Magazine article Newsweek

Newsmakers

Magazine article Newsweek

Newsmakers

Article excerpt

Byline: David Gates, Susannah Meadows

Papa and 'the Kraut'

Nobody who's ever read Lillian Ross's classic New Yorker profile of Ernest Hemingway will forget the scene where Marlene Dietrich--whom he called "the Kraut"--shows up at his hotel. Dietrich riffs about baby-sitting for her granddaughter and washing the kid's clothes, and he says, "Daughter, you're hitting them with the bases loaded." (Ross actually wrote: "Hemingway said earnestly.")

Zany? Wait till you read the 30 letters and telegrams from Hemingway to Dietrich, which her estate just donated to Boston's John F. Kennedy Library. (And you will wait: they won't be public until 2007.) "What sort of cigarette you smoke in picture," Hemingway asks Dietrich, in the same Indian-talk he affected in front of Ross, "so I can get a package and put them under my armpit. That's the only way I like tobacco really. But I guess it wouldn't go good in the ads."

You'd think such cozily skanky talk meant they were lovers. It was a complicated friendship. "Would certainly like to see some psycholanalyzer... start to straighten out you and me," he wrote. But both their families say no, even though "Daughter" was only two years younger than Papa. "They had the intimacy of shared feelings and experiences without the complication of sex," says literary agent Peter Riva, Dietrich's grandson.

Dietrich may have resisted Hemingway--and/or vice versa--but how could she resist that style? "I write this early in the morning, the hour that poor people and soldiers and sailors wake from habit, to send you small letter for if you are lonely or anything." Mannered, sure. But he was hitting them with the bases loaded.

DAVID GATES

Q&A: Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," had his 1995 "Wonder Boys" made into a Michael Douglas film and has finished the script for the next "Spider-Man" movie. …

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