THOSE SUMMERS IN TORONTO
THAT SUMMER IIN IRAKIS
Morley Callaghan is the only Canadian writer who has ever been one of the acknowledged leaders of a generation of novelists in the English language. It was the generation of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the gay legends of the Twenties. Here, Callaghan tells for the first time how the legends came to life, for him, in Toronto. The book will be published in January bv the Macmillan Co. of Canada.
THOSE SOMMEES IN TOEONTC
EARLY IN THE SUMMER of 1961 a man from one of the wire services telephoned and told me that Ernest Hemingway was dead. I couldn’t believe it. After a pause I said, “Don't worry, he’ll turn up again.” The newspaperman insisted that Hemingway had blown his head off with a shotgun. Walking out to my wife I said, “Hemingway is dead.” “Oh, no,” she said. “He can’t be.” Even though we hadn't really talked about him for years we assumed that he would always be secure in some place in some other country, strutting around, or making a fool of himself, or writing something beautiful. Now it was like hearing that the Empire State Building had fallen down — a nine-day wonder; but at the time I was shocked rather than sorrowful and I went around saying, “If that was the way he wanted it ... ” or, “If he knew he was sick and deteriorating it would have been unbearable to him.” No man could have sounded more objective than l. A month passed, I would be out walking with my wife and suddenly 1 would remember something Hemingway said in the Paris days. Or something Fitzgerald had said about Hemingway. One night she said to me, “Do you know you’re talking about Fitzgerald and Hemingway all the time now? Why is it?”
That night I couldn't sleep. Little scenes from our lives in the Quarter in Paris kept dancing in my mind. That Raspail and Montparnasse corner would light up brightly with the cafés crowded and the headwaitcrs shaking hands with the regular patrons. Or down at the Deux Magots I could see Fitzgerald coming to meet me wdth his elegant and distinguished air. And in the oak-paneled Falstaff, Jimmy behind the bar, and Hemingway coming in, looking lonely, then his face lighting up with his quick sweet smile when he saw us,
friends he could feel free to sit down with. It was all too vivid in my mind. I have to tell how Paris came to have such importance for me, and if possible, what I was like too in those days. It can only be done by telling where I was and what I was doing in 1923 when 1 was twenty and in my second year at college in Toronto. Five foot eight, with dark brown curly hair and blue eyes, I was not overweight then. I was fast with my tongue and, under pressure, fast with my fists, but they tell me that I moved around rather lazily. At college I played football and boxed. For years I
had played baseball in the city sandlot leagues. That summer in the holidays my cousin got me a job in a lumberyard “slugging” lumber with five husky immigrant laborers. We unloaded six-by-two scantling from boxcars. At the time I was also reading wildly. I read Dostoievsky, Joseph Conrad, Sinclair Lewis, Flaubert; The Dial, The Adelphi, and the old Smart Set, edited by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan; Katherine Mansfield. D. H. Lawrence — everything. Yet in the summer it was baseball that absorbed me. 1 was a pitcher. My brother, a catcher on the same team, was a singer, bent on studying opera. Our ball team, a very good one, one of the best in the city, had some rough tough players with a rich fine flow of language who were not concerned with my interest in Conrad and Dostoievsky or my brother’s beautiful voice — only in my curve ball and my brother’s batting average. After I had been working two weeks in the lumberyard, my turn came to pitch a game. In the first inning 1 noticed that my arm felt unusually light; coming around on the pitch it felt weightless, and yet I had no speed. “To hell with that lumberyard,” 1 said.
A friend of my boyhood, Art Kent, had a job reporting on a morning paper. Sometimes at night, for the sake of his company, I had gone with him on his assignments. Reporting, I told myself, would be much easier on a pitching arm than slugging lumber, so I paid a visit to the Toronto Daily Star. The elderly gentleman at the reception desk, impressed by my earnestness, and believing I had a big story to report to the city editor, called a Mr. Harry Johnston. This stocky, plump, longnosed man with hair graying at the temples and a deliberately alert manner, came out to the desk and said brusquely, “The city editor, Mr. Hindmarsh, is on his holidays. I’m Mr. Johnston. What is it, young fellow?” I told him I was from the university and was a very good reporter and wanted a job. The disgusted expression on his face as he looked at the old gentleman abashed me. “We’re not hiring anybody. I'm busy,” he said. But when he opened the city room door I followed. With a knowing air that must have carried a strong conviction I added urgently that a newspaper could always use a good reporter, wasn't that right? As he half turned I said, “Let me work around here for a week. If at the end of the week you think I’m no good, don't pay me anything. Let me go. What have you got to lose?” A flicker of interest in his eyes, he said, “I’ll think about it. Come in tomorrow.”
