Friendships between Famous Authors
October 5, 2011 | Featured Miscellania
Writers have the reputation for being a solitary, curmudgeonly lot (and often times, that is true.) However, every now and then writers put aside their egos and insecurities and forge bonds of friendship with one another. Here are a few of those cases.
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
“His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings”- Hemingway on Fitzgerald
Hemingway and Fitzgerald for the first time in Paris, France in 1925. Fitzgerald had already published a few novels where Hemingway had not even published his first yet, but despite of feeelings of jealousy and competitveness the two became close friends. The two had a relationship of mutual respect; Fitzgerald even helped edit The Sun Also Rises. Their friendship strained in later years, partially due to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s marriage to Zelda. (Hemingway accused her of being a drain on Fitzgerald’s creative energy, she accused Hemingway of having homosexual feelings for her husband, that old story.) Despite what went wrong, the significance of their friendship is the stuff of literary legend.
Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens
“Christopher Hitchens thinks like a child, he writes like a distinguished author, and he speaks like a genius. Christopher is one of the most terrifying rhetoricians that the world has yet seen. Christopher talks not only in complete sentences but also in complete paragraphs.”- Amis on Hitchens
The pair first met at Oxford University, but were later re-introduced thanks to Peter Ackroyd. Amis and Hitchens became incredibly close. (Hitchens described their friendship as “the most hetero sexual relationship that one young man could conceivably have with another”.) They remain friends to this day.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
“Friendship with Lewis compensates for much, and besides giving constant pleasure and comfort has done me much good from the contact with a man at once honest, brave, intellectual–a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher–and a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord.”- Tolkien on Lewis
Fantasy giants Lewis and Tolkien first met at Oxford University, where the two both belonged to a group of writers known as The Inklings. They had a very intimate friendship, Tolkien even playing a key role in converting Lewis to Christianity. That is not to say their friendship was perfect, however. They bickered over the quality of each other’s work, and they finally drifted apart when Lewis took up with an American widow. (Who pushed who away at this point is a matter of some debate.)
Truman Capote and Harper Lee
“In the end, I did not go alone. I went with a lifelong friend, Harper Lee. She is a gifted woman, courageous and with a warmth that instantly kindles most people, however suspicious or dour.” Capote on Lee
Capote and Lee were neighbors and friends from the time that they were young. They had a very reciprocal relationship; Capote helped edit and promote To Kill a Mockingbird and Lee helped Capote do research for In Cold Blood. She based the character of Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird on Capote and he based the character of Idabel in Other Voices, Other Rooms on Lee. Sadly they were not so close in Capote’s later years, partially due to his drug and alcohol abuse.
Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara
“He was at the center of an extraordinary poetic era…which gives his poetry its sense of historic monumentality..And he integrated purely personal life into the high art of composition, marking the return of all authority back to the person. His style is actually in line with the tradition that begins with Independence and runs through Thoreau and Whitman, here composed in metropolitan space age architecture environment. He taught me to really see New York for the first time, by making the giant style of Midtown his intimate cocktail environment. It’s like having Catallus change your view of the Forum in Rome…” Ginsberg on O’Hara
The two were from different schools of poetry; Ginsberg being part of the Beat Generation and O’Hara being part of the New York School. Ginsberg’s poetry was often serious and gritty where O’Hara made heavy use of humor in his poetry. Despite their differences, the two became friends. Ginsberg even dedicated a poem or two to O’Hara, notably, “My Sad Self“.
Though some of these famous friendships fell apart, their effects on literature are immeasurable. What would have happened if Truman Capote and Harper Lee never met? Or Fitzgerald and Hemingway? Many of the works that we now view as classics would not be the same if it wasn’t for the friendship forged between two creative minds.