- So, imagine that you're doing your daily swiping left on, you know, whatever dating app the kids are using these days, or would be if it wasn't a global pandemic, and every guy you see is just, you know, whatever, but then you come across this knee-buckling bio.
All-around manly man, consummate outdoors man, marlin fisherman, bullfighter, big game hunter, war hero, German submarine hunter, bestselling novelist, king of the short story, Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner, forever changed the world of literature.
So okay, here's the problem with tackling Ernest Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway himself.
While the iconic author is mostly known for his feats of literary prowess from The Sun Also Rises to For Whom the Bell Tolls, to countless short stories, perhaps his greatest fiction of all is his own self-mythologizing.
As his brand grew in the 1920s and '30s, so too grew his celebrity and well, his ego.
So with Ernie, all the while throwing so much self-mythologizing into the mix, it became nearly impossible to separate the man from the myth.
But gosh darn it, we're gonna try.
(light music) So, if you've ever taken a writing course, you're probably familiar with Hemingway's iceberg theory, that the words on the page are like part of the iceberg that's above the water, and what is omitted or not said is the much more substantive part.
Basically it's a, keep it simple, stupid methodology prioritizing qualities like, these... All of this done in the pursuit of writing what Hemingway described as one true sentence.
But the greatest irony is that as Hemingway transitioned from journalism into fiction, short stories at first and then novels, his relationship with the truth and the facts, so cut and dry from his years as a reporter, started to get messy.
Said Hemingway, "Writers of fiction are only super liars "who if they know enough and are disciplined, "can make their lies truer than the truth.
"That is all a writer of fiction is."
Life experiences were everything to Hemingway, for he believed his lies, his fiction could only be as good as the experiences from which they were mined.
It's no wonder then that Hemingway had some pretty wild adventures, including but not limited to, getting into two back-to-back plane crashes, fighting with Orson Wells after calling him an effeminate boy of the theater, shooting himself in both legs while trying to shoot a shark, trying to kill himself by walking straight towards a plane propeller, saving a friend from getting gored to death by an enraged bull, getting married four times, being a spy against the Germans, hanging out with movie stars like Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper, and more.
Given that Hemingway's life experiences were such a central fodder for his stories, it's no wonder he was very protective of them.
After the publication of a 1949 biographical profile in Life magazine, he was worried that the stories covered in the piece used up those life experiences, making it impossible for him to mind them in his later writings.
The Life profile "made me feel bad to lose those things "I was happy about because nobody knew them."
Born to Ed and Grace Hemingway in 1899, Hemingway had the kind of hands-on, outdoorsy upbringing one with only the scantiest knowledge of the author could imagine.
From his mother claiming he should shoot and load a gun from the age of three to his father's endless polemics on the ethics of hunting and fishing, to his grandpa, lovingly dubbing him the great hunter, Ernest Miller, it seemed his own family was gassing him up to be the protagonist of one of his own books.
Shortly after graduating high school, Hemingway worked as a reporter for the Kansas Star where he began honing his one true sentences.
And shortly after, volunteered to become an ambulance driver in Italy during WWI.
And here, an almost superhero-like narrative arises.
One that claims Hemingway won a medal of valor for carrying multiple soldiers to safety, despite his legs being torn apart by enemy shrapnel.
And as cool as it sounds on paper, the validity of said narrative raises more than a few eyebrows.
Observed Hemingway biographer, Mary V. Dearborn, "Many versions of the story would surface "in the weeks and months to come "as he told, retold, and embellished, "the tale of his exploits.
"indeed, he would return to his wounding "and his heroism obsessively for the rest of his life, "changing his report as the occasion demanded."
Regardless of what truly happened, Hemingway's bravery and heroism cannot be denied.
But Hemingway's constant, revisionist history makes it frustrating to give credit where credit is due.
For Hemingway though, this muddling of fact and fiction would continue to benefit him and his efforts to build upon the Hemingway myth long after his heroic war story.
And boy, let me tell you, there would be some real whoppers to come.
Hemingway's time in Europe, particularly Paris and Spain, that is the stuff of legend.
So much of the Hemingway myth is born here, including Hemingway's romantic view of bull fighting, writers like James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, toiling away on their masterpieces in Parisian cafes.
And most especially, the concept of the lost generation.
A term Gertrude Stein used to describe young, aimless, American expatriates post WWI.
The idea is the lost generation was forever memorialized in Hemingway's first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, which many considered to be his masterpiece and which he wrote in six weeks.
(sighs) When Rises was published, aside from catapulting Hemingway to super-writer-dom, it also began a trend of Hemingway using his work to take shots at people he knew, oftentimes, friends and acquaintances who had no idea Hemingway was even pissed at them.
The first to be blindsided by this was Harold Loeb, a friend who helped Hemingway get his start by fighting for the publication of In Our Time.
Imagine Loeb's surprise when he appeared as the villain in The Sun Also Rises.
Sure, his name was changed to Robert Cohn along with a few personal traits, but it was unmistakably him.
Nobody knows exactly why Hemingway did this to Loeb and this confusion is a common thread with Hemingway's fiction as revenge.
Donald Ogden Stewart, a former friend of Hemingway's, Hemingway would come to have a lot of former friends, observed, "if Hem had been just plain mean, "you wouldn't have noticed it.
"But he wasn't mean, he was charismatic.
"And it was for this very reason "that the mean streak startled you so "when it came to the surface."
Examples of Hemingway weaponizing his writing are so numerous, you'd be hard pressed to find one of his works that didn't have at least one diss track.
