Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ernest Hemingway A Biography by Mary Dearborn (forthcoming May, 2017, 752 pages)

1899 to 1961 (USA)
Nobel Prize, 1954

Opening note- this gets my vote for worst cover image for a literary biography so far this century!

Ernest Hemingway pretty much created the prototypical American literary image of the super-macho, hard drinking, womanizing, big game hunting, bull fighting, living at the edge war correspondent writer. He did love cats! The problem for an author of a long comprehensive biographer of Hemingway is that most potential readers of such a book already know the basics of his life.  Others can get by with Wikipedia. Everything seems a build up to his death by a self inflicted shot gun blast. 

Mary Dearborn's biography is a very detailed chronology of Hemingway's life.  She spends a good bit of time explaining who the different figures in his books and stories might have been inspired by in his real life.  We learn a lot about his various marriages.  Clearly Hemingway needed the support of a woman to function.  

Hemingway is a very influential literary figure.  I personally prefer his short stories to his longer works.  Hemingway was, in my mind, a very American figure.  He liked to be surrounded by a group 
of sycophants and reacted very badly to criticism of his work.   

I am glad I read this book.  I was given a review copy.

I endorse it to well endowed libraries.  I find the price of $35.00 makes me unable to suggest others purchase this book.

Mel u


Tea said...

I would love to read it. I don't know much about Ernest Hemingway's life. I do know about the suicide, but why did he do it? That is a puzzle to me. He was a great author.

Mel u said...

Tea Norman. The consensus is Hemingway could not deal with his declining creative and physical powers. It might have been his life long very heavy drinking took him into cognitive decline. Thanks very much for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Tea Norman- I've read all the Hemingway biographies and can't wait to read this one. To answer your question about his suicide, well, there were many contributing factors. Alcoholism was certainly a huge factor, compounded with deep depression which he battled all his life. Many people overlook how banged up he was from two plane crashes in Africa in 1954. Even his son John said he wasn't the same after those crashes. He was in constant pain and had serious head trauma from the crashes and a series of concussions- at least six I am told. He had numerous health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hemochromatosis, enlarged liver, crushed vertebrae, damaged kidneys and spleen, etc. What is amazing is how long he did last with all these problems! He used to take handfuls of seconal just to go to sleep, and a medication he took for his blood pressure may have contributed to his depression. Essentially, his nervous system was shot and he became paranoid and delusional the last two years of his life.

Mel u said...

Anonymous commentator. Thanks very much for sharing your insights