The “Real” Hemingway – Or Not.

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Tonight I’m concluding my series of images that celebrate a tiny slice of the passions and achievements of Ernest Hemingway. More than half a century after his death, the appeal of this enigmatic macho-man continues to grow and remain relevant due to the eloquence of Hemingway’s prose and universality of his characters thrust into a rapidly changing world where conventional values, relationships and expectations no longer have meaning and tomorrow is the ultimate unknown, all woven together with exotic locations and varied adventures and all with the core theme of man as an individual and the compulsion to seek challenges to triumph over himself and his environment. From the point of view of characters dealing with the reality of living in the eye of the storm, life is at once thrilling, horrifying, compelling, alienating, inspiring, depressing, life-affirming, destructive, ancient, modern and seductive. But in winding up this series, I’d like to address an issue I feel rather passionate about: the perpetuation of bias and hatred against people due to the race, religion, or sexual orientation and a rarely used tool to help combat it.

Much has been written about Ernest Hemingway, the “Man’s Man”, full of bravado, machismo and courage. Not the least to have extolled and claimed these qualities was Ernie himself. Yet in the past 10 years (fifty years after his death) there has been a new focus by certain theorists cum biographers/scholars who have steered the conversation away from two-dimensional character portrayed in the popular media to reexamine the softer side of the man. While such attempts to discover the “real” man behind the myth are laudable, because these publications were released shortly after the tragic death of Hemingway’s youngest child, the scholarly value of such books or essays as Ernest Hemingway: Machismo and Masochism” and Hemingway’s Masochism, Sodomy, and the Dominant Woman”, both by Richard Fantina, “A Matter of Love or Death: Hemingway’s Developing Psychosexuality in For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Marc Hewson, and “Hemingway’s Quarrel with Androgyny” by Mark Spilka, strike me a less than certain.

Editor’s Note — My concern is in large part due to the very public revelation that the 69-year-old woman who died of natural causes while incarcerated in a Miami Florida women’s jail for indecent exposure was in fact Gregory Hemingway, the youngest son of author Ernest Hemingway who had just 3 years earlier undergone a sex-change operation.

It is unknown to me whether the research and conclusions about Ernest expounded by such works were initiated due to their author’s knowledge of Gigs Hemingway’s “secret”, or evolved independent of such knowledge, and/or whether the publisher’s release date was intentionally timed to capitalize on the tragedy, or whether the close proximity of the release date to that intensely personal family tragedy was instead just a reflection of the Publisher’s gross insensitivity to the Hemingway family, to the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender community, and to the scholarly reputations of these authors. But regardless of the true circumstances, it strikes me as hard to deny the potential cloud placed over the credibility of the author’s conclusions about the inner-life of Ernest Hemingway nor the potential harm to the G.L.B.T. community as a result of feeding into the already existing misperception of the general public who not only consider such people as “freaks” or worse yet, as “sinners” but who either overly believe or inwardly fear that homosexuality, trans-genderism, as well as any other “non-standard” sexual preference is not only a “disease” but one which can be “caught” by an innocent bystander and therefore must be protected against by ostracizing and punishing the “victims”.

Of course, biographers and scholars are not responsible for the biology, psychology or circumstances of the person(s) about whom they are writing and the farther a biography or critical analysis strays from the facts and reality of their subject’s life the less credible their treatises become. So the dilemma for them and their publishers becomes:

  1. How to ensure your analysis of a deceased person’s psychological make-up doesn’t get tainted or inappropriately influenced by a combination of the biology, psychology and circumstances of the lives of other deceased persons and, perhaps, your own personal cultural biases?; and
  2. How can you (as author or publisher) help prevent your readers from using your analysis about one specific person as confirmation of their own pre-existing bias’ applied to an entire category of people?

Unfortunately, I have no sure-fire answer as to how to prevent the initial bias but certainly having Editors and Publishers as alert to such weaknesses as they are to grammatical errors and typography should catch it at the gate. On the latter question, to those of you who may presume that anyone intellectually smart enough to even be interested in reading such publications are also culturally intelligent enough not to misinterpret them, I ask that you simply consider the evidence that intellect does not necessarily correlate equally to cross-cultural understanding or empathy (for example: Thomas Jefferson was intellectually brilliant yet owned many slaves, Richard Wagner was a genius composer yet was stridently anti-semitic). And to those of you who may feel it is unfair to even ask biographers, scholars, essayists, and journalists take such questions into serious consideration before they finalize and release their efforts to the public, I ask that you reflect upon the fact that if the skills of these authors are such as to create compelling enough material that not only attracts many readers but presents their theories in such an effective manner that convinces their readers to accept those theories, then in situations where there is a reasonably perceivable risk of faulty conclusions and abuses of their tomes, doesn’t it make sense to ask these writers to use their considerable skills to complete the circle of education by expressly pointing out what are or are not valid applications of their theories beyond their specific subject while they still have their reader’s attention? And wouldn’t this create even greater value to their works and benefits to society?

It’s something to think about at least.

And now, for the lighter side of tonight’s post, I present you with 3 different 1920×1200 px-sized pictures created specifically to coordinate with my Hemingway Series of images, suitable for use either as a background for your desktop, scrapbook page, or ….? -Enjoy!

Free Desktop Pix of the Day

The following images are reduced size previews. Simply right-click (or control-click) on the preview to save the image(s) of your choice to your desktop. (Unless otherwise noted, downloads are 1024px X 768px in .png format). Create Commons license applies (see sidebar for details)

Hemingway-San-Fermin

Hemingway KenyaGold-Screen

Hemingway Havana-Screen

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