At the same hour next day I was back at the reception desk, expecting to be led into the editor’s office. Instead, Mr. Johnston, now in his shirt sleeves and with an impatient air, came again to the hall desk. He was sorry, but they weren't taking on any more summer replacements. This time I walked right into the city room with him. “Look here,” I insisted. “What I said yesterday must have sounded good or you wouldn't have told me to come back. If it was good yesterday isn’t it good
today? I’ll work for nothing for a week. If I'm any good, keep me on and when the city editor comes back you have in me another pretty good reporter. What do you lose if it doesn’t cost you anything?”
My effrontery seemed to attract him. Smiling a little, he asked, “What’s your name?” and he wrote it down. “You won’t be on the
salary list but come in at seven in the morning,” and he walked away abruptly.
Whenever I think of Mr. Johnston now 1 think of those short legs of his in rapid motion At the end of the week the legs moved rapidly in my direction, then stopped. “I've put you on the salary list at twenty a week,” he said. I went to the telephone, called home and said quietly to my mother, “I got on the Star.” “I knew you would, Son,” she said. So I went out and loafed along King Street, nursing my delight and vaguely aware that I might be coming to a turning point in my life.
In those days the Toronto Daily Star was as aggressive and raffish a newspaper as you could find in any North American city. Its newsroom was the kind of a place Napoleon must have had in mind when he spoke of a career open to talent and ambition. It had a promotion department that went in for baby elephants, balloons and Santa Claus funds. Star reporters moved on great disasters in far places like shock troops poured into a breach by an excited general. A reporter might get a quick salary increase or be fired promptly. Since I didn’t have a family to support, or a mortgage to pay off, I loved this turbulent arena. In the freebooting society of our room each man was intent on looking after himself and I got two salary increases in a month.
I was getting along. In the mornings there was the hotel beat, and loafing from hotel to hotel, in the hope of encountering a visitor who might make a good interview, my thoughts were usually on writing. Visitors to the hotels might be strange characters I could use in stories. Why did I dislike so much contemporary writing? I would wonder. The popular writers of the day like Hergesheimer, Edith Wharton, James Branch Cabell, Galsworthy, Hugh Walpole, H. G. Wells — except for Tono-Bungay — I had rejected fiercely. Showoff writers; writers intent on proving to their readers that they could be clever and had some education, I would think. Such vanities should be beneath them if they were really concerned in revealing the object as it was. Those lines, A primrose by a river’s brim a yellow primrose was to him, and it was nothing more, often troubled me, aroused my anger. What the hell else did Wordsworth want it to be? An orange? A sunset? I would ask myself. Why does one thing have to remind you of something else? Going from hotel to hotel on my job I would brood over it.
I was against all writers who wanted to become “characters.” The whole contemporary world was full of characters. Women rode on the wings of airplanes, men sat on flagpoles, there were stunt men of all kinds, jazz musicians, young ladies going gallantly to hell on bathtub gin. But there was also the way Jack Dempsey fought. His brutal mauling style seemed to be telling me something: do the thing you want to do in your own way. Be excellent at it. Seek your own excellence. Having no use for pure aesthetes or aloof intellectuals, 1 went on playing ball, and enjoyed the skill required of a pitcher working on a hitter. I tell this to show the kind of thinking, the thoughts about writing, of a young reporter doing the hotel beat. In the hotels I sat talking far too long with opera singers or visiting senators.
And then I met our real city editor, the fearsome Mr. Hindmarsh, who had come back from his holidays.
I have to tell you about this man, Harry Hindmarsh. If it hadn’t been for Hindmarsh, Hemingway might have remained a year in Toronto, he might not have written The Sun Also Rises, and I might have settled into newspaper work. Hindmarsh was the grand antagonist. But I never hated him as Hemingway did. There was always some sardonic humor in my view of him. All the duels with him really pushed me closer to Paris. Hemingway maintained that Hindmarsh was a bad newspaperman. It wasn’t true. Hindmarsh was a hard-driving, good, ruthless newspaperman.
One morning Hindmarsh, accompanied by his assistant Johnston, came walking along the
aisle from the city desk past the rov of reporters desks on his way to his office. The big heavy-shouldered man with close-cropped hair and an assured, dominating manner, stopped in front of me. Astonished, I stood up slowly. “Mr. Callaghan,” said my Mr. John-
ston, “meet Mr. Hindmarsh.” I put out my hand warily, but the big fellow was smiling at me benevolently.
"You were hired as a summer replacement,” he said.
"Yes, Mr. Hindmarsh,” and 1 saw that Mr. Johnston, who had gambled and hired me, was not looking unhappy.
“Well, my boy,” said Mr. Hindmarsh. with a surprisingly warm grin, "I have decided you're cut out to be a newspaperman. You can join the permanent staff.”
Embarrassed, I told him I hadn't finished my university course and would have to go back to college.
Whirling on my Mr. Johnston, Hindmarsh growled, “I thought you told me this man was a varsity graduate?”
