And before that, in 1957, you had been dispatched to Cuba to get a story from Ernest Hemingway.
Well The Atlantic had been the first American magazine to publish Hemingway. So Weeks thought it was fairly proper that there should be a Hemingway in our centennial issue. We were sent word that Hemingway would receive a representative of The Atlantic. So I went down. This was just at the start of Castro's campaign. I stayed in a very fine, comfortable, elegant, old-fashioned hotel -- tile floors and splendid plumbing, with a great cage of beautiful birds in the lounge, and a good pianist who played in the restaurant every evening. I realized that I was going to have to wait around for a while because Hemingway was out fishing. I wandered around Havana and that area for almost three weeks with a very charming elderly professor who had been produced as my guide.
Eventually Hemingway turned up, and I was driven up to his farm (his finca) for tea. It was an absolutely lovely place, set up high, with a beautiful view. Outside of the house you could see Hemingway's writing tower. It had a number of windows, each of which contained a cat. Hemingway and I sat down and carried on a sweet little tea-party conversation. I had expected him to have a Middle Western accent but he sounded just like a New Englander. He had a very soft voice and a way of speaking that warned you not always to take what he said literally.
He was married at that time to Mary?
Yes, and she was absolutely charming. While Hemingway went off to take a nap she walked me around the yard explaining where they had found the various orchids that ornamented their trees and told me about their countless acquisition of cats. I hardly knew how many cats they had, they just took in anything that turned up. The cats were not allowed in the house, so during dinner they all gathered on the doorstep outside the screen door, a nice breezy place, and they climbed it, they took turns - "plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plop" -- and then they'd repeat it. It was quite musical.
He sent us two stories about blindness for the centennial issue, but we made the mistake of thinking they were submitted as a unit. They weren't, and he got quite cross because he wanted to be paid for both of them. Which of course we happily did and published both.
While book reviewing eventually became your main job at The Atlantic, you wrote articles now and then. In 1962, for a special issue called "Money and American Life" (which could have been subtitled "How We Spend Our Money") you were sent on the road.
I was sent to New York to endure the works at a beauty parlor, a very posh affair.
Your piece, "The Cost of Vanity," begins, "Despite variations in locality, price, and the shape of the chairs, there are only two kinds of beauty parlors. Type A assumes and openly proclaims that madam is a wreck, scarcely worth the trouble of salvage. It caters to those who feel guilty at spending money on vanity or who enjoy being abused. Since a masochistic puritan who also wishes to be beautiful is a contradiction beyond the scope of ordinary reason, these places can be disregarded. They are not beauty parlors at all, but temples of an esoteric and inexplicable cult. The true beauty parlor, type B, holds that madam is a splendid specimen sadly mishandled by other, less perceptive establishments. The management is happy to correct the errors of its predecessors for a fee that can range from the trivial to the titanic." So you went and you paid that fee.