Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Hemingway Biography, By Jeffrey Meyers

Finished up the subject Ernest Hemingway biography. Well written book that gives a lot of insight into Hemingway the man, the image and the writer. He is indeed the model for the Dos Equis "World's Most Interesting Man". I found Churchill far more interesting, but Churchill did not have movie star looks and movie star sexual appetites as Hemingway did. 

It IS very interesting though how both Churchill and Hemingway were extremely drawn to war, violence and risk, as well of course a lot of hard drink. Churchill drank a LOT for MUCH longer -- Hemingway being a hard drinker that eventually succumbed to alcoholism in his 40's to 50's ... drinking as much as a large bottle of hard liquor a day or more, and it being a major part of his massive decline in health along with his accidents. 

I especially enjoyed reading of his Key West years, having visited Sloppy Joes and his home in Key West. I'd like to spend some more time there -- it is an easy place for the mind to wander to during a MN winter. The book didn't pay enough attention to his cats ... only one good "kitty porn" picture, and gave the author away as definitely NOT being a cat person, referring to Earnest's "dirty cats". A dirty cat is a VERY sick nearly dead cat! If you tour his place in Key West, you will likely meet some of his 6-toed cats. He used the lighthouse next to his home to help him navigate home from Sloppy Joes after "a few drinks". 

Very hard for a Rochester MN resident to ignore this quote: 
"Rochester is a depressing town, where the modern dance of death goes on in expensive hospitals. All visitors are either sick themselves or related to the sick. A grotesque spectacle of illness appears in the corridors and the streets as the modern pilgrims seek salvation in technology rather than in faith." 
At the very end of his life Hemingway received electro shock treatments at Mayo which were not effective, destroyed his memory, and likely contributed heavily to his suicide.

Hemingway's life is full of excitement and interest -- the outdoor life in Michigan as a young man, wounded in WWI, running with the bulls and bullfighting, African Safaris, lots of hunting in the western US (Montana and Idaho), deep sea fishing, a succession of beautiful wives and mistresses, pals with James Joyce, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound ... soldiers, adventurers, hunters, fishermen ... and of course drinkers.

None of us knows what makes any of us tick -- including ourselves. We may think we know, sometimes especially about ourselves, and then find out we are surprised. Therefore, I take this epitaph from Norman Mailer with more than a grain of salt -- I suspect that Hemingway would call it shit (that is how he talked).
"It is not likely that Hemingway was a brave man that sought danger for the sake of the sensations it provided him. What is more likely the truth of his own odyssey is that he struggled with his cowardice and against a secret lust to suicide all his life, that his inner landscape was a nightmare, and he spent his nights wrestling with the gods. It may even be that the final judgment on his work may come to the notion that what he failed to do was tragic, but what he accomplished was heroic, for it is possible that he carried a weight of anxiety with him which would have suffocated any man smaller than himself"
I was struck by how often he worried about the "corruption" of wealth and fame -- but yet "Old Man and The Sea" was done after he had a achieved much wealth and fame. I believe he instinctively understood the danger of wealth and fame, yet he was driven to write -- without writing there was no life, and the fact that in his mind, the electro shock had killed his writing muse meant that for him life was over.

He showed the characteristic that I believe all imaginative people show to some degree -- a difficulty in separating the imaginary from the real. What he read, thought and wrote, melded somewhat seamlessly with reality -- so at one level, he was indeed a great liar, as all writers are. However, as in "myth", sometimes the "not factually true" is more true to what some of us believe is a universe more real than that which we can measure. I believe that Hemingway sensed that truth -- but failed to really connect with it. His hints of the "more that what we see" was enough to create some of the greatest art of the 20th century, and his grasping (in the wrong paths I think) created one of the more interesting lives of the 20th century.

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