Whatever you think you know about Ernest Hemingway, most of what you know or believe you know — and I mean 99% of it — has to do with his persona or celebrity or some facet of his life other than what he actually wrote. That’s true whether you’re a perspicacious academic, an inveterate reader or a militant blogger with an axe to grind for or against.
This post is not about any of that. It is also not about Ernest Hemingway the writer. It is, instead, a post about Ernest Hemingway as a physical being, and as such broaches a narrative that runs at cross purposes to the exploitation, condemnation or exultation of Hemingway as a consciousness. While this post is thus incidental to the objectives of almost anyone who has ever commented about Hemingway as an artist or entertainer, it may yet be central to understanding Hemingway as a man, as opposed to a man’s man.
Most people know that Ernest Hemingway killed himself. If you did not know that prior to stumbling on this post, you do now by virtue of both the headline and this sentence. Many people know that Hemingway shot himself in the head with a shotgun. Some people know that his father committed suicide with a revolver in the same way. That is all true. Because Ernest Hemingway was a celebrity, however, his suicide triggered an outsized desire — if not a cultural need — to frame that act in the context of his life and work, to say nothing of spawning the usual mindless attempts to ascribe a single motive to his decision.
Having thought about storytelling for a long time I have come of late to conclude that such deliberative efforts are not born of the rational mind, which purports to be the agent of concerns about motive, but the narrative mind. It is the intrinsic storyteller in each of us which seeks — if not needs — to make sense of events, particularly when the weight of evidence makes clear that chaos does exist, and that we, at times, are its embodiment. It is because of this instinct, whether you ever paid much attention to Hemingway or not, that today you still likely hold some belief — some plausible cause and effect in your own mind — which explains why Hemingway did what he did over fifty long years ago. [ Read more ]