The Expatriate Rabbit Hole

Featuring Hemingway, Banana Republic, The Moderns and Related Mischief

Come with me, Dear Reader, into this warren of personal rabbit holes whose “ambient influence” has shaped some of my development as an artist.

It starts here: The Banana Republic Catalog No. 32, Summer 1987 — themed on “Expatriates.”

This arrived at my parent’s home on Hill Drive in Petaluma in the late 80s and fueled my creative imagination for several years.

According to Robyn Adams, who curates all of the vintage Banana Republic catalogs (on her comprehensive site, SecretFanBase.com), the cover is a “tightly rendered, delightful illustration by H. Craig Hannah, a Bay Area illustrator.”

And right here! — a spur into another random rabbit warren: Illustrator H. Craig Hannah (who attended California College of the Arts in Oakland) is not to be confused with — get this — an entirely different H. Craig Hanna, an expat American painter now living in Paris!

Centered Hannah’s image is Ernest Hemingway (No. 7, see below for key) — the ur-American expat who memorialized his exploits late in his career as A Moveable Feast. The first edition I encountered was Collier Books reprint boasting a jacket design and illustration by Fred Marcellino, an influential player in publishing who eventually wrote children’s books. This was circa 1987, when it was required reading at the local community college. And look who’s centered in the tinted photo on its cover (below).

Sure, it’s not Hemingway per se, but it’s meant to invoke him. I think that Hannah’s Banana Republic catalog is a nod, partly to this moment suggested in Marcellino’s cover — albeit age-progressed.

Book cover of A Moveable Feast

Compare and contrast:

But wait, there’s more…

Two years later, in 1989, Eric J. (fresh from a semester abroad in Paris) introduced me to director Alan Rudolph’s The Moderns on VHS. Basic plot: An “American(s) in Paris” paean to lost-love-found with a noirish art forgery plot and requisite cameos from Gertrude Stein and, of course, Hemingway.

The author is depicted in his various scenes as wasted until the end when he’s groping for the title A Moveable Feast but temporarily alighting on “A Portable Buffet” instead.

Hemingway is played by Kevin J. O’Connor, who notably appeared as the beatnik-qua-love-interest, “Michael Fitzsimmons,” in Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married in 1986. In that flick, a contemporary 1980s woman (Kathleen Turner as the titular character) magically revisits her teens in the 1950s. There, she finds O’Connor’s character in his high school English class railing against — guess who? — Hemingway.

What’s more? Peggy Sue was shot mere blocks from my house in (…drum roll…) Petaluma. 

So, back to “ambient influence” — given this context, my career as a Post-Modern Gen X Beatnik with expatriate aspirations is perfectly understandable, if not inescapable. The broad contours of my life align with the aesthetic of a couple of movies, a bit of literature, and some deft marketing. So… American. High-time to check in on the other H. Craig Hanna, tell him about his doppelganger, drop into Les Deux Magots, and who knows, maybe gin up some ambient influence of my own. — DH

Rabbit Hole:

A veritable Who’s Who in H. Craig Hannah’s “Expatriates” Banana Republic catalog cover:

• The late, great Milan Kundera, who died Tuesday, had this Magritte-esque cover for The Unbearable Lightness of Being designed by the aforementioned Fred Marcellino:

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