Mariel Hemingway on cussing, 'Papa' Ernest Hemingway, and narrating A Farewell to Legs
Originally Published on Examiner/ACX Entertainment in 2014 by Author/Contributing Writer
Michele E. Gwynn
The great American author, Ernest Hemingway, impacted literature in much the same way in which Bill Gates impacted computers; that is to say, he took something that everyone already liked and made them love it.
It wasn't just what he wrote, but how he delivered his work that made people want to read more. Hemingway was forthright to say the least, with a larger-than-life personality and zest for living that translated through his words on every page of every one of his books. His style is unmistakable, and to see that style re-emerge in satirical form is wonderful. Having that same satire read aloud by the granddaughter of a literary legend is ten times the wonderful with a scoop of fantastic sprinkled with amazing. Such is the case for the audiobook, A Farewell to Legs by American satirist Scott Fivelson, narrated, as it only could be, by actress and author, Mariel Hemingway.
Ms. Hemingway is known for major movie roles like Star 80, Lipstick, and Manhattan. She has written books such as Mariel Hemingway's Healthy Living from the Inside Out: Every Woman's Guide to Real Beauty, Renewed Energy, and a Radiant Life; Finding My Balance: A Memoir, and MARIEL'S KITCHEN Simple Ingredients for a Delicious and Satisfying Life.
In A Farewell to Legs, (a comedic twist to the title, A Farewell to Arms), the audience is introduced to 'the man' who is running a marathon across Africa. What he sees and experiences along his journey from the landscape to the wild animals is brought to vivid life by the familiar and intriguing voice of Mariel Hemingway. But how did she come to be involved in reading a short story for audio that honors her grandfather's style? Lucky for us, she, herself, explains.
"Scott (Fivelson) is a friend and we did a project, American Reel (movie with David Carradine), together years ago."
As for A Farewell to Legs, Hemingway says "I loved it and was relieved that Scott did such a good job doing it. I think the tongue-in-cheek nature of the project is delightful and honors my grandfather in the right way… it was totally in keeping with PAPA's work without trying to be his writing in a serious way."
In the narration, there are one or two small curse words, (one hell and a couple of damns). When her grandfather's books were first published, the publishers edited out any curse words he used. He is noted as going back into A Farewell to Arms in two copies and manually writing the words in. He gave those copies to two individuals. One was James Joyce, the other was literary critic, Maurice Coindreau. So knowing his penchant for straight talk, how did she feel about carrying that legacy forward, even if just a little, in the narration of a Farewell to Legs?
"Well, since I talk like a sailor and have to watch that in interviews, I like the fact that Hell and Damn were considered bad words for that time. It makes me take pause. It also makes a person feel nostalgic for that era."
If one had to speculate, what does she think her grandfather would say about a satirical homage to his writing such as this one?
"He, himself, did tons of satire. I think he would laugh, maybe not then, but certainly looking down upon us now..."
There are a few lines that stand out to listeners, but what stood out for Hemingway? "I love it all. I am never one to pick out phrases... I see books as a whole and to pick out pieces takes away from the wholeness of a project."
So what can fans expect in the near future from the fabulous Mariel Hemingway?
"I am writing several books which I can't talk about yet and I am producing 'A Moveable Feast' (one of her grandfather's books) into a film."
For those literature hounds interested in learning more about Ernest Hemingway, the man who inspired Scott Fivelson to write A Farewell to Legs, a visit to Hemingway House in Key West, Florida might be in order. But his granddaughter has a second recommendation.
"It is a lot of fun to go there, a fun tour, but if you ever get an opportunity, go to the Finca (Finca Vigia 15 miles outside of Havana) in Cuba and see his house there. It is spectacular. He lived there far longer (25 years), and it is preserved beautifully. It is a very special place. I just got back from there where I did a cameo in a film about my grandfather."
Special thanks to Mariel Hemingway . Image credit Wikimedia Commons.