- [-] Other Available FormatsOur PriceNew & Used MarketplaceErnest Hemingway (Audio Compact Disc - Unabridged)
Publisher: HighBridge Audio$54.99
- 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
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.