“Mr. Callaghan, didn't you tell me you were a graduate?” asked Johnston, and I saw by the expression on his face that he was scared stiff of Hindmarsh. “You didn't ask me,” I said nervously. "Nobody asked me.”
“Nobody asked you?” and Mr. Hindmarsh, grunting, drew back and brooded over both me and Mr. Johnston, then shook his head sadly.
“I assumed ...” began Mr. Johnston nervously. But then Mr. Hindmarsh half smiled. “Never mind," he said. “Go back to college. Graduate. We’ll work something out for you to keep you on the paper.” As Mr. Hindmarsh strode away Mr. Johnston remained studying me with a perplexed air. But 1 hurried out. My God, I thought, what will Hindmarsh say when he discovers that I have actually two years to go at college?
By this time that thin, whispering deskman, Jimmy Cowan, the only one I talked to about writing, would pass on to me bits of local gossip in his sinister mutter. Cowan read all the American writers, kept track of Mencken in the old Smart Set, could talk about the Greenwich Village crowd, and even read the theatrical paper, Variety. One day, near the end of summer, he whispered to me, his eye rolling around the newsroom as if he had to make sure no one was listening, “A good newspaperman is coming from Europe to join the staff. Our European correspondent, Ernest Hemingway.” Then he told me that Hemingway had been in Toronto some four years ago when he had done some work for the Star Weekly. Since I had never heard of this Mr. Hemingway I could only say “Oh.”
A few weeks later, one noontime, crossing the street to the Star building, 1 saw a tall, broad-shouldered, brown-eyed, high-colored man with a heavy black mustache coming out of the building. He was wearing a peak cap. He smiled at me politely. He had a quick, eager, friendly smile and looked like a Latin. No Toronto newspaperman would be wearing that peak cap. and 1 knew he must be the new man from Europe, Ernest Hemingway.
Next morning when the assignment book was brought from H. C. Hindmarsh's office and the reporters gathered around, 1 ran my
eye down the page and saw Hemingway’s name in at least five places. Fascinated, I looked to see what kind of assignment was being given the big correspondent from Europe. Five inconsequential jobs such as I might be asked to do myself! While I stood there Hemingway came in, looked at the book, muttered a terse four-letter word and hurried out white-faced. I could sec what was happening. Our Mr. Hindmarsh was determined that no one should get the impression that he was going to be coddled. But Hemingway’s startled curse, muttered over my shoulder, was the only word I heard from him for over a month.
In those weeks I don't think 1 saw him more than once or twice, for he was busy galloping around the country in the Hindmarsh harness. But I had heard — I was always hearing things about him — that he'd brought from Paris a book of his called Three Stories and Ten Poems, privately printed. My friend Jimmy Cowan loaned me this book for one night. I can remember being in the city room long after midnight, finishing up an assignment, and across from me sat two older, learned and
well-paid colleagues. I couldn’t resist asking them if they had read Three Stories and Ten Poems. They had. And what did they think of it? Their supercilious contempt enraged me. When I argued with them, they dismissed me good-humoredly. After all, they didn't even know my name. I can still remember the patient smile of the older one as he said, “Remember this, my boy. Three swallows never made a summer.”
“All right, I think he’s a great writer,” 1 said belligerently. “Now just wait and see.”
So far I hadn’t even shaken hands with Hemingway, and yet 1 would pick up bits of information about him. He had a peculiar and, for him, I think, fatal quality. He made men want to talk about him. He couldn’t walk down the street and stub his toe without having a newspaperman who happened to be walking with him magnify the little accident into a near fatality. How he was able to get these legends going I still don't know. But I would hear of the dramatic tension developing between him and Mr. Hindmarsh. How magnified all this was I can't say. I do say, even in those days, everything that was happening to Hemingway was magnified by someone. I heard that he had hardly time to be with his wife, Hadley, when she was having her baby. And yet he was suddenly moved downstairs to enjoy the leisurely life on the Star Weekly.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 37
At this time I went back to school for the fall term. But three times a week I would come down to the editorial room where I got my assignment, then 1 would go downstairs to the library and sit writing my story. One afternoon 1 looked up and there was Hemingway, watching me. 1 imagine he had time on his hands and was looking for someone to talk to. Though years have passed I still wonder what brought him to me.
He was sitting across from me, leaning close, and there was real sweetness in his smile and a wonderful availability, and he made me feel that he was eagerly and deeply involved in everything. We began to talk. He told me that he had come to Toronto because his wife was having a baby and he had heard Toronto doctors were very good. As soon as possible, he said vehemently, he'd go back to Paris. He couldn't write in Toronto. There is a story that while he was in Toronto he was sending out stories to the little magazines in Paris. This is nonsense. Those Paris magazines, the Transatlantic Review, transition. This Quarter and Ezra Pound’s Exile, hadn't even been launched.
