Review of Mary V. Dearborn’s Ernest Hemingway, appearing in the new issue of Riot Material.
“Can I believe myself as others believe me to be? Here is where these lines become a confession in the presence of my unknown and unknowable to me, unknown and unknowable for myself. Here is where I create the legend wherein I must bury myself. ” — Miguel de Unamuno.
Perhaps no other 20th century writer has invited more scorn, worship, lampooning, lionization, and soapbox scrutiny than Ernest Hemingway. Or rather the “legend” of Ernest Hemingway. His name became not only synonymous with American literature, and a laconic style of writing, but also with a specific he-man persona that wore its balls on its torn sleeve.
Though often regarded as a “realist,” Hemingway, at heart and in vision, was very much a Romantic, or the hard-boiled step-child of the Romantic tradition. His work, like the persona he crafted, bore a mythic timbre, and was shot through with romantic yearnings, disillusionment, idealism, and torment. You could say, in many of Hemingway’s works, Romanticism Vs. Reality, and the resulting bruises, bloodletting and scars, is the thematic undercard.
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