Here's a story Hemingway wrote in a 1936 letter, recounting, of all things, a "Wallace Stevens evening." Stevens having come to Key West "sort of pleasant like the cholera."I so wish I could have heard just what Stevens said about Hemingway to have started that. In any case, this is, I think, a prime modernist moment.
It starts with "my nice sister ... crying" over Mr. Stevens "telling her forcefully what a sap I was, no man, etc." [...]
Next, out in the rainy street, our hero "met Mr. Stevens who was just issuing from the door haveing just said, I learned later, 'By God I wish I had that Hemingway here now I'd knock him out with a single punch.'" This is hardly the Stevens we know, but Hemingway was not following his own counsel against putting real people into stories. The Mr. Stevens of the story next "swung that same fabled punch but fertunatly missed and I knocked all of him down several times and gave him a good beating." The location of Stevens's fall was "a large puddle of water."
Someone then requested that Hem take off his glasses, desiring "a good clean fight without glasses in it." Next "Mr. Stevens hit me flush on the jaw with his Sunday punch bam like that. And this is very funny. Broke his hand in two places. Didn't harm my jaw at all and so put him down again and then fixed him good so he was in his room for five days with a nurse and Dr. working on him."
Finally, "I have promised not to tell anybody and the official story is that Mr. Stevens fell down a stairs."
That's the story. It omits the shabby detail that Stevens was 56, Hemingway 36.
5 hours ago