He had come to Toronto with good expectations, and now he seemed to feel smothered, though he had good friends here. I could see it wasn’t only the job that was bothering him.
I didn't know what it was. Yet he had a strange and delightful candor, and every time I looked at his warm, dark face with the restless eyes 1 liked him more.
Words came from him not in an eloquent flow but with a quiet, tense authority. He gave me a quick rundown on the talents of the better-known reporters. This one was “a good newspaperman.” Another one — 'There’s no one better at the kind of thing he’s doing.” But with some he was brutal. “Him? He simply has no shame.” This one had a homosexual style. Then we began to talk about literature. All his judgments seemed to come out of an intense and fierce conviction, but he offered them to you as if he were letting you in on something. “James Joyce is the greatest writer in the world,” he said. Huckleberry Finn was a very great book. Had I read Stendhal? Had 1 read Flaubert? Always appearing to be shar-
ing a secret; yet watching me intently.
Suddenly he asked how old 1 was, and 1 told him, and he said he was seven years older. Then he said solemnly, "You know, you are very intelligent.”
“Well, thanks,” I said uncomfortably, for people I knew in Toronto didn't say such things to each other.
“Do you write fiction?” he asked.
“Have you got a story around?”
“As a matter of fact, 1 have.”
“When do you come down here again?”
“Bring the story along,” he said. “I’ll look for you,” and he got up and left.
But my Friday assignment took me out of the office. The following Monday afternoon I passed Hemingway on the stairs. Wheeling suddenly four steps above me, looming over me, big and powerful, he growled, “You didn’t bring that story down.”
“No, I was busy.”
“I see,” he said, then rude and brutal, he added, “I just wanted to see if you were another god-damned phony.”
His brutal frankness shocked me, and I felt my face burning. “I’m retyping the story,” I said curtly. “I’ll bring it down. Don’t worry. I’ll be in there Wednesday at three.”
“We'll see,” he said, and as he hurried up the stairs, anyone watching would probably have thought I owed him some money and had been ducking him.
On Wednesday 1 was waiting in the library with my story, and within five minutes Hemingway appeared. He had some proofs in his hand. “Did you bring the story?” he asked. I handed it to him. “I brought these along,” he said, handing me the proofs. They were the proofs of the first edition of In Our Time, the little book done in Paris on special paper with handset type. “I’ll read your story,” he said, “and you read these.”
We sat across from each other at the table, reading, and not a word was said. His work was just a series of long paragraphs, little vignettes. They were so polished they were like epigrams, each paragraph so vivid, clean and intense that the scene he was depicting seemed to dance before my eyes. I knew I was getting a glimpse of the work of a great writer.
When he saw that I had finished with his proofs he put down my story and said quietly, “You're a real writer. You write big-time stuff. All you have to do is keep on writing.”
He spoke so casually, but with such tremendous authority, that I suddenly couldn't doubt him. Without knowing it, I was in the presence of that authority he evidently had to have to hold his life together. He had to believe he knew, as I found out later, or he was lost. Whether it was in the field of boxing, or soldiering, or bullfighting or painting, he had to believe he was the one who knew. And he could make people believe he did, too. “Now what about my proofs?” he asked. Fumbling a little, and not sounding like a critic, I told
him how impressed I was. “What do your friends in Paris say about this work?” I asked.
“Ezra Pound says it is the best prose he has read in forty years,” he said calmly.
At that time the poet Ezra Pound was not a big name in Toronto, but to young writers in English, whether they lived in New York, Paris or London, he was the prophet, the great discoverer, the man of impeccable taste. I think 1 saw then why Hemingway wanted to get out of Toronto like a bat out of hell. He had a kind of frantic pride, and though he had good friends among his colleagues in Toronto, they couldn't imagine they were in the presence of a man who was writing the best prose
that had been written in the last forty years. Was that why he said to me so firmly, "Whatever you do, don't let anyone around here tell you anything”?
From then on, whenever I came down to the Star I would wait around in the library and often Hemingway would show up and we would talk about writers and writing. My life was taking a new turn in those encounters, for at last I had found a dedicated artist to talk to. He would say such things as, “A writer is like a priest. He has to have the same feeling about his work.” Another time he said, “Even if your father is dying and you are there at his side and heartbroken you have to be noting every little thing going on, no matter how much it hurts.” Words wouldn't pour out of him; sometimes he would talk haltingly as if he stuttered. But he made me feel that he was willing to be ruthless with himself or with anything or anybody that got in the way of the perfection of his work.
Yes, at that time the dedicated artist, but not the big personality. 1 think at that time he would have scoffed at the notion of ever becoming such a big public personality for people who hardly knew his work. And as for me — I couldn't even imagine him ever letting it happen to him. The work was the thing, he seemed to say with every gesture. When I think of some of those absurd pictures I've seen of him in these last few years, or recall now how he went in for that Indian talk, onesyllable grunts, my mind goes back to those conversations years ago in the Star library.
