- Hidden Hemingway: Inside the Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park by Robert K. Elder, Aaron Vetch, and Mark Cirino
Scholars and aficionados who attended the 2016 International Hemingway Conference in Oak Park and River Forest may recall the concurrent publication that summer of Hidden Hemingway: Inside the Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park (Kent State UP, 2016) by Robert K. Elder, Aaron Vetch, and Mark Cirino. For those who missed the conference and the opportunity to explore Hemingway's hometown—and his birthplace and boyhood homes—this book impressively immerses the reader in the place, both past and present; even those who attended the event, or who experience Oak Park regularly, are likely to find a fascinating detail in its richly illustrated pages.
Hidden Hemingway is a handsome, quarto-size book that features more than 300 color images. Photographs, notebook entries, and handwritten documents are reproduced with sometimes startling clarity on the book's glossy pages. When portions of photographs are enlarged to show greater detail (for example, Hemingway in his high school graduation class), the quality remains excellent. The color reproductions, whether of yellowed documents or vintage periodicals, are equally vivid.
The accompanying text is geared primarily towards fans and more casual readers, but scholars will find the content to be accurate and meticulously cited. One presumes this scholarly accuracy and attention to detail was enhanced and ensured by the participation of Mark Cirino, the author of Ernest Hemingway: Thought in Action, among other works, and the general editor of Kent State's Reading Hemingway series. Hidden Hemingway adds to its already wide-ranging catalog of Hemingway Studies.
Although the role and responsibility of each contributor is not delineated, Robert K. Elder seems to be the lead writer and the originator of the project. In his preface, Elder notes that the idea for the book came to him as he was researching a commemorative issue of Oak Leaves, the local newspaper that Hemingway "delivered as a teen" (vii). Elder, a journalist and media executive who has written six other books on popular-culture topics ranging from film history to the final words of prisoners on death row, suggests that Hidden Hemingway is not meant to be a comprehensive description of the Oak Park archives. "Not by a long shot," he asserts; rather, it is an introduction to [End Page 155] "the same intimate experiences" that he and his collaborators shared as they worked on the project (viii).
As Elder points out, the artifacts featured in the book are drawn from multiple archives, most of which are maintained by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. The Foundation's holdings include family documents as well as those gathered by private collectors. Hidden Hemingway also incorporates items from the Hemingway Collection of the Oak Park Public Library and the Oak Park and River Forest Historical Society.
The book includes three introductory sections: a Hemingway timeline, a map of "Hemingway's Oak Park" in the style of a tourist brochure, and an overview of the Hemingway family tree. The material in the main section of the book, titled "Inside the Archives," is presented chronologically, with the text essentially providing descriptions and context. Hemingway's early years in Oak Park command the most attention. Roughly half of the book's main section is devoted to his youth, including his earliest pieces of writing (an undated envelope addressed to Santa Claus) and various artifacts from his years at Oak Park River Forest High School. Much of the focus here is on the Hemingway family and its private, social, and professional activities – both in Oak Park and in northern Michigan.
The centerpiece of the book is the section devoted to the First World War. Although the authors touch on all aspects of Hemingway's experience in Italy (and here several photographs from the Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Library are included for additional context), the primary focus is on Hemingway's relationship with Agnes von Kurowsky. This is appropriate, as the...