Hemingway birthday celebration draws capacity crowd

“A Night in Paris” was the theme for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park’s 115th birthday celebration for the author.

Guest of honor Sandra Spanier, general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, read from the new book, “The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 2, 1923-1925.” This volume covers Hemingway’s time in Paris and features letters to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Erza Pound.

“Striving to follow Pound’s advice to young moderns to ‘make it new,’ Hemingway quickly found his own voice and crafted a new style, gaining recognition as one of freshest and more formidable talents of his generation,” Spanier said Saturday night at the Scoville Square Building.

The volume includes 242 letters, nearly two-thirds of them previously unpublished to more than 60 correspondents. In total, Spanier estimates Hemingway wrote three million words in correspondence, although only 6,000 letters survive.

In a Q&A answer session after her reading, Spanier lamented the loss of letters to Hemingway’s first two wives, who burned all their correspondence with him. Hemingway, however, kept all of their letters.

“Hemingway practically kept every scrap of paper he ever touched,” Spanier told the capacity crowd sitting on chairs that spilled into the hallway.

On display at the celebration were opera garments from Hemingway’s mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, and items from his elder sister’s wardrobe.

John W. Berry, the foundation chairman, announced to the crowd that Oak Park will host the 2016 International Hemingway Conference. In collaboration with Concordia and Dominican universities, the gathering will have events in Oak Park, River Forest and Chicago.

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