The Heming Way

I realize it’s the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death, but this is ridiculous:
A poster with mottos drawn from Hemingway's life
This is the most absurd misinterpretation of Hemingway’s life, much less his value as a “great writer,” and what’s worse is that I think this is how the broader U.S. culture “appreciates” Hemingway. (The previous winner in absurd Hemingway cultural appropriation–Thomasville’s Hemingway Furniture Collection.)

When will people stop looking to Hemingway’s life as some sort of model of uber-manliness and adventure? When will people actually start reading Hemingway? Read something like In Our Time and try to neatly conventionalize how the women and men behave in there or try to ascertain an unequivocal “way to live” from those stories. Have you ever seen a string of stories that embody such an absolute male terror of women and children? Hemingway, from an accumulation of snapshots, may appear confident and husky, an urban woodsman’s wet dream. But the people in his stories are one hot mess and speak of a complex appreciation of human character, not easily posterized.

I realize that celebrity culture always distorts the source text, but this poster seems the latest incarnation of insult. “Appreciate the finer things in life”–do they realize that Hemingway was a drunk? “Live to tell the tale”–do they realize that Hemingway lived right up until he stuck a shotgun in his mouth?

It’s like his persona has completely split from the actual books he wrote, so that there is this free-floating pop cultural Hemingway, himself composed of little metonymies of manliness: guns, big game, sex with nurses, mustaches, and ribald drinking. Not only is it an insult to the legacy of Hemingway; it’s an insult to the concept of manliness. Besides, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his death is just numerology marketing.

Here’s a short poster for an ideal life: don’t be mold, growing on the damp back of cliche.