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The Thirteenth International Hemingway Society Conference: Hemingway's Early Years: War + Ink: Kansas City, Missouri 9-15 June 2007.


When Ernest Hemingway arrived in Kansas City for the first time, he was eighteen years old, fresh out of high school in Oak Park and just past his last boyhood summer up in Michigan. It had been a summer of indecision regarding his future, but he finally took what seemed like an easy and exciting option. An uncle in Kansas City knew an editor at The Kansas City Star, and the introduction could land him a job. Besides, his new summer friend Carl Edgar was also working in Kansas City, and Ernest was eager to have his older buddy as another escape route from family.

Kansas City was a crossroads town, where East and West, North and South collided, not only geographically but culturally as well. It was a bustling and gritty urban gateway to the West. In the Hemingway world, it typically represents the brief hinge between Oak Park and Italy. Kansas City gave Hemingway his apprenticeship in the writing business, and a launching pad to Europe and beyond. No looking back.

A closer look can reveal a different story about Hemingway's relationship to Kansas City. And that closer look could yield a rich new lode of scholarly attention.

Hemingway's six and a half month apprenticeship at The Kansas City Star has been well documented, especially by Charles Fenton, and his newspaper writing from that time has been collected and treated briefly, if at all, by most biographers. But, as always, there is more to know and more to learn about Hemingway and the scenes that shaped him.

The downtown streets of Kansas City have been evolving in recent decades, yet much of the red-brick texture of Hemingway's world remains, notably the Italianate newspaper building at 18th and Grand. The Muehlebach Hotel, Southwest Boulevard, and other remnants from 1917-18 can help fill in the visual record of Hemingway's distant past. The old Police Station No. 4 is on the verge of becoming a Cuban restaurant. Three houses where Hemingway lived still stand, though all are in private hands. Other landmarks, including locations associated with later visits and extended stays, can be compiled into a compact bus or trolley tour of Hemingway's Kansas City, similar to one The Kansas City Star presented to the public at the time of the Hemingway centenary in 1999.

The vast train terminal, Union Station, was restored and reopened in 1999 and appears today much as it did when Hemingway walked its marble halls in search of news bits. In 1936, Hemingway's Kansas City friend, Theodore Brumback, recalled a striking moment of Hemingway's youthful bravado and earnestness, which took place in Union Station: a man suffering from small pox collapsed and gathered a crowd of onlookers. Hemingway approached, assessed the situation, and scolded the onlookers for doing nothing to help. He picked up the ill man, carried him outside, and commanded a cabbie to take them to the hospital. Hemingway wrote a news story about the incident, but did not mention his own role.

Across from Union Station, a World War I monument and museum, the Liberty Memorial, was built in the early 1920s and still stands as one of the nation's most important public depositories related to Hemingway's war. Anyone with an interest in that important period will want to visit the new National World War Museum. The gorgeous auditorium will also provide a vibrant place for special lectures and other programs during our conference.

Hemingway returned to Kansas City over the years at several key moments. Because he neither trusted the doctors of Piggott, Arkansas, nor wanted his own father to deliver his first child with Pauline Pfeiffer, the Hemingways came to Kansas City in the middle of 1928 for the birth of Patrick Hemingway. It was a difficult birth and that experience occurred as Hemingway was completing the draft of A Farewell to Arms. A Republican convention was under way at the time, and Hemingway watched some of the political action.

Three years later, Ernest and Pauline returned to Kansas City to have Dr. Don Carlos Guffey deliver their second son (Hemingway's third), Gregory. And several times in ensuing years, Hemingway passed through on travels.

Kansas City became a convenient touchstone for Hemingway's later writing. Images and 'thoughts of Kansas City emerge throughout his work, from In Our Time to A Moveable Feast.

In his days "the distances were all different," and those can be measured against Kansas City's urban renaissance of today. Redevelopment projects approaching $4 billion are transforming long-quiet downtown districts, and the urban core that Hemingway knew is alive with people. The 13th International Hemingway Conference (June 9-15, 2008) will offer an opportunity to discover an important Hemingway place with innumerable surprises.


Kansas City provides a wide array of other important and pleasurable attractions for conference-goers and their families.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence would be a certain stop for many. (The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library is in Salina, Kansas, a drive due west of two and a half hours. The new Clinton Library is in Little Rock, about eight hours away.)

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will have just opened (2007) a controversial and breathtaking expansion designed by international architect Steven Holl. The museum's recent acquisition of the Hallmark Photographic Collection, an extraordinary cache of 6,500 items, instantly turned it into one of the world's major centers of photographic history. The museum is also widely admired for its huge and important Chinese collection, its paintings by Caravaggio and other European artists, its Bentons, and an outstanding collection of Native American art and objects.

Kansas City has a bustling art gallery district and, with the influence of the Kansas City Art Institute, one of the most vibrant art scenes in the nation outside New York and Chicago. An extraordinary contemporary art collection has been gathered at Johnson County Community College, in suburban Overland Park, where the new Nerman Museum opened in 2007. And those with an interest in Hemingway's Spanish Civil War period will be attracted to a set of murals--"Don Quixote in the Modern World"--by the loyalist exile Luis Quintanilla, who spent a year in residence at what is now the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Flint Hills of Kansas--the vast, treeless, grassy plain--provide haunting landscape and opportunities for side-trips just 100 miles away. Our mid-June conference will coincide with the annual Flint Hills Symphony, an open air concert and festival in the rolling hills. The hills, lakes, and fishing rivers of the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks also beckon, For the savvy outdoor shopper, both Bass Pro Shop and Cabela's have enormous outlets in the area.

Area museums also show off frontier trail history (the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails all set out from here), the history of the Shawnee Indian Mission, and a very popular collection of toys and miniatures among many others. The Linda Hall Library of Science and Technology is internationally known, and offers visitors not only a stunning setting but a rare book room featuring the likes of Galileo, Copernicus and others.

Kansas City is also a sports and entertainment town. In the summer it's baseball with the Royals, soccer, and even NASCAR. There are outdoor music festivals, jazz and blues clubs, and summer classical music series. The American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum share a building in the historic 18th and Vine District, and both are worth a visit. The jazz museum sponsors a music and BBQ festival in mid-June, perhaps coinciding with our conference. Otherwise its Blue Room offers jazz six nights a week in a pleasant, smokeless setting. For those so inclined, KC is also home to four large "riverboat" casinos.

The city offers a surprisingly rich array of restaurants, from sauce-slathered barbecue to high-end cuisine. Conference programs will benefit from the knowledge and skills of some of the city's top food and wine people.
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Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:City overview
Geographic Code:1U4KS
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Previous Article:Current bibliography.
Next Article:Bulletin board.

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