Thursday, December 22, 2016

Best of 2016: Behind the scenes with Hemingway

Reviewed by Jim C.,
Reference Librarian

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, by Leslie M.M. Blume

The Sun Also Rises was one of my favorite high school books. I don’t mind seeing holes punched in plaster saints, so I was interested to read Everyone Behaves Badly, an account of the real events that inspired Hemingway’s book, as well as the story of his becoming a published author.

The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s first successful novel. It was closely based on events that happened during a 1925 trip he had organized with some Paris buddies to see the bullfights and fiesta in Pamplona, Spain. Although the character names were changed, Hemingway rendered the bad behavior of some of the participants (Duff Twysden, Harold Loeb and Pat Guthrie) in some detail, in a way that made them recognizable to people who knew them. But he skipped over some of his own.

While the Hemingways attended the fiesta and Ernest wrote the book, they lived off the trust fund of Ernest's wife Hadley (he had stopped working as a journalist), but Hemingway left Hadley out of The Sun Also Rises as a character. While revising the book, he started an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer. The Hemingways finally broke up as the novel was being published, though Ernest Hemingway did assign all royalties from the book to Hadley and their son. Pauline, who then became Hemingway’s second wife, also had a trust fund, which made it convenient for hanging out at cafés and traveling around Europe.

Hemingway had a general habit of using people and then breaking with them once their usefulness was over. This applied not only to the people who went on his 1925 Pamplona trip, but also to mentors such as Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. Everybody Behaves Badly depicts the famous Paris in the '20s, with the back-stabbing left in.

Besides bad behavior, Everybody Behaves Badly also gives an account of how Hemingway came up with his “iceberg theory” style of writing.

Great artists are better people than the rest of us. Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so.

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