I’m reading a biography of Hemingway because he was in that exotic “club” of American artists living in France post WWI. I’ve always wanted to time travel and join that club. Together we’d smoke, drink and talk big at Parisian cafes. We’d be witty and cool, and we’d make James Joyce the butt of our jokes.
Which brings me to why I generally dislike biographies.
They’re long. Bio writers, even those with modern tales, tend to start in the year 1678, because after describing the lives of all the subject’s ancestors, we are sure to better understand the subject. That context is the difference between a Good Book Award and a Really, Really Good Book Award.
Your hero is no hero. Typically creative geniuses are rather unpleasant on a personal level. No shock there. But Hemingway? That guy was a complete ass. Insecure, bombastic, lying, manipulative, macho. He would’ve have ruined my cool little French writing club.
The poor mothers. Character flaws are blamed on Mommy Dearest. In Hemingway’s case, family and friends freely shared stories about Hemingway’s hatred. Grace Hemingway was pretentious and domineering. She tried to make young Ernest a girl, letting his hair grow and keeping him in his sister’s clothes. She belittled and berated her husband. She had an affair with a servant girl. She built her own lake home, separate from the family’s lake home, to get away from the chaos of having a family.
On behalf of mothers everywhere, I say to the author, if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all and go to your room!
Too many characters. Certainly we meet a lot of people during a lifetime, and that’s when bio writers should use a filter. Otherwise, readers need a chart to keep track. Good luck enjoying this entirely invented passage, … Hemingway wrote to Phillip Hanstigya and recollected times with their friends Collin “Moose” Frundefrin and Robert “Nippy” Jonwhiler. This letter is significant because it alludes to Frundefrin’s attraction to Jonwhiler’s sister, Nellie Jonwhiler Hiersomby, who as you’ll recall, praised Sunny’s writing over Ernest’s. The letter ended up in the hands of Percy Inclandoesme. Percy refused to forgive Allen Barfecut. Hemingway laughed. That Allen was quite a jokester. Even Ralph Treshinweig agreed.
Still, Hemingway really did say this:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Whenever I read that quote, I return to admiration.
I’m only half way through Hemingway’s biography. Let’s hope great quotes outweigh misdeeds.