HEMINGWAY: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers

HEMINGWAY: A Biography

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His Toronto Star editor once said of Hemingway: ""A more weird combination of quivering sensitiveness and preoccupation with violence surely never walked the earth."" The best thing about this biography is the liberal supply of such vivid firsthand reminscences by Hemingway's friends and associates. A serious weakness, however, is the failure of the biographer's expository skills to do full justice to his colorful subject. Meyers summons his data briskly--and that's the problem. His implied judgments often need more amplitude of discussion to be persuasive, as in his skewed discussion of Hemingway's literary enemies and allies. Wyndham Lewis (the subject of two earlier biographies by Meyers) is praised as an author of classic stature, while Gertrude Stein is ungenerously (and inaccurately) depicted as a bad writer who lost her reputation as soon as she began to publish. In an early discussion of Hemingway's dislike of his given name, Meyers refers to the ""naive, even foolish hero"" of Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest--a farce with two ""Earnests"" but surely no ""hero."" Meyers, however, drops this misreading into a sentence as though it were fact and proceeds. Such minor lapses create doubt about the accuracy of Meyer's equally abrupt decisions on more central matters, such as the literary quality of Hadley's letters, the attitude of Mary Hemingway (who does not appear to have been consulted) about the suicide of her husband, or young Ernest's attitude towards his domineering father. The roistering, exuberant ""Papa"" of popular legend--the man who reportedly retaliated against Stein's attacks on him by wiring her ""A bitch is a bitch is a bitch""--makes few appearances in these pages. Meyers offers Hemingway at a sober middle distance--say, 20 yards or so--yet often fails to achieve the balanced perspective that should have resulted from this scholarly reserve.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row