In yesterday’s post I wrote about the recent books by and about Ernest Hemingway that I have just read. Here are some random and somewhat salacious facts I learned about Ernest Hemingway.
1) Hemingway would have many friendships that would burn brightly for awhile before the inevitable falling out. From Les Hemingway, his youngest brother: “He loved everything up to a certain point, and then nothing was any good any more.”
2) He aged quickly. Pictures of him while he was in his 40s and 50s show a man who looks to be at least 10 to 20 years older.
3) He offered $250 to any man who could last three rounds with him in a boxing match. This he did on the island of Bimini in the 1930s and reportedly never had to pay out the $250.
4) Bimini would also be the place where he figured out how to boat a tuna.
“But no one had been able to boat a tuna—of any size—in those warm southern waters without first witnessing its mutilation by the sharks. No one had been able to boat one, that is, until Hemingway. The standard angling histories are agreed: he’s the first known angler to have ever gotten one in whole, clean, at Bimini.” – Paul Hendrickson, Hemingway’s Boat.
5) Hemingway would use a semi-automatic gun to shoot the sharks whenever they attempted to get at his tunas. That would make great, over-the-top television.
6) Hemingway’s life would make a great multi-year TV series. As a protagonist you would see him at turns caring, compassionate, informative, struggling, inspiring, then brutish, vile, and cruel, but never boring and always charismatic, even in his years of sad manic decline. You’d cheer him on at times and then cringe and curse him out at others.
7) And you would marvel and cringe at Ernest’s relationships with his sons, especially Gregory. Gregory was the most talented of the three in terms of physical and mental skills, being an excellent shot with a gun and ballplayer.
Gregory was Hemingway’s youngest son. His whole life Gregory would struggle with his sexual identity. When he was 21 when he wrote his father a letter in which he called him a “gin-soaked abusive monster” and judged, “When it’s all added up, papa it will be: he wrote a few good stories, had a novel and fresh approach to reality and he destroyed five persons—Hadley, Pauline, Marty [Gellhorn], Patrick, and possibly myself. Which do you think is the most important, your self-centered shit, the stories or the people?…If I ever meet you again and you start pulling the ruthless, illogical and destructive shit on me, I will beat your head into the ground and mix it with cement to make outhouses.”
Believe it or not, they did reconcile after that. Which was the pattern. Big blowout where horrible things were written or said, and then a reconciliation of some kind.
8) He was one of six children and he committed suicide. His father committed suicide. His sister Ursula committed suicide. His brother Les committed suicide. And the family suspected that older sister Marcelline committed suicide. So at least half the family died by suicide. Sad.