The Lost Generation returns.
In 1925, desperately ambitious Ernest Hemingway found the subject for his first novel in the antics of the hard-drinking, bed-hopping companions who accompanied him to a bull-fighting festival in Pamplona, Spain. Working feverishly, and with malice, Hemingway immortalized the misbehaving bunch in The Sun Also Rises, the novel that made him a literary star, acclaimed for the “terse innovative prose” that seemed stunningly modern. Journalist Blume (Julia and the Art of Practical Travel, 2015, etc.) offers a brisk rendering of a familiar Lost Generation story featuring its most colorful protagonist: Hemingway comes to Paris with his young wife, Hadley, who loses his manuscript on a train. During that time, Hemingway met Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford, Robert McAlmon, and Harold Loeb, most of whom he came to despise. F. Scott Fitzgerald, already famous, encouraged Hemingway and connected him with Max Perkins at Scribner’s, who edited, published, and aggressively marketed The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway had an affair with the predatory Pauline Pfeiffer, which ended his marriage, and he defiantly created his image as a tough man, hunter, boxer, and predator. “Hemingway had a little bit of poison for everyone,” writes Blume, “and he was becoming quite adept at co-opting the lives and vulnerabilities of others as grist for his literary mill.” Of all those behaving badly, surely he was the worst, betraying his wife and many who mistakenly thought they were his friends. He wounded Sherwood Anderson by publishing a vicious parody of his work and responding to Anderson’s pain with a pretentious, patronizing letter. Hemingway, Anderson and Stein agreed, was an “ungrateful protégé.” Blume brings in some fresh material drawn from two interviews with Patrick Hemingway and with descendants of some Lost Generation figures, but most material comes from memoirs, biographies, and letters that have informed many other narratives.
Though not groundbreaking, Blume’s reimagining of 1920s Paris and its scandalous denizens is vivid, spirited, and absorbing.