What seems incredible now, almost mysterious, is that we would talk about Sherwood Anderson, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Scott Fitzgerald — then at the height of his fame — all far away from me in Toronto, and yet it turned out that we were talking about people 1 was to know and be with in a few short years.
I remember our last conversation before he went away. When we met in the afternoon he asked me if I had a copy of his Three Stories and Ten Poems. 1 hadn’t. At that time there was a little bookstore at Bay and Bloor where Hemingway had left some copies. “Let’s walk up there,” he said. It was a long walk and we loafed along slowly, absorbed in our conversation. I remember we were talking about the great Russian, Dostoievsky, and I said, “The way he writes — it's like a forest fire. It sweeps indiscriminately over everything.”
“That's pretty good,” he said, pondering. Then he stopped on the street. “You know Harry Greb?” he said, referring to the wonderful middleweight champion with the windmill style. “Well, Dostoievsky writes like Harry Greb fights," he said. “He swarms all over you. Like this.” And there on the street he started shadowboxing.
On his last day at the Star I went down to the Weekly and walked in boldly to say good-by to him. I remember he was sitting with the three top writers of the Star Weekly: Greg Clark, who was his friend, Charlie Vining and Fred Griffin. As I approached Hemingway to say good-by, these three men looked at me in surprise. for they didn't even know me.
“Write and let me know how you're doing and as soon as you get anything done, shoot it to Paris." he said. “I'll tell them about you.”
“I've got your address. I'll see you in Paris.”
“Care of the Guaranty Trust. That's right."
As 1 shook hands with him my face was burning, for I knew the others were looking at me in some wonder.
I didn't doubt that I would hear from him and see him again. It was just a feeling of certainty. With great confidence I began to write stories.
When I had written a ten-thousandword story about a young fellow’s first love affair, I sent it to Paris. A month passed. No word came. It didn't matter. I never doubted the intensity of Ernest’s interest. And I had found someone to whom I could communicate his faith in me. At a college dance I met Loretto. She had brown eyes and black hair and a Renaissance profile, and she had the advantage of not being steeped in bad writing. I remember the night I met her downtown, the night when I came hurrying to the street corner where she stood under the streetlight, and I whipped out a letter from Paris. Just a few lines on the page written in a small cramped hand, but signed by Ford Madox Ford. My story, shown to him by Hemingway, he wrote, was too long for the Transatlantic Review which he was editing in Paris, but could I send him something shorter? I was full of joy and excitement. Taking I.orctto’s arm. 1 hurried her along the street, telling her Ford was a great man in English letters, the collaborator of Joseph Conrad. “Didn't Hemingway say he would tell them
in Paris about me?" I said. “Well, he's telling them.” Crossing in front of the Catholic cathedral I stopped suddenly. “I’ll go to Paris. I'll take you with me," I said. Laughing, not quite believing me, she asked how 1 could get to Paris if I studied law. But that night I knew in my heart that I had touched the world beyond my hometown. In Toronto. Paris indeed became my city of light.
Sometimes at night, after ‘eaving Loretto, I would go home to my parents’ house, read Tolstoi in bed for an hour, then begin to dream that there would be a letter from Paris in the morning telling me that some distinguished editor, having spent the night reading ail my stories, wanted to hear from me.
When Hemingway's book In Our Time came out in New York, I remember picking up a copy of the Saturday Review of Literature in which there was a review' by the editor, Henry Seidel Canby. with the heading, Art On Its Last Legs. I threw it down in disgust.
Writing to Ernest I told him I had got a piddling little six-inch notice of the book in a local paper. Avoid reviewing books, he wrote me. It was all right to talk about a writer if you had to, but always remember that you can't run with the hares and hunt with the hounds.
At the end of my second summer on the Star. Mr. Hindmarsh called me into his office. “All right, C’alaghan, now that you arc to be on the permanent staff—” he began.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Hindmarsh." I said meekly. “I have another year to go at college before I graduate.”
“What do you mean? You failed your year?”
“No, I got through all right."
“You assured me last year you had one year more.”
“I said I had to go back. Nobody
ever asked me what year I was in at any time.”
He finally grunted at me, “Arc you now definitely in your graduating year at college?”
“I am, Mr. Hindmarsh."
“When you go back this time we won't pay you any salary. We'll pay you space rates. You can come down here three times a week to get your assignment.” After thanking him, I got away quickly.
