21st July


‘This one is my grandfather, my mother’s father. He could have been a household name, if things had gone differently for him. He never had any luck, that was the trouble. Luck is what separates most people from success and wealth. That, and who you know. It’s not about talent. My grandfather had talent. It’s about who you know.

‘My grandfather was in Paris in the 1920s, trying to get a break the same as everyone. They were all there: Joyce, Pound, Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Gertrude Stein. And Ernest Hemingway. My grandfather and Hemingway used to drink together, but my grandfather was a better drinker than Hemingway. They would get very drunk and eventually Hemingway would keel over but my grandfather would still be going. That made Hemingway furious. “I’m going to beat you this time, you son of a bitch,” he’d say the next day. My grandfather would shrug and off they’d go again, with the same result.

‘Once my grandfather asked if he could borrow Hemingway’s typewriter, and for ten straight hours he typed out this story he’d had in his head for months. It just poured out of him. When he’d finished he gave it to Hemingway to read, and Hemingway saw that it was damned good. He also saw that my grandfather had picked up on his own style, which is what led to the next thing. You know what that pig did? He stole the story. It was typed on his typewriter and it was in his style so he sent it off to Scribner’s under his own name. And they published it! I don’t remember the name of the story, but it was my grandfather’s. There was nothing he could do about it; he didn’t have a handwritten draft or notes and the only other person who’d seen it was Hemingway. And Hemingway said, “I said I’d beat you, didn’t I?”

‘My grandfather could never see a book by Hemingway without feeling sick to his stomach. It’s quite a claim to fame, to say you were ripped off by Ernest Hemingway, but it didn’t do my grandfather any good. He never had any luck, though, that was the trouble.’

Reader: Gerda Stevenson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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