15.12.08

Lives of the Papists: Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway
Ernie pretty much wrote one good novel in his prolific career. I say this as a compliment, as he wrote infinitely (or indeterminately?) more good books than most novelists, myself included. There were only ever really two contenders, the eternally inscrutable Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls, and everyone had to read the former in high school, so it gets disqualified.


I'm sure all the people out there who like to wonder about cholera find the character of Robert Jordan romantic in his stoicism and libido. And I'm sure all the Harold Bloom's find Pablo the most "literary" character, something about paradoxical ironical pathos or some crap like that, but I think both were a little too ambitious for Hemingway's temperament, one falling short of sublime, the other falling short of ironic, what with his usual repertoire consisting of bored people. In between these two poles Hemingway finds his ground, the hunters, the superstitious, the cowards and the stupidly courageous, all of which Ernie was or aspired to be, and which compose the real meat and strength of the story, demonstrating a heretofore unprecedented range in his ability to portray interesting characters.

I don't think Robert Jordan was, or was intended to be anything like Hemingway, and this is probably why the book is so much better than all his glorified memoirs, covert and otherwise. While Robert Jordan weathers shattered femurs and prospects of torture singlehandedly unloading his maquina into a seething mob of Fascists, Hemingway swallows his pistol when his ammunition is spent. Oh, and Robert Jordan does it all on endorphins and adrenaline. I imagine him to be Hemingway's messiah to some degree. Again, I find it all slightly high flown, but I personally believe the characters that found Hemingway out of his depth tilled the soil for his best creations, and even the bombastic creatures were members of one real attempt at something transcendent.

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