Book signing held at HPMEC

Thursday, June 14, 2012
A balloon launch was held in conjunction with the book reading/signing held last week at the Hemingway Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott. The balloons were provided by Aerial Bouquets, and each included a tag that marked the release of the book by Dr. Ruth Hawkins (center-right) and publicized the local museum.

Literary legend Ernest Hemingway has been the subject of many works in the decades since his death, but a new book by Dr. Ruth Hawkins offers a new look at his storied career. The book, "Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow" seeks to clarify the role that the Pfeiffer family of Piggott played in Hemingway's life and offers a new understanding of its importance. Thursday, June 7, the Hemingway Pfeiffer Museum hosted a special book reading/signing by Hawkins to mark its release.

Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas State University's Heritage Sites program, indicated that the book project has been a long time in the works. "You know this has been about 15 years in the making, because the minute we started doing the research for the restoration of the house and the barn we realized that there wasn't much out there about the Pfeiffers, and the impact they had," she noted.

The book tells the story of 1920's Paris, where Pauline Pfeiffer met her future husband among a group of expatriates such as Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker. It documents her friendship with Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, and how she eventually forged even stronger bonds with the author. In 1927 she became his second wife, and as the book notes, "his best editor and critic."

But, the book also explains how the wealthy Pfeiffer family provided both moral and financial support for the young couple--going so far as to convert an old barn into a studio dedicated to writing at the family home in Piggott. It goes on to document their 13 years of marriage, some of which were considered to be Hemingway's most productive as a writer, and the birth of their two children.

Hawkins notes that most Hemingway scholars have misconceptions about the author's time in Piggott, and his feelings for the community. She also added that the new book should shed new light on the role the Pfeiffer's played in his success, although some feel it re-writes Hemingway history. "I think that the people in the "Hemingworld" in particular are going to be amazed, because some of them have already started talking about the fact that this is kind of revisionist history in a way because until now most people have only known about the Pfeiffers what Ernest Hemingway wanted them to tell them about the Pfeiffers," she explained.

Hawkins' book contends that the author's life would have been much different had it not been for his marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer, and her family's support. "There is no doubt about it, if he did not have the financial support of the Pfeiffer family there is no way he could have afforded the lifestyle that would have enabled him to do things like go to Africa and write a book about it---or travel all over and be able to afford that lifestyle," she added.

The event at the local museum was just the first of seven book signing events that Hawkins will be attending in the coming months--encompassing regions that hold strong historical significance for either the writer or the Pfeiffer family. The next event will be held June 21 at a book store in Petoskey, Mich. She is scheduled to appear at the Butler Center Legacies program in Little Rock July 11, and will be featured at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla., July 17 (the week of Hemingway's birthday). An event at ASU in Jonesboro will be held in August, and in September she'll travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa for two events.

Copies of the book are available in the gift shop of the Hemingway Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center, located on West Cherry Street in Piggott. Tours of the home and barn studio are offered on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Those wanting more information may call 870 598-3487.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: