papa

(First of all, this is about Ernest Hemingway, not my father, who was definitely never “Papa.”)

I avoid television as much as possible, but occasionally there’s something I can’t resist watching, and this is probably going to be one of them.

I may not watch the whole thing — I’ll see how it goes. I’ve read a few Hemingway biographies, and if I see too many inaccuracies or hear too much hokum (hokum — both pro and con — is always likely when people talk about Hemingway) I’ll bail. But I am curious (though I think it’s likely that my curiosity won’t be enough to get me through six whole hours).

By the way, I am always suspicious when people call Hemingway a “womanizer.” Merriam-Webster defines “womanize” as:
1. to make effeminate [which is a wonderful idea with regards to Hemingway, as I’ll discuss below, but that’s not what they mean here].
2. to pursue casual sexual relationships with multiple women.

Did Hemingway take on a lover when married, then marry the new lover as soon as he’d divorced the previous wife? Yes, at least twice (I think he was divorced from Martha Gellhorn before he started his relationship with Mary Welsh). Four is an unusual number of wives, yes, but that doesn’t make one a “womanizer” (let alone that he didn’t seem to have been “casual” about much of anything in his life). But that’s one of those journalistic clichés, like the rule that any headline about someone having cancer has to include the word “battling.”

I don’t know if I’ve been influenced by Hemingway’s writing, but I started reading him when somebody observed that I wrote like him. So, I think I was influenced by a lot of the 20th century American detective fiction which was influenced by him — so an indirect influence more than a direct one. And, as I commented recently, I’ve been moving away from that influence in recent years.

One thing that’s always stuck with me is an article in the New York Times Magazine called “A Farewell to Machismo.” One thing it talks about is The Garden of Eden, a novel which Hemingway never finished. From Wikipedia: “The Garden of Eden indicates Hemingway’s exploration of male-female relationships, shows an interest in androgynous characters, and ‘the reversal of gender roles.'” I’d be interested in reading that. (A truncated version of the book, with two-thirds of the story removed and many apparently questionable edits made, was published after his death. I’ve never read it. I’ve also never seen the movie which was made from the published book.)

So, if they meant “womanizer” in that sense that would be an interesting and provocative thought. But they mean it the other way.

By the way, looking through “A Farewell to Machismo” as I wrote this post, I noticed this paragraph:

Gregory Hemingway, who grew up to be a doctor, wrote in his book, ‘Papa’: “His liver had been in poor shape for years. Even in the male, the adrenal glands produce estrogen, or female hormones, which are normally broken down by the liver. But if the liver is badly damaged, there can be a high concentration of estrogen in the bloodstream. . . .” Perhaps Papa came to feel that he contained both Catherine and David [the main characters from “The Garden of Eden”] inside himself.

“A Farewell to Machismo” was written in 1977, and more is known now about Gregory Hemingway, the youngest of the three Hemingway children.

Anyway, I will check out the show, and I’ll report back here if there’s anything worth commenting on.

Also, slightly off topic, I do have to mention that Ernest Hemingway may have been an avid skier, but he never sang “One Day More” from Les Misérables while skiing with Lindsey Vonn.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Other. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.