his strength, his passion and sense of exhilaration at the wondrous things in life- simple, yet spectacular scenes of bulls running through the streets...
Author, "Lafayette's Gold- The Lost Brandywine Treasure" and
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Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways by Valerie Hemingway (Hardcover - October 26, 2004)
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