Kert, Bernice 1923–2005
Kert, Bernice 1923–2005
(Bernice Galansky Kert)
PERSONAL: Born October 4, 1923, in St. Louis, MO; died of respiratory failure, July 23, 2005, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Gus D. (a wholesale grocer) and Mary (Katanik) Galansky; married Morley J. Kert (a physician), January 14, 1945 (died May, 1990); children: Elizabeth, Kathryn Green, Charles. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1944. Politics: Democrat.
CAREER: Writer. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, teaching fellow in English, 1946–47. Scholar in residence, Bellagio Study Center (Italy), 1991.
MEMBER: Hemingway Society, Authors Guild, Authors League of America, J.B. Berland Foundation, Hillcrest Country Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Avery Hopwood Award, University of Michigan, c. 1944; Guggenheim fellowship, 1988.
The Hemingway Women, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1983.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller: The Woman in the Family, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
Member of editorial board, Hemingway Review, 1992–2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Bernice Kert's prospects for becoming a successful writer began well when she won the prestigious Avery Hopwood Award at the University of Michigan. She began writing short stories after graduating from college and sold her first, "Look at Me, Lorrie," to Seventeen magazine in 1946. However, her marriage to a busy doctor and raising three children soon occupied much of her time, and she did not return to writing seriously until the late 1980s. In addition to completing three unpublished novels and a variety of short stories, she managed to produce two well-received books later in her life: The Hemingway Women and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller: The Woman in the Family.
After learning that little had been written about author Ernest Hemingway's mother, four wives, and mistresses, Kert decided to rectify this oversight. She managed to interview three of Hemingway's former wives (one, Pauline Pfeiffer, had died in 1951), as well as mistresses, such as Jane Mason. The result is a unique portrait of the famous author as seen through the eyes of the women in his life, many of whom inspired the fictional female characters of his novels. What emerges is a rather unflattering portrait of a misogynist who had serious emotional issues about his mother that carried into his adult life, during which he severely mistreated other women. Hemingway, Kert shows, expected his wives and other women to be subordinate to him; however, ironically, if they did bow to his will he lost all respect for them and soon ended the relationship. National Review contributor Jeffrey Meyers noted that Kert offers a sympathetic portrayal of Hemingway's mother, Grace, and reveals new facts about her subjects, such as the lesbianism of his sister-in-law, Jinny Pfeiffer. While Meyers felt the book suffers somewhat from Kert's lack of a thorough knowledge of Hemingway's writings, he asserted that The Hemingway Women is "an original and useful book." Although this portrait "doesn't hurt [Hemingway's] reputation as a writer," concluded a People critic, "it won't do much to help his image as a human being."
Kert later completed Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, a biography of the wife of wealthy industrialist John D. Rockefeller that gives her credit as "the driving force behind the founding of" the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, as a Publishers Weekly critic related. It also reveals how she influenced the Rockefeller clan to become more liberal and charitable philanthropists. Abby Rockefeller, Kert further points out, was an important backer of the restoration of colonial Williamsburg. Thanks to Kert, stated the Publishers Weekly writer, "Abby Rockefeller emerges as a loveable and intelligent woman."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 15, 1983, review of The Hemingway Women, p. 1320; September 15, 1993, Donna Seaman, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller: The Woman in the Family, p. 116.
Historian, summer, 1994, Lynn Y. Weiner, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 753.
Journal of American History, March, 1995, Marsha Shapiro Rose, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 1777.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1993, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 982.
Library Journal, May 15, 1983, review of The Hemingway Women, p. 1004; October 1, 1993, Caroline Mitchell, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 102.
Los Angeles Times, July 3, 1983, Carol Ames, review of The Hemingway Women, p. B2; July 10, 1994, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 10.
National Review, August 19, 1983, Jeffrey Meyers, review of The Hemingway Women, p. 1027.
New York Times Book Review, July 17, 1983, Aaron Latham, review of The Hemingway Women, p. 8; February 9, 1986, Patricia T. O'Conner, review of The Hemingway Women, p. 38; March 21, 1999, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 32.
People, August 8, 1983, review of The Hemingway Women, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1993, review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 426.
Times Literary Supplement, May 10, 1985, review of The Hemingway Women, p. 524.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), review of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times, July 26, 2005, p. B10.