1 had a good year at college, going to Pittsburgh with the debating team. But Hemingway, hearing of it, wrote me that I should leave debating to men like Main Johnston, a Star editorial writer. But then, as I knew', Hemingway himself often seemed to have a little stutter, and I smiled to myself. Having finished my final examination. I reported to Mr. Hind-
marsh, who was sitting at the city desk. Turning to me he said with too much grim satisfaction, “All right, Callaghan. You're on the permanent staff now. Well, you need discipline, the routine assignments. Now I'm going to put you to harness.”
He might just as well have grabbed me by the arm, shouting. “I've got you now. you little bastard! You've no place else to go." And I retreated, muttering to myself, “If that guy thinks he’s putting me in his damned harness he’s crazy.”
A comical period on the Star had begun for me. Trying on the harness for size, 1 went to the summer courts at Osgoode Hall. In summer, of course, the courts were hardly in session. It was a nothing job. Nothing to do but wait around until judgments were handed down. The other court reporters, older men enjoying the quiet life, took turns sleeping on the table in the reporters’ room or playing checkers. In this company, as Mr. Hindmarsh saw it, I was supposed to bite my nails, dream of being restored to his imperial favor, dream of great assignments. Well, instead I dreamt of Paris. In my exile I sat at the typewriter w'orking on stories to send to Paris.
If I would only put my nose to the grindstone I w'ould be a good reporter, Harry Hindmarsh had said, but 1 could have told him he was wrong about this too. On two or three occasions I had known I wasn't cut out to be a hardboiled old-fashioned reporter. Little things had happened that put me off. A fire at a Muskoka resort hotel took the lives of many guests. All the Star men who could be mustered, had been taken north on a special train. We had come back and worked all night sorting out the names of those who had been saved and those who had died. Having handed in my story, I found myself standing at the city desk beside my Mr. Johnston. who had found in front of him a list of names of those who had died. The telephone kept ringing. I answered, and a woman giving me her name, asked if there was any word about her daughter. Harry Johnston, running his finger down the list, came to the girl’s name among the dead, and whispered to me to tell the mother we had no word that her daughter had died, so could she let us have the girl’s picture. The poor mother sounded immensely relieved. She would look for a picture: certainly we could send for it. I hated myself.
My sense of reality was often being offended, and besides, with the summer passing, I was having more preposterously comical quarrels with Mr. Hindmarsh. Honestly, I tried to be subdued and respectful to him. Yet whenever he growled at me as he growled at others too, my lip must have curled. We had a showdown over a strange disaster in our town. In a heavy fog a lake boat, bound for the harbor, had crashed into the breakwater two miles away. In the morning I was sent down to the harbor to see the harbor master, a nice man who showed me a map of the harbor and the lakefront. Moving red pins around on the map, he indicated where the ship should have been and how far it had got off its course. Back in the office I wrote the interview which came on the street at noon. An hour later a note was put in my box, it was a note to Mr. Hindmarsh from Joseph Atkinson, the owner; it was a very curt note. The harbor master, a friend of Mr. Atkinson’s, had assured Mr. Atkinson it was the duty of the commission, which would be appointed, to determine whether the ship had been off its course. He, the harbor master, would not be so presumptuous as to make such a decision himself. He asked for a retraction and an apology.
White-faced, 1 hurried into Mr. Hindmarsh's office. "An apology in this case is ridiculous, Mr. Hindmarsh,” I said. Jerking back in his chair he glared at me. “Don’t you tell me what is ridiculous,” he said furiously. “The harbor master insists that he said no such thing to you.”
Looking back on it now, I wonder if he wasn't furious because he hated to have to print a ridiculous retraction. Where was the ship if it wasn't off its course? I went on belligerently. That harbor master was calling me a liar. Did he think I made up the story? In his own grim sullen style Hindmarsh repeated that the harbor master denied to Mr. Atkinson that he had made such a statement. That was all there was to it. Oh, no, not on your life, it certainly wasn't all there was to it, I said angrily. I rushed out.
“Come back here,” he yelled. "What do you think you’re going to do?”
“I'm going right down to that man's office. I'll tell him how he moved those pins around—”
“You'll do no such thing.” he roared, and he jumped up. slapping both his big palms down on his desk. "You'll do what you're told, do you hear? Now you think you're running this paper.” When I said. "You're wrong, Mr. Hindmarsh,” his face got so red I thought he would burst a blood vessel.
"Again you tell me I’m wrong. In my own office you keep telling me I'm wrong. Get out of this office. You’re fired!”
What do you do when you're fired from a job? Go down to the cashier or work out the week? In the morning I came in to see if my name was on the assignment book. Yes. there it was. Evidently one departed when one picked up one's salary envelope. But on payday, when I opened my envelope it held no formal dismissal notice, just my salary. Again I was in a quandary. Next morning I kept out of sight, then sneaked a look at the assignment book. My name was there. So Mr. Hindmarsh. too, was ignoring the fact that I was fired. Good.
But I began to wish fervently I would hear some encouraging news from Paris. What had happened to all the stories I had been sending him? What could Hemingway be doing with them? I wondered. What I overlooked was that my friend, at that time, was fighting desperately for recognition himself. In my mind he might be a big figure in modern literature, but in America he had won the approval of only a small coterie. His beautiful book of stories. In Our Time, had heen a commercial failure.
Besides working for the Star. I was articled to a plump and amiable young lawyer named Joseph Sedgwick who was just getting established. I used to go to morning law classes and often
doze in my chair — the law came easily to me — and then I would go to the law office. If Joe Sedgwick wanted a title searched I did it for him. Otherwise, with him out on business, I would sit in his office at my typewriter working on a short novel. As soon as I had finished a chapter 1 would hand it to the secretary, who would type it promptly and cheerfully just to have something to do.
Having finished my short novel and sent it off to Paris, Í suddenly found myself reading Hemingway's The Torrents of Spring. It was a painful experience. How torn I was in my loyalties. My only reader, the only one who believed in me, was satirizing Sherwood Anderson, who, when I was in high school, had brought the world so close. Anderson's style, God knows, had become more affected. Certainly he was vulnerable to mockery and satire, but the mockery shouldn't have come from Hemingway. Why did he do it? For my part 1 wanted everybody to know I was grateful to Anderson. Someday I would tell it to
him, 1 knew, and I did too. though I had to wait ten years. Yes, I also remember wishing that it had been at the time I had read The Torrents of Spring — not ten years later.
It was at a big cocktail party in Greenwich Village to which I had gone with Bennett Cerf. The apartment was crowded with well-known writers and reviewers, and after an hour of it 1. like all the others, was seeking a little attention. Each new face offered the promise of gratifying recognition. Then I saw that my colleagues were all as self-centred and hopeful as I was. Wryly amused and a little ashamed, I withdrew and stood off by myself, looking out the window. In the hum of voices an older man. probably as restless and bored as I, had left his group and came sauntering aimlessly in my direction. A square-built man with rugged features and a lion's head. No other man in the world could have looked so much like the pictures of Anderson. All the delight I had got from his work when I had been only nineteen came back to me. Full of affection for this man I had never seen before, I played the clown and did it well. 'Approaching him with a solemn accusing air. I took him by the arm. "Excuse me, aren't you Sherwood Anderson?" 1 asked accusingly.
"That's right." he said.
"Good,” I said quietly. "Then you're my father."
The look on his face as he drew back uneasily made me want to laugh. I was young enough to be his son. Wild thoughts must have been in his head as he saw the look of recognition on mv face. Finally he said. “I
don't understand. What's your name?” "Morley Callaghan.”
"Morley ...” and then he burst out laughing. Delighted, he put his arms around me. “What a wonderful thing to say to me,” he said. After we had laughed and shaken hands again, and stood back looking at each other, he said earnestly, “Don't make a mistake about it. You would have written the way you write if you had never heard of me.”
ERNEST WROTE that his affairs had been unsettled, but now everything had straightened out and he was working rapidly on a novel, writing three thousand words a day. (The novel was The Sun Also Rises.) He had carried my stories and my short novel around in his trunk, he wrote. Now he thought he should hand over all my work to Robert McAlmon. of the Contact Press, in Paris, and 1 would soon be hearing from McAlmon. Well. I only had to wait a week or so.
In his letter, the first of so many 1 was to receive from him. McAlmon wrote that my stories had “the odor and timbre of authenticity." What a grand phrase it was! All puffed up. 1 wanted to look down my nose at someone. Then he compared my stories with the stories Hemingway had done up to that time. What he distrusted in Hemingway's stories, he wrote, was "the hardening process.” But in my case the hardening process wasn't there, he wrote. Then he told me he was showing my stories to Ezra Pound and to the editors of This Quarter and transition. As for my short novel, the Contact Press would do it if I couldn't get a New York publisher. Again 1 was left waiting for news from Paris.
One winter afternoon at twilight when 1 was in the law office. 1 phoned home to ask if there was any mail for me. My mother told me a parcel from Paris was there, and I asked her to open it. In a moment she said. "It's a book or a magazine, and it's called. This Quarter.” And then 1 heard her gasp. “Son. your name is on the cover!" I hurried home.
That orange-colored cover of the second number of This Quarter had the names of the contributors in bold black lettering: James Joyce. Ezra Pound. Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway. Emmanuel Carnevali, Kay Boyle. Morley Callaghan. . . . My hands trembling, I opened the magazine and there w'as my story, A Girl With Ambition. After dinner I hurried out to meet Loretto. I think we talked for hours. My confidence had become tremendous.
In my native city, of course, the little magazines of Paris had small importance. To my friends, I was still a lazy student at law' who went to all the boxing matches and was always at the football games. But close at hand were friends of my friends in Paris. In New York were friends of McAlmon. who had lived in the Quarter. So that fall I took a four-day trip to New York to see these friends and hear news of Paris.
