Anybody going to watch the Ken Burns Hemingway Documentary on PBS?

One thing I forgot to mention in my earlier posts is the fact Hemingway was probably the first celebrity author (i.e., a writer whose public image becomes more famous than anything he or she writes). This is not to say Hemingway didn’t write anything well known or worthwhile but how many people primarily associate with him his novels and short stories rather than his adventurer lifestyle? That’s why I found his lack of recorded interviews so surprising. Celebrity authors are usually all over the media hopping from one talk show to the next telling stories and giving their opinions about everything. That made his encouragement of J.D. Salinger especially interesting because Salinger, while famous, was the opposite of a celebrity author.

He was of the generation of Joyce and Faulkner. As a writer, he couldn’t carry their jockstraps. His greatest contribution was a mediocre novel, To Have And Have Not, which Howard Hawks, Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall transformed into one of the best films ever.

Is anyone else puzzled by the claim that Hemingway’s mother (Grace) earned more as a music and voice teacher than did her physician husband Clarence?

They said Grace had given up a promising career as a performer to marry Clarence, so she may have been really talented, and possibly also a really good teacher.

Physicians may have made less ca. 1900 than they did later in the century, with the increases in licensing and greater capabilities of medicine being discovered. The family lived in an affluent Chicago suburb, so there would have been clients nearby. Maybe Clarence was a lousy doctor?

My wife and I are moving slowly through the series before we fall asleep at night.

My previous impression based on the myth was that the man was an ass. Still is but I have more empathy for how he became that way from the first two eps alone.

Which writer was “better” I won’t argue, having never seen the appeal of either Joyce or Faulkner’s writing myself but knowing that better minds than mine appreciate them. But biggest impact on fiction writing that followed? That I think goes to Hemingway.

1900 was before the 1910 Flexner Report which ripped medical education and the practice of medicine an orifice few had previously been anatomically aware of. Medical schools were mostly “proprietary schools” and relatively few practicing physicians were the product of what we’d call medical schools today (then Johns Hopkins pretty much as the only one). The '20s was when the profession became, well, a profession. I can’t find exact numbers but most doctors then did not make that much money.

Hard disagree. I think Hemingway’s writing is far more relatable and accessible than Joyce and Faulkner. But those two make you sound smarter when you name-drop them. To me Joyce and Faulkner are the kind of writers people talk more about than actually read. But…to each his own, right?

Yes - the medical profession as we know it now is actually a fairly recent development. See here. From the link:

Between 1860 and 1900, medical education was in its infancy. The classical higher education curriculum was not complimenting medicine because they failed to recognize the development of the sciences and social sciences. Admissions standards were incredibly low, and for many medical schools, there wasn’t even a need for a high school diploma. Many medical schools had less preliminary education requirements than theology or law schools, and this was typically because students could not usually afford an undergraduate degree, and then attend medical school. [4] The American Medical Association started influencing the medical education in the 1880s with the introduction of state licensing laws, and it “formed a Committee on Medical Education (CME) as one of its first actions.” [5] It was also in the 1880s that we see a formal entrance requirement, which included written and oral exams for the clinical skills and the classical skills.

I really have to disagree with jaycat as well. Hemingway created a new template for a clean, modern writing style that’s influenced many writers since.

I think Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain just might disagree.

Yes, I saw that. I assume it was related to the film of For Whom the Bell Tolls, which she starred in with Gary Cooper.

I once read an article by one of the sons (possibly Patrick) in Playboy around 1968. He remembered EH as a good father, kindly and attentive despite pain from injuries (and hangovers). He described his father’s strenuous physical regimen, and expressed an opinion that has definitely not held up well: if you worked out (and fished and hunted) as hard as Papa did, you could drink as much as you wanted. I guess, until you keel over at 61.

It was good to learn more about the dustup with author Max Eastman (I’d read a much less detailed account in a Bennett Cerf collection) which really demonstrated how insecure Hemingway was, to get so POed at Eastman’s comments (especially in light of the vitriol he spewed about other writers). It also demonstrated his lack of character, to assault a smaller man almost old enough to be his father.

There was an incident I had hoped to hear about in the doc: In his biography of boxing champion Jack Dempsey, Roger Kahn asked Dempsey whether he’d ever avoided fighting any professional challengers. Dempsey replied that he had not, “but I did duck one writer”: Ernest Hemingway had once asked Dempsey to spar a friendly round with him. Dempsey did sometimes grant such requests, but he declined this one. He had a feeling that Hemingway wanted to turn it from a friendly event into a “shoot”, to claim bragging rights of decking the champ, or worse. Dempsey of course would have had no problem preventing an amateur from doing any damage