Ernest Hemingway : A Biography
by Mary V. Dearborn

Overview - The first full biography of Ernest Hemingway in more than fifteen years; the first to draw upon a wide array of never-before-used material; the first written by a woman, from the widely acclaimed biographer of Norman Mailer, Peggy Guggenheim, Henry Miller, and Louise Bryant.  Read more...

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More About Ernest Hemingway by Mary V. Dearborn
The first full biography of Ernest Hemingway in more than fifteen years; the first to draw upon a wide array of never-before-used material; the first written by a woman, from the widely acclaimed biographer of Norman Mailer, Peggy Guggenheim, Henry Miller, and Louise Bryant.

A revelatory look into the life and work of Ernest Hemingway, considered in his time to be the greatest living American novelist and short-story writer, winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Mary Dearborn's new biography gives the richest and most nuanced portrait to date of this complex, enigmatically unique American artist, whose same uncontrollable demons that inspired and drove him throughout his life undid him at the end, and whose seven novels and six-short story collections informed--and are still informing--fiction writing generations after his death.

  • ISBN-13: 9780307594679
  • ISBN-10: 030759467X
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: May 2017
  • Page Count: 752
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.35 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Adventurers & Explorers
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary
Books > History > United States - 20th Century

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-11-14
  • Reviewer: Staff

Dearborn (Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim) revisits one of America's most popular writers with insight and finesse, in this rich, detailed biography of Ernest Hemingway (18991961). Hemingway came to fame in 1920s Paris amid the fabled community of American expatriates that also included F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. His sheer creative energy glowed as he wrote his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, in a little over six weeks. During the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway became a widely read, syndicated correspondent. His well-publicized African safaris and big-game hunting culminated in the celebrated short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Hemingway fired the public imagination, Dearborn shows, becoming a personification and even a caricature of virility for his generation. In 1954, he received the Nobel Prize for literature. Despite the achievements and celebrity, Hemingway led a troubled life complicated by alcohol and three failed marriages, increasingly spinning his wheels and losing his gifts. His 1961 suicide shocked the world. Dearborn speculates at length on what went wrong, attributing Hemingway's collapse to manic depression compounded by brain injuries. Her fluid narrative and careful research contribute to an impressive biography. Hemingway changed our language and the way we think, she asserts. Dearborn's account shines from beginning to end, helped by Hemingway's dramatic life and charismatic personality. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Borchardt Inc. (May)

BookPage Reviews

Well Read: Troubled genius

In a world that loves to place everything in neat categories, Ernest Hemingway has always been designated an unabashedly “male” writer, his “man’s man” persona part of the legend. It comes as little surprise then that Mary V. Dearborn’s insightful new biography, ­Ernest Hemingway, is the first written by a woman. As such, Dearborn—known for previous biographies of Norman Mailer and Peggy Guggenheim, among others—brings a fresh perspective to a well-documented life.

Dearborn pointedly looks beyond the legend. While it includes all the requisite details of Hemingway’s storied life—the love affairs, the feuds, the wars (real and emotional)—that shaped the writer in all his complexity, her portrait is a largely psychological one, seeking both the impetus for his distinctive fiction as well as the roots of the failures in his personal life. “At some point in the unfolding of his brilliant career, a tragedy began to take shape,” Dearborn writes. “Ernest seemed to find it difficult to give and receive love, to be a faithful friend, and, perhaps more tragically, to tell the truth, even to himself.” This last inability may have served him well as a storyteller (at least at the start), but less so as a man.

Hemingway’s father was a doctor—who, like his son, eventually committed suicide—and Hemingway grew up in comfort in the suburbs of Chicago during a golden age of white, middle-class mobility. The shiny, privileged upbringing was, in retrospect, tarnished by a self-centered mother and a depressive father. Dearborn explores how these seminal relationships would shape Hemingway’s views of both women and men throughout his life. Hemingway grew to hate his mother, and throughout his relations with women, the four-time married writer both loved and never fully understood the female sex. Critics of his work often have pointed to the thinness of his female characters. Dearborn’s study goes deeper, tracing a fascinating trajectory from sensitive, innovative young writer to the late-in-life caricature of his macho public image.

Dearborn pointedly looks beyond the legend.

Two central ideas drive this elegantly written biography. One is Hemingway’s perennial need, established at a young age, to strive for perfection. He needed to have things under control in order to write. This necessary control abandoned him in his last years, precipitating his mental decline and suicide. The other pervasive theme is the mental illness that seems to have haunted his family. “Mental illness coursed through the Hemingway family like one of the rivers Ernest wrote about with such beautiful economy, its incessant, implacable force pausing only in small eddies, where illness cursed individuals,” Dearborn writes with lyrical insight. “It took and continues to take the form of cycles of mania and psychotic depression; alcoholism and other additions; and suicide. . . . More important, the river carried as it rushed along artistic talent, even genius, as well as extraordinary personal charm.”

There have been scores of biographies of Hemingway, some written by friends, some by academics, some by family members. Dearborn’s is the first full-scale biography of the Nobel Prize-winning American writer in 15 years, and it is a worthy addition to the canon—a splendid reassessment that shores up the genius while removing some of the faulty bulwark that has long supported the myth.

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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