Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Researching my book Dinner in Camelot, focusing on the dinner President and Mrs. Kennedy hosted for Nobel Prize winners and other American intellectuals in 1962, gave me a rare opportunity to delve into the lives of dozens of fascinating scientists and writers.  An important part of the dinner was conflicting relationships, including  those between Linus Pauling and Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, even John Kennedy and Mary Welsh Hemingway.

One especially interesting relationship was between the late Ernest Hemingway, who was honored that night, and John Dos Passos, who was present.  Their friendship, which turned sour in the 1930s, is fairly well documented, and Jamie Morris provides a superb treatment in his book “The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War.”

I tried to look at some unusual connections between the people associated with the dinner.  For example, Oppenheimer and Baldwin, two very different people, had back-to-back articles in the October 1958 issue of Harper’s. 

Hemingway and Dos Passos also had prominent back-to-back articles in the very first issue of Esquire, which appeared in October 1933.  Hem’s article was a brilliant one on fishing, “Marlin off the Morro,” and Dos’s article was “Back Home in 1919.”  This week I finally purchased a good copy of this landmark publication.

The magazine also has articles by Dashiell Hammett, Erskine Caldwell, Ring Lardner, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., mystery writer Vincent Starrett, boxer Gene Tunney, golfer Bobby Jones, and others.  James T. Farrell, another guest at the Nobel Dinner twenty-nine years later, had commentaries on books.  The 118-publication also includes thirty-six color prints and, of course, the period advertisements.  

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