But perhaps the most tragic is his relentless abuse of Great Gatsby author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose life was already a hot mess.
As with Harold Loeb, Scott and Hemingway were friends, but through the years, it was as if Hemingway had some inexorable drive to sabotage their friendship.
When The Snows of Kilimanjaro first appeared in Esquire, Hemingway used Scott's real name to which Scott responded, "Please lay off me in print."
And this doesn't even include some of the smack talk in A Moveable Feast, which I can't repeat here out of concern for viewers like you.
Just before Scott's death, Hemingway wrote to a friend, backhand complimenting Scott as only Hemingway could.
"I always had a very stupid, little boy feeling "of superiority about Scott, "like a tough, little boy sneering at "a delicate, but talented, little boy."
With Hemingway himself so inextricably linked to his work, to praise one was to praise the other.
In so doing, feeding the ever-hungry, Hemingway ego machine.
Likewise, an assault on one was an assault on the other.
Hemingway could certainly dish it out, but he absolutely could not take it.
As Hemingway's notoriety reached boundless heights, he basically painted a target on his own back.
After the great success of A Farewell to Arms, another masterful novel published three years after The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway biographer, Mary V. Dearborn, notes, "The critical vultures were definitely circling.
"The attacks on him took a more personal tone, "perhaps, than did criticism about other writers."
"Hemingway's work conveyed not just stories 'in our time,' "but implicitly, "his own attitudes, personality, and values."
As Hemingway, the man, became more and more intertwined with his characters, the idea of the Hemingway hero emerged.
The Hemingway hero, almost always a man, is a person of profoundly rooted principles like courage, honor, and dogged determinism.
These morals are unshakeable in the face of any obstacle, no matter how formidable.
Critic Philip Young entered the Hemingway octagon with his wound theory of Hemingway and his protagonists.
As one of many critics who viewed the Hemingway hero as a stand-in for Hemingway himself, Young proffered that the Hemingway hero strictly adhered to his codes as a sort of compensation for his battle wounds.
Says Young, "The Hemingway hero, "the big, tough, outdoor man, "is also the wounded man, "and descriptions of certain scenes "in the life of Nick Adams "have explained how he got that way.
"The man will die a thousand times before his death, "but from his wounds he would never recover "so long as Hemingway lived and recorded his adventures."
Other critics were not so precious with Hemingway's mold of a hero, with critics like Wyndham Lewis, referring to them as loutish, oafish marionettes and Gertrude Stein, wannabes.
Fellow writer, Max Eastman, straight up kicked the hornet's nest by thoroughly dunking on Hemingway's bullfighting memoir, Death in the Afternoon, disgusted with how he saw it as romanticizing animal cruelty in the name of Hemingway's macho image and calling it a literary style, you might say of wearing false hair on the chest.
This allegedly culminating in Hemingway and Eastman going chest hair on chest hair, when they ran into each other and the author allegedly ripped open both of their shirts to see who had more chest hair.
And subsequently telling the press that Eastman jumped at me like a woman clawing, you know, with his open hands.
Hey, you can't have a chest hair fight without some casual misogyny.
Hemingway's lasting success in mythologizing himself is no more evident than in his reputation as the apotheosis of masculinity.
His refusal to regularly bathe, all his fightin' and huntin', and boxin' and drinkin'.
Hemingway even claimed his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, was so sexy that his ex-Marine pal, Ben Finney, got hot and bothered by it.
But with the passage of time, Hemingway's aging forced him to confront some hard truths about himself.
Getting balder and heavier resulted in women seeing him less as the handsome Lothario he once fancied himself to be, and more as a father figure, the white-bearded Papa Hemingway.
But so, so much worse was his declining mental health.
The manic depression that ran in his family was continuing to rear its ugly head as Hemingway got older, plunging him into wave after wave of mania and depression, all the while fueled by his worsening alcoholism.
This created a volatile cocktail that was nearly impossible for doctors to adequately diagnose, especially in a time when we were only really beginning to take mental health seriously.
So, they fed him pills, lots of pills.
Just after receiving the Nobel prize in 1954, Hemingway told Time Magazine, "I have to take so many pills, "they have to fight among themselves "if I take them too close together."
For those who had been witnessing Hemingway's downward spiral throughout the final years of his life, they seemed to know deep down what they could not admit out loud, that Hemingway was on the same tragic path as his father once was.
And so like his father before him, Ernest Hemingway took his own life in the morning of July 2nd, 1961 at the age of 61.
Several years after Hemingway's death, a memoir about his time in Paris, A Moveable Feast, would be published and the original 1964 edition would begin with an odd statement, especially for a memoir.
"If the reader prefers, "this book may be regarded as fiction.
"But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction "may throw some light on "what has been written as fact."
It was as if Hemingway was winking at the reader from beyond the grave.
Even a supposed real-life account of his time in Paris should be read with about the same standard effects as The Sun Also Rises.
But it was never facts that Hemingway was interested in.
He was after larger truths, the deeper truths of what it is to be human.
Facts were just the bothersome details that got in the way.
A Moveable Feast contains another line that is among Hemingway's most oft quoted.
"They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, "but it always seemed to me that "in those who make jokes in life, "the seeds are covered with better soil "and with a higher grade of manure."
Despite Hemingway's life-long, contentious battle with the facts, he was always treating himself as a fiction writer, he was by necessity, an admitted super liar, a super liar forever tilling the garden of his legacy with the highest grade of manure there is.
Ernest Hemingway's grade A, premium (bleeps)