Herbert Gold: How I failed to meet Hemingway

by Herbert Gold | Published Sunday, January 2, 2011 in the San Francisco Chronicle

In Havana, 1959, I was camped out at theAmbos Mundos Hotel, trying to write a filmscript based on my novel "The Man Who WasNot With It." I had driven my beat-up, badly used Ford (transportation for the poverty-stricken recently divorced) to Key West and then flown to Cuba by Q Airlines (slogan: "Ten Minutes, Ten Dollars"). This was partly to escape the winter, partly to escape the temptations of the literary life of Manhattan, and partly to escape the nagging attentions of the alleged and would-be producers of the film. I hoped to work quietly in an exotic tropical world.

However, the Cuban revolution was in progress. I came upon bodies left in the streets of Havana. That was one distraction. Also, it happened that sociable George Plimpton was staying at the Ambos Mundos, heading out every morning to work on his Paris Review interview with "Papa," as Ernest Hemingway liked to be called. In the evening, upon his return from the Hemingway compound, La Finca, we would have dinner together, and he would tell me about their progress - Ernest Hemingway and George Plimpton together, composing both questions and answers. Read more.


When the mentor's work is unread, he still pays the tab at the restaurant

by Herbert Gold | Published Tuesday, July 6, 2004 in the San Francisco Chronicle

"I just admire your writings so much," murmured the voice on the other end of the line. "Is it OK to say that? Is that the right word?"

Laboring under a yearning to gush, my caller seemed to sense that gush might lack appropriate dignity; yet, in a delicate balancing act, he figured that a light sprinkle could get the desired result from the consumer. I was the designated consumer, an "author."

He was the son-in-law of a woman I like. It was my duty to hear him out. "So tell me," he continued, "how do you get editors to publish your oo-ver?" He had read the word "oeuvre" someplace and understood that it was the polite way to refer to a writer's work. Read more.


Dreams of Sweet Revenge and Romance

by Herbert Gold | Published Sunday, June 18, 2000 in the San Francisco Chronicle

Comes rosy-fingered dawn to a perfect summer day in San Francisco and my apartment door is politely rapped to wake me with an important message via Western Union (no fax or e-mail for dream telegrams), the messenger smartly attired with uniform, shiny cap and nose piercings.

It's a telegram from a devoted adversary of my books. God, or perhaps Willie Brown, has given him the choice of permanent confinement in the Sony Metreon Entertainment Purgatory or re-evaluating his opinions. The telegram says he is about to publish an article in the New York Review of Books about my new novel, “Daughter Mine.” Read more.


A Writer's Paean to the Manual Typewriter

by Herbert Gold | Published Wednesday, July 19, 1995 in the San Francisco Chronicle

“WHAT KIND OF word processor do you use?”

"Clay tablets and a stylus.”

Folks tend to startle up resentfully at this answer, since I am not Moses inscribing commandments on sticky wet earth. In vain do I try winsome self-deprecation as I confess that, no, I really don't write on a computer. I use typewriters -- garage sale typewriters, thrift shop typewriters, castoffs in the computational universe.

The bankruptcy of Smith-Corona, the last surviving American typewritermanufacturer, won't put me out of business. Most Saturdays and Sundays I can find a stalwart piece of obsolete machinery along with Bob Dylan LP's and divorce- surplus clothing on the sidewalks of San Francisco. During the week, if I feel a Royal or Olivetti hunger coming on, there are Goodwill, Salvation Army, and schools, hospital, or church benefit treasure shops manned (or womanned) by charming do-gooders. Read more.