Wednesday, May 23, 2007

5 Spot: Edward Hemingway

As you can read in the current issue of City Weekly, this Thursday, May 24, from 6-8 p.m., the Salt Lake City Film Center is hosting illustrator Edward Hemingway (yes, Papa’s grandson) along with collaborator and screenwriter Mark Bailey (left), featuring their 2006 book Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers at the Alta Club located at 100 E. South Temple.

The book features Hemingway’s original portraits of 43 poets and writers, including John Berryman, John Cheever, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Edgar Allan Poe and Thomas Wolfe, along with literary history, boozy anecdotes, cocktail recipes and book excerpts for each author.

City Weekly caught up with Eddie Hemingway for its Five Spot column; this is the unabridged interview:

Is it safe to sip and read? Is drunken page-turning a responsible way to derive meaning?
Reading, like driving, should be done sober. Both require the undivided attention to the road ahead.

When did you get bit by the illustrating bug?
I did my undergraduate work at Rhode Island School of Design and went through a graduate illustrating program at School of Visual Arts in New York City. When I was about 6 years old, I first started drawing by obsessively copying cartoons from The New Yorker.

Did your family pressure you to become a writer?
Growing up in my family, there was pressure to pursue my interests. And they happened to be artistic. I was lucky to come from a family that had successful artists so my parents were supportive because they knew you could make a living as a writer and an artist.

When drawing caricatures of authors, how do you decide what to emphasize?
With this book, I did a lot of research. I wanted to capture the feelings of the writers by reading about them, reading their work, researching photos of them. Everyone I worked on had passed away, and I hadn’t met any of them. I wanted to get a sense of who they were as people. I wanted to capture them while they were drinking and enjoying alcohol. I tried to show the playful side of them. I went off lots of different photographs but I don’t believe in copying photos. I went to photo libraries like the one at the New York Public Library. I got to choose what age I would depict the person at. I had Lillian Hellman’s character in her later years, but I depicted her partner in life, Dashiell Hammett, as a young man.

What materials did you use to illustrate the bartending guide?
Mostly, I paint with acrylic and scan them and alter them with Photoshop. Some artists can create everything in Photoshop these days, but I like to see an artist’s hand in the work.

Which author was most challenging to illustrate?
The pretty ones are harder for me. The people with more interesting faces and features are more fun to caricaturize. People like Edna St. Vincent Millay, Djuna Barnes, Jack Kerouac, and Jack London—who all were conventionally attractive—were a little more challenging because they were common looking. Writers like Carson McCullers, Lillian Hellman and Ring Lardner had fantastically interesting faces. Bukowski had more wear and tear. They were more fun.

What is your favorite cocktail and how would you caricaturize yourself drinking it?
My favorite cocktail is my grandfather’s in the book, which is the mojito. I would depict myself drinking it in a very flattering light and on a beach.

What’s up with authors and booze? Why are they such constant companions?
We came up for the idea for the book when we were at a party for a group of writers that seemed to be less raucous than we were expecting. That got us thinking about the good old days of hard drinking American writers. That’s what was the inspiration for the book. A lot of writers in the book didn’t drink while they wrote. Faulkner is an example of one who did drink and work. For the most part, my grandfather included, they waited to drink till after they were done writing for the day. It was a social activity. Writing is a solitary business, and it was a great way for them to get together and live a little of their lives and not behind a desk. I don’t know if the drinking informed the writing but it certainly informed the life of the person.

Knowing that alcohol consumption has its darker side, does your family endorse your approach in this book, romanticizing the “saucy escapades” and “delicious excess” of drinking novelists?
The people in my family who have seen the book really enjoyed it and think it is a lot of fun.

You might know there are a number of faithful LDS authors who do not imbibe in evil fire water … but they probably indulge in a mean Diet Coke habit. Have you considered a companion teetotalers volume?
Actually, Mark and I are doing a second book about Hollywood and drinking. But your question made me laugh. One writer in our book was famous for drinking hot tea while she worked. She wanted to be seen as a teetotaler while she was drinking it but the hot tea was spiked with sherry. She would have been a secretive drinker. That writer was Carson McCullers and that drink was called the Sonnie Boy.

An RSVP to the the Salt Lake City Film Center “Literary Libations” fund-raiser is required. Tickets are available for $30 at or by phoning 746-7000. The price of ticket includes an autographed copy of the bartending guide and proceeds benefit SLC Film Center’s Novel to Film Series. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served. A cash bar available, featuring the favorite cocktails of America’s greatest authors. (Jerre Wroble)

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