Tuesday, December 11, 2007
BOOK: Hemingway and His Conspirators: Hollywood, Scribners, and the Making of American Celebrity Culture
Paying close attention to the emergent mass marketplace of the 1920s and early 1930s, Hemingway and His Conspirators goes beyond other books to show how Hemingway and his work were packaged, marketed, and sold in the early years of his career. Max Perkins, the editor known to us for his prowess in cultivating writers and manuscripts, is here revealed as a brilliant marketer who weighed the public effects of certain word choice, arranged for magazine serialization and promotion of Hemingway's novels, and - crucially - distributed countless photographs of the author in order to expand the boundaries of his audience. Rich in detail and anecdote, Hemingway and His Conspirators profiles the nascent media age and its personalities - among them F. Scott Fitzgerald, Helen Hayes, Sinclair Lewis, David O. Selznick, and Gary Cooper. It shows how and why Hemingway moved from the publisher Boni and Liveright (described as "the Jazz Age in microcosm, with all its extremes of hysteria and of cynicism") to Charles Scribner's Sons, generally known throughout the industry as "ultraconservative." It reveals what Scribners and its influential editor did well for Hemingway and what they may have done less well. Perhaps most important, it shows how Paramount Pictures' big screen adaptation of A Farewell to Arms catapulted the author to icon status. Set in the 1920s, Hemingway and His Conspirators tells a backstage story of the tangle of literature, publishing, and motion pictures in the formative years of the modern mass market we take for granted today. Those formative years changed the meaning of the word "celebrity" forever.