I met Josephine Herbst's husband. John Herrman. a tall handsome laughing man. Part of each day I spent with Nathan Asch. Wc all treated each other as important writers. And one evening I went out to Rutherford and
had dinner with Dr. William Carlos Williams and his wife. Everyone was so friendly, and all because I had had a few stories in the Paris magazines. No wonder I was back in NewYork within six months. The places, the faces, are all a little blurred now: a rap on a rooming house door. Allen Tate, the poet with the scholarly head, opening the door; a big party in some kind of loft with Eddie Cahill suffering from some kind of stomach trouble: sitting beside Katherine Anne Porter at a dinner, wondering why she went home alone; the party where 1 met Ford Madox Ford and was baffled, wondering why I couldn’t approach him eagerly, but he seemed too impressive, too roundly, solidly imposing with his walrus mustache as he presided port-winedly over the gathering, talking in a hoarse whisper that compelled everyone to lean forward, alert and attentive, to catch the whispered words — he hail been gassed in the war, you know. How secretly enchanted 1 was by the experience of being with people who regarded writing as more important than anything else on earth. But. of course. I was the only one who hadn't been to Europe.
Then 1 heard from Ezra Pound, who was in Rapallo, Italy. Two stories of mine, A Predicament and Ancient Lineage, were to appear in the one issue of his Exile. While I was walking around in a trance, rejoicing that Ezra 1*00(111 admired my work, I heard that Max Perkins at Scribner's, having read a story of mine called Amuck in the Bush in the American Caravan, and having then asked to see more stories, had also got hold of the one Ezra Pound had ( A Predicament) and wanted another one. I quickly sent it to him. Then Perkins asked if I could get Pound to release The Predicament to them. 1 cabled Pound. Wondering how everything had happened so swiftly, wondering. too. if Hemingway had spoken to Perkins, I set out for New York to see Perkins.
We went around the corner to C'heerio's. the restaurant where Perkins always ate. And this strange man, whom I had immediately liked, wouldn't give me a chance to talk about writing. While we were eating he kept asking me idle little questions about myself, my background, the university, my girl. In his random, entirely inoffensive fashion he was like a skilled insurance investigator. Sometimes I wanted to shriek. "What about my works? Never mind my school, my legal training, my view of a gentleman." Suddenly he mentioned the success they had had with The Sun Also Rises; it hail looked for a month as if the book wouldn't catch on: the sale had started in a Wall Street bookstore. It gave me a chance to tell him Hemingway had been my only reader and booster. I assumed, I said, that Hemingway had told him about me. No. he said in surprise. He wasn't aware that I knew Hemingway. It had been Scott Fitzgerald who had talked most enthusiastically to him about my work, and I'm sure then my eyes went blank with astonishment. Fitzgerald, not Hemingway! Yes. Fitzgerald had been in New York, he said, at the time when he, Perkins, had read my story in the American Caravan. Fitzgerald, quickly taking tip my case, had gone back to his hotel, got a copy of one of the Paris magazines which had a story of mine in it and brought it back to Perkins. Fitzgerald had been enthusiastic, excited about the story. Fitzgerald? I couldn’t believe it.
Though we talked about my novel Strange Fugitive, which Scribner’s had, we finished lunch without Perkins having revealed at all whether he had any plans for me. Then, almost as if it had slipped his mind, Perkins said Scribner’s would publish my novel, and then in the following season they would also like to do a book of short stories. We went back into Scribner’s, had a little talk about Scribner contracts, and we shook hands. For the first time I noticed a
gentle warm approval in his smile.
Only when I had got outside did I feel that something of vast and mysterious significance had happened. I said to myself, “1 have a publisher! Two books of mine are coming out!” And it seemed to me that a lot of people should be gathering around me on the sunlit street. Turning, I looked up Fifth Avenue, watching the way the tall buildings sloping up in the sunlight went reaching into the blue sky. It was the most beautiful street in the world. Slowly, I walked down the street, slowly, vaguely, yet my whole body felt light. To this day whenever I am on Fifth Avenue I feel good.
Then I remember thinking suddenly of Scott Fitzgerald going into Scrib-
ner’s with my story. Of all people — Fitzgerald! Fitzgerald who had been in my mind so vividly some months ago! The talks I had about him with Loretto! The discussions of his work I had with Hemingway in the beginning. The whole world suddenly seemed to contract, become so small I had only to think of someone and he was suddenly in my life. Whom I was to meet, what was to happen to me, seemed beyond my control.
Back on Fifth again, looking around, I thought of those lines of Balzac's Rastignac: “Oh, to be famous and loved.” Well, I was sure of my girl, sure I would soon be famous.
That spring I graduated from law school and married Loretto. In April we left for Paris. ★