2018-04-12 / Opinions

Book Review

Ernest Hemingway
By MARY V. DEARBORN
Reviewed by
PEGGY BARNETT

It’s certainly possible that some of us do not want to know any more about Ernest Hemingway. Many probably studied about him in high school English since he has long been known as one of America’s pre-eminent writers. Other writers have tried to imitate his style, for which he is almost as famous as for his adventurous and larger-than-usual life style.

Mary Dearborn has written the first biography of him in several years. New material has recently become available and this is the first written by a woman. She says, “I think we should look away from… the legend and consider what formed this remarkable man and brilliant writer.” His father was a doctor, his mother a music teaching professional. He did not experience a financially deprived childhood like so many authors that we read about. He was around guns from the very start, always enjoying hunting and fishing. His father was moody, even perhaps becoming manic-depressive as he got older. Ultimately, he shot himself. His mother was a forceful personality, and she and Ernest often did not get along.

He later resented that he did not get a college education, but was successful in journalism as a young man. He was handsome and energetic and formed many friendship during those early years, many of them with writers who then and later were famous. During World War I he volunteered as an ambulance driver in Italy. He was in battle less than a week when he was wounded. He used that experience in some of his early short stories.

Dearborn believes that he formed a sense of his own importance there, and became less friendly and enthusiastic. He was married four times, apparently in love each time, but increasingly unkind to his wives. His third wife, Martha Gellhorn, is quoted as saying,” A man must be a very great genius to make up for being such a loathsome human being.” He loved new experiences, living in Europe off and on over the years, later owning homes in Key West and Cuba. He discovered bull fighting in Spain, an activity that he wrote about often. He was present for the Spanish Civil War, and in World War II, he was a journalist and an intelligence officer.

His best-known novels, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea, were best sellers, award winners, and money makers. “Ernest was a visionary writer in that he saw more than others did, recognizing people, places, and things that he could draw from in his fiction.” He was charismatic and got away with outrageous actions because of that.

Towards the end of his life, he was a “man who had become a legend but who was personally falling apart.” Ernest Hemingway, interesting and finally sad, is available at the Mary Willis Library.

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