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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More Hemingway-Inspired Clip-Art

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I have had a wretched week (physically) and am much too tired to write anything intelligible this morning about Ernest Hemingway nor anything else. I have some wonderful research and thoughts that I’d hoped to share with you that would have connected the dots between my artwork below and “Papa” Hemingway. But that will have to slide until I am more coherent. Forgive me.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these latest offerings of free images I created just for you.

Free Icons of the Day

The following images are either full or 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 512px X 512px in .png format). Create Commons license applies (see sidebar for details)

Hemingway Manx

Hemingway Manx

Ernie's Firefox

Ernie's Firefox

Ernie's Cats

Ernie's Cats

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Hemingway: To Be or Not To Be

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People were always asking Ernest Hemingway, the quintessential Twentieth-Century American author, about the symbolism in his stories and characters, as if seeking for some Holy Grail. But true to form, he’d simply wave the questions away; but in a letter to his friend, Bernard Berenson (written on Sept. 13, 1952, published in Ernest Hemingway : Selected Letters 1917-1961 (1981) edited by Carlos Baker) Ernest expanded his response stating “Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm [sic]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.” True enough. But then sometimes the boy and the old man are one and the same and the sea is life and the sharks are death and one man’s greatest fear of questioning death.

So do I and all the others who sense a deeper, personal meaning lies beyond the simple, eloquent words and recurrent undertones in Hemingway’s literature disrespect the man by not being satisfied with the bromide he wanted us to adopt? If he were here with us now, perhaps that would be true. Yet it is the very fact that he is NOT here (and why that is) which appears to lend credence to our suspicions. Back and forth, throughout his life, Hemingway tossed and turned a mythic coin where on one side bellowed that suicide was cowardice and on the other side, seductively urged that suicide was the reward earned by those heroic enough to stare it down by living their lives to the fullest and knowing when to simply (albeit un- gracefully) bow out. For all his turmoil, picking at the scab of the legacy of self-inflicted death that ran rampant in his bloodline, one can never say that Hemingway hadn’t lived a rich and courageous life and appears to have died in peace despite the noise, mess and shock of gunpowder and bullet, Ernie was ready for the silence.

Having lost more than a handful of friends to death by their own hand, I know the sense of emptiness and despair that visits those who’ve loved and been left behind, too often without a clue as to why. It is not something that I have (nor would) ever consider for myself for reasons from the profound to the trivial. Yet, I neither condone nor condemn Hemingway’s choice to end his life and instead am merely grateful that he left so much for us to remember him by, that causes us to think, to pick, to turn over in our hands and minds, and to be inspired by his tremendous ability to live every single moment.

One final thought, for those of you who think this post is rather morbid, I invite you to read through the lyrics to that iconic theme song from the 1970’s movie and television series, M*A*S*H”, sub-titled “Suicide Is Painless”. Mike Altman, the son of the film’s director, Robert Altman, was sensitive and wise in the way that only a 14-year-old can be when he penned these words that can best be summed up by remembering:

Life is a choice we make each and every day.

Free Icons of the Day

The following images are either full or 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 512px X 512px in .png format). Create Commons license applies (see sidebar for details)

Army Ambulance

Lion Hunt

Pamplona 3 Lion

Leaf 3Leaf 5Leaf 4

Shadow Boxing

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