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Hemingway and His Conspirators: Hollywood, Scribners, and the Making of the American Dream Paperback – January 28, 1999
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From Kirkus Reviews
Though an entire book could be devoted to Hemingway's ambition or the cultivation of his popular persona, Leff's truncated work is too much a biographical recap. ``I want, like hell, to get published,'' the unknown Parisian expatriate confessed to a correspondent in 1923, long before he would become America's greatest authorial personality. Leff (Film and Literature/Oklahoma State Univ.) suggests that to do so, Hemingway made a Faustian deal with popular culture, ``cultivat[ing] publicity even as he pretended to scorn it''--the kind of publicity available through having bestsellers, serializing in Scribner's magazine, and selling rights to the Book-of-the-Month Club, Broadway, and Hollywood. Hemingway's career began as the all-American cult of personality was born, promoted by Time magazine, radio, and the movie industry. Leff brings up some interesting points, such as Time's puffing of the new author's image as an adventurer in its review of In Our Time, or the parallel reviewers drew (to Hemingwya's annoyance) between the nymphomaniac heroine of the cheaply bestselling The Green Hat and Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Mostly, Leff sticks close to familiar biographical material rather than analyzing the context, or the apparatuses, of Hemingway's rise to prominence. Leff, the author of studies on movie mogul David O. Selznick and Hayes-era censorship, does better toward his book's end, discussing the production of the 1932 film version of A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway was irritated to see studio PR rehashing the inaccuracies of his legend, but he was also taken in by Gary Cooper playing Frederic Henry, who was based, of course, on Ernest Hemingway. However, at the point where novelist's fame is secured, Leff abruptly leaves off, compressing the rest of his life into an afterword, almost impatient for the author to ride off into immortality. (illustrations not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Leonard Leff has done something new on Hemingway: he has fixed on the professional celebrity, the working author, the publishing enterprise. But in concentrating on the business history of Papa he has done the unexpected―which is to help us recognize anew the uneasy mix of truth and posturing in the work itself. (David Thomson, author of Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles)
A masterly account of the complex of relationships between a major author and the institution of publishing. Leff's Hemingway is a tragic figure torn between a compelling sense of artistic responsibility and a virtual obsession to reach the broadest audience possible. This book is impeccably researched and well attuned to the inner workings of establishment American literary culture of the 1920s. (Robert L. Carringer, author of The Making of Citizen Kane)
Leff's Hemingway goes beyond other biographical studies to expose how the public figure of Hemingway was created by mass media with the help of and eventually beyond the control of Ernest Heminway. With a cast of players such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Helen Hayes, Sinclair Lewis, David Selznick, and Gary Cooper, the book succeeds in portraying the personal and commercial creation of a tragic public figure in a world of promotion, advertising, and publicity. (Small Press)
Leff's research is obviously able, and he balances aptly what Hemingway so fretted over―he deals with a scholarly subject in a manner easily read and enjoyed. (Sunday Oklahoman)
Leff's emphasis on Hemingway's concern for and problems with fame and fortune makes for a vivid and thoroughly readable discussion of the relationships among all issues. Though not sparing Hemingway for abrasiveness, Leff renders sympathy at significant moments. For comprehensive ]literature collections serving undergraduates and graduates. (F.L. Ryan, Stonehill College)
Hemingway and His Conspirators adds significantly to our understanding of both the profession of authorship and the literary marketplace at a crucial stage in their development in the United States . . . . many cultural historians will find this book of great interest. (Journal of American History)
An absorbing and penetrating look at the inside life of famed author Ernest Hemingway. . . . This book is rich in detail. . . . One of the best. (Broox Sledge The Democrat)
. . . fascinating . . . (Entertainment Weekly)
The book goes behind the scenes to the various rivalries and editorial sagas, as it gives the inside skinny on reviews, film rights and royalties. (The Washington Post)
A fascinating study of a cultural figure.... Leff provides us with an excellent survey of one of the most famous and infamous cultural figures of this century. (Joseph Fruscione American Studies)
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