Book signing and tour launches from Piggott
The historic Hemingway Barn-Studio in Piggott was the location for a special gathering Thursday, June 7, as Dr. Ruth Hawkins kicked off a book signing and reading tour.
Dr. Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas State University's Arkansas Heritage Sites program, has authored a new book entitled "Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow" which centers on the role played by Piggott's Pfeiffer family in the career of Ernest Hemingway.
The event at the local museum is the first stop on a seven-city excursion, as Dr. Hawkins discusses the essential role in Hemingway's career played by the Pfeiffer family -- especially Pauline Pfeiffer, his second wife.
The book tells the story of the glittering intellectual worlds of 1920's Paris expatriates in which Pauline Pfeiffer, then a writer for Vogue, met Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley along with their circle of friends that included Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos and Dorothy Parker.
Hawkins' book also documents how Pauline grew close to Hadley, but eventually forged an even stronger bond with Hemingway, noting "with her stylish looks and dedication to Hemingway's writing, Pauline became the source of 'unbelievable happiness' for the author and, in 1927, his second wife."
The book explains that Pauline became her husband's best editor and critic, and noted that her wealthy family provided both moral and financial support -- going so far as to convert an old barn into a dedicated writing studio at the family home in Piggott. The publication documents the 13 years of marriage, some of Hemingway's most productive as a writer, and the birth of their two children. But, as the title notes, the unbelievable happiness met with final sorrow as the two divorced and Pauline would become known as the second of Hemingway's four wives.
As director of the Arkansas Heritage Sites program at ASU, Dr. Hawkins has the responsibility for development of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center at Piggott, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum at Tyronza, the Lakeport Plantation near Lake Village and the Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash.
She also is executive director of Arkansas Delta Byways, Inc., a tourism promotion association serving 15 counties in Eastern Arkansas. The association manages and promotes two National Scenic Byways in the region, including the
Crowley's Ridge Parkway and the Arkansas segment of The Great River Road.
She serves as vice president of the Arkansas History Commission, a state advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a technical advisor to the Mississippi River Parkway Commission of Arkansas, vice president of the Mississippi River Trail, Inc., and a member of the International Women's Forum Arkansas.
Hawkins was inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame in 2011. She received a 2008 National Preservation Honors Award for her work at Arkansas State University, and her programs received the 2008 Diamond Award through the Arkansas Historical Association.
She was named 2007 Preservation Educator by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas and 2005 Tourism Person of the Year through the Arkansas Governor's Conference on Tourism.
Dr. Hawkins will present the first reading of this exciting new chronicle of a prominent Delta family's influence on a major American author at 3 p.m. in the Hemingway Barn-Studio and will be available to sign books until 5 p.m. Those wishing to reserve an advanced copy of the book may contact the museum at 870-598-3487.
The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center is located on West Cherry Street in Piggott. Tours are on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays.