Ernest Hemingway

Hanneman's Hemingway just had to be

Updated: 2007-08-03T20:19:25Z


The Kansas City Star

Audre Hanneman
Talis Bergmanis/The Star
Audre Hanneman of Kansas City spent much of 20 years researching the work of Ernest Hemingway.

This story originally appeared in the June 27, 1999 edition of The Kansas City Star

Not long after Ernest Hemingway died in July 1961, Audre Hanneman, a bookish young woman from Kansas City then living in New York, sent a generous letter to his longtime publisher.

She wanted to give whoever needed them the extensive notes she had compiled on Charles Scribner's Sons' most famous author.

Surely, she supposed, Scribner had somebody documenting the output of such a great American writer, and she'd been gathering this material for six or seven years: notes about various editions of books he published, details of where and when his magazine articles or reviews of his work appeared.

Her thick notebook would help someone create a much-needed Hemingway bibliography. Because they amount to a catalog of all that can be known about a subject, bibliographies are vital research tools for students and scholars, staples on library shelves and invaluable to rare-book dealers and collectors.

Nevertheless, a Scribner editor told her, no such project was in the works.

Hanneman was astounded, if not a bit disappointed. Soon, though, she convinced herself that she should be the one to do it. "If no one else is going to, I will try," she recalls thinking. "I will give it a shot."

Despite the work she had already put into it, this would be no easy task for an amateur.MDNM She had no professorial mentor. She had no cadre of graduate students doing the legwork. She hadn't even been to college.

What Hanneman had instead were a booklover's passion and a head for the tiniest details.

"I'm a little amazed I did that much work," Hanneman says in retrospect, sitting in the pleasant, art-filled living room of the Brookside apartment she shares with her sister, Marjorie Hanneman. "If you know ahead of time the enormous amount of work a thing is going to take, you'd never do it."

Hanneman, tall and slender, with white hair that flips in the back, chuckles at the memory as her brown eyes light up behind her glasses. Yes, she did do it.

In the next 13 years, during a period when students and scholars argued over Hemingway's place in the firmament of 20th-century literature, Hanneman produced not one but two volumes of a descriptive Hemingway bibliography, totaling close to 1,000 pages.

The first book alone corralled 3,510 items in eight sections: From Hemingway's earliest known articles for his high school newspaper and his first limited-edition book, Three Stories & Ten Poems, published in Paris in 1923, to articles about him, reviews and academic essays published in late 1965.

But it's more than a mere listing of publications: Hanneman describes the physical makeup of each book by Hemingway -- "the title and author's name are enclosed in a ruled border with a thick second rule at top" -- and tracks variations between editions. She summarizes or quotes many articles and reviews. Hemingway was a prolific letter writer, and Hanneman guides the user to the library collections across the nation where many of his letters exist.

"Monumental," one reviewer wrote after the first book appeared in 1967. A model of bibliography, a German reviewer noted. Carlos Baker, the great Princeton scholar and critic who soon would issue his landmark biography of Hemingway, told Hanneman in a letter her reward would be that henceforth her name would appear in any book that dealt with Hemingway.

So far Baker's prediction has proved true. And more than 30 years later, Hemingway people -- the community of scholars, students, enthusiasts and book collectors -- still rave about "Hanneman," which is their shorthand for her two reference works: Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Supplement to Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography (1975), both published by the Princeton University Press.

"As far as its status in the field of Hemingway studies is concerned," says Stephen Plotkin, curator of the Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, "I would say that `indispensable' about sums it up."

Susan Beegel, editor of The Hemingway Review, an international scholarly journal, calls Hanneman's bibliography "thorough, meticulous and foundational."

"I firmly believe," Beegel says, "that Hemingway would never have become so widely taught and written about in the academy if Hanneman had not given scholars this remarkable tool for manipulating vast quantities of printed material.

"Imagine doing that in an era before online searches and computer databases."

The few thousand dollars that Hanneman earned from the book didn't come close to compensating her for the time, travel and book-buying expenses she put into it. Without any sense of boasting, Hanneman checks off the work that consumed her for so long: "I was my own researcher. I was my own corresponding secretary. I was my own manuscript typist. I was my own indexer and my own proofreader."

Even in the current era of technological ease, no one has had "the courage," Beegel says, to pick up where Hanneman left off a quarter century ago. Some supplemental bibliographic efforts have appeared, but without the scope and depth of Hanneman's.

Hanneman long ago lost touch with the Hemingway community. But they remember her.

Matthew Bruccoli, a prominent scholar at the University of South Carolina, greeted the news that Hanneman was alive and well with Hemingwayesque fondness: "Tell her that Matt says she's a lazy broad, and why didn't she ever do another supplement?"

The irony brought a smile to Hanneman's face.

Why didn't she stick with Hemingway? "I have often said the bibliography was a labor of love; the supplement was mostly just labor," she says. "I have never been sorry that Princeton University Press did not request a third volume."

Still a record keeper

Floral prints, family pictures, paintings by Marjorie cover the walls of the Hannemans' apartment. On a bookshelf, among Hemingway titles and art books and books about books, sit Audre's two-volume bibliography. Inside one is a hand-written notation, dated Oct. 18, 1995: "This supplement went out of print in 1989, with 2,392 copies sold; and the bibliography in 1995, with 5,399 copies sold."

Hanneman has always been a record keeper, a list maker of one kind or another. In the midst of a conversation about artists and self-portraits, she lifts the corner of the blotter on her living room desk and pulls a magazine clipping from her current "file."

When she worked in the publishing industry in New York in the 1960s and '70s -- for much of the period when she was working on the bibliographies, too -- it was in indexing. She was so good at what she did that when she returned to Kansas City in 1981 she kept up a free-lance relationship with her longtime employer, McGraw-Hill. Her last project was editing a 200-page index for an organic chemistry textbook a few years ago.

Now, she says, at age 72 and a cancer survivor, she finally has retired and can devote the bulk of her time to her own projects, which include a novel in the closet that she declines to speak about and a biography of an artist. (Marjorie, too, is a writer, working on poetry and a collection of short stories.)

Hanneman is a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa. In an early show of independent-mindedness she convinced a school registrar to drop the "Y" from the end of her first name (originally Audrey), much as a grandfather had dropped an `N' from the end of the family's original, Germanic name.

For a good part of her young adult life Hanneman stayed at home with her invalid mother, while Marjorie worked as advertising manager for two of Kansas City's best-known clothing stores. Their father had died when Audre was 16.

It was while reading her way through a list of great books that Hanneman discovered Hemingway. She read his early novels, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, and was hooked.

Hemingway gave her not only an outlet but also a personal project that would keep her mind engaged. She spent many of her spare hours in libraries and a used-magazine store, where she picked up copies of Esquire and Collier's and Ken and other periodicals that published Hemingway's articles and dispatches.

Hanneman loved Hemingway's writing. But there was more to it than that.

"He's a teacher," she says. "He tells you how to fly fish, about all the maneuvers of the matador or toreador. He had advice about writing. That was very important: someone teaching me. That was a big part of the attraction."

During her research she took special pleasure in excerpting reviews of Hemingway's books. She leafs through the Supplement to find a favorite passage, a review in the American Mercury of Green Hills of Africa: "Hemingway has never written better than this and few men ever as well."

"Isn't that wonderful?" she adds.

In 1959 Hanneman moved to New York City and thrilled to its intellectual stimulations. "From the time I was 13," Hanneman says, "books were the only thing I wanted to be involved with." And here she was in the book capital of the known universe. When Marjorie joined her there a couple of years later, Audre never missed an opportunity to point out the house where Edna St. Vincent Millay once lived or other literary landmarks near their Greenwich Village apartment.

She also tried to make up for the college education she never got. She went to lectures on literature at the New School for Social Research and New York University, listening to the likes of Bernard Malamud, Anthony Burgess and Caroline Gordon.

She never met Hemingway, but she corresponded, at least briefly, with two of his four wives. She had a memorable lunch with his brother Leicester and visited several times with his widow, Mary, who by then was living in a Madison Avenue penthouse. "She had us up for tea," Marjorie says of their first meeting, "and we stayed for cocktails."

As her project got going seriously, Hanneman's biggest challenge was to prove her credibility and get cooperation from the right people -- important book dealers and collectors and university librarians. But word got around, and certain people put pressure on certain other people, because they realized that if Hanneman didn't succeed, it could be years before anyone tried again to harness Hemingway for a bibliography.

Hanneman knocked on Scribner's door again when she finished a draft of the bibliography in 1963. This time an editor was impressed enough to refer her project to Carlos Baker, who referred it to Princeton University Press.

"Don't feel obliged to publish with them," Baker told her. "Of course," Hanneman says, "I was absolutely thrilled."

It would be a couple more years of research trips and writing before she finished a third draft -- 995 manuscript pages -- and a couple more before the bibliography finally came off the press and she had a joyous book-signing at a New York shop.

By the time Hanneman completed the second volume in 1974, she had spent some 20 years working on Hemingway. Enough was enough. She needed something new, and this time that would be something old: A 17th-century Dutch painter named Adriaen Hanneman, no relation.

"I was intrigued by the idea of going from someone who was so famous to someone who was so obscure," she says. "Of course, he wasn't as obscure as I first thought."

Once again Hanneman found herself drawn into an obsession whose only way out seemed to be working on a book. She has traveled to art libraries around the country and taken research trips abroad. She hopes to have her book about the painter finished by 2004, the 400th anniversary of his birth.

Hanneman on Hanneman. That would be something.

To reach Steve Paul, senior writer and editor, call (816) 234-4762 or send e-mail to

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