Hemingway: The Toronto Years.
Finding new material in the much-travelled territory of Hemingway biography is no easy task, and Burrill's study covers much of the same ground as Carlos Baker's seminal work, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, often using the exact same quotations and anecdotes. What Baker reduces to a score of pages, however, Burrill expands to over two hundred, providing new details and local color, including some good photographs of the Toronto of the 1920S. Drawing on twenty years of archival work by Star librarian William McGeary, Burrill fleshes out the Toronto years, beginning when Hemingway was brought to the city by Harriet and Ralph Connable as a live-in companion for their son, Ralph Jr. Ralph Senior, who was head of Woolworth's in Canada, introduced the writer to feature editor Greg Clark and cartoonist Jimmy Frise at the Star Weekly, where Hemingway eventually got a job - simply by refusing to go away.
One of the merits of the book, and one of the more interesting additions to the existing corpus of Hemingway lore, is Burrill's discussion of the inner workings of the Canadian newspaper industry in the 1920S, specifically, the practice of a kind of sanctioned plagiarism. John Bone, Hemingway's managing editor at the Star, was known for rewriting the leads of his reporters' stories and selling them under his own by-line to foreign news services. This double-dealing, ignored, if not sanctioned by Star publisher "Holy Joe" Atkinson, required a hot but unknown writer situated in the middle of the action. Hemingway fit the bill and went to Europe as the Star's first foreign correspondent, joining the famous circle of expatriate Modernists that included Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. As Greg Clark notes "'... there wasn't another newspaper in North America on which Ernest Hemingway could have had the chance to try his wings that he found at the Star - on account of John Bone's future as a foreign correspondent"' (102). While this exploitation ironically provided Hemingway with an opportunity that would help launch his literary career, it did nothing to improve his attitude toward Canada. After four gruelling months as staff reporter under Harry Comfort Hindmarsh in late 1923, Hemingway wrote Ezra Pound,saying "`There is no doubt about [Canada] being the fistulated asshole of the father of seven among Nations'" (193). He was glad to see Toronto receding into the distance in January of 1924.
Hemingway himself was not above double-dealing, however, and was writing for two rival news services while in Europe, and, upon his return, penned stories for the Star's major Toronto rivals, the Globe and the Mail and Empire. Three of these "lost" stories are published here for the first time. In addition to identifying these `undercover' stories, Burrill has also found several unsigned Hemingway features written for the Star Weekly, placing Hemingway's journalistic debut in January of 1920, rather than in February as William White asserts in Dateline: Toronto. In "Mayor Tommy Church" (January 1920), we find Hemingway's first satirical attack on the most popular mayor in Toronto's history, an attempt that was rejected by Greg Clark as "too hamhanded" (56). This piece is an important precursor of a later, more sophisticated article, "Sporting Mayor" (March 1920), which appears in White's collection. One story, an investigative report into the British Colonial Coal scandal, appears only in excerpted form in the text because, as Burrill states, "it is such a lengthy feature" (169). This omission seems odd (and disappointing), considering that Burrill spends several pages discussing the story and that it was rejected by Hindmarsh and never appeared in print. This book would seem to be an ideal place to publish the find, regardless of its length.
William Burrill's Hemingway: The Toronto Years is an important addition to Hemingway biography and bibliography. The book not only presents previously unknown material, but traces the early stages of what was to become the distinctive Hemingway style. In spite of Hemingway's ultimate hatred of "Toronto the Good" (a city Wyndham Lewis would eventually call a "sanctimonious icebox"), there can be no doubt that his association with the Star was instrumental in his future success, giving him his first by-line and providing a paid overseas position from which to observe the "bullfights, bohemians, battles, booze [and] bass" that were to become integral to his literary vision.
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|Publication:||The Hemingway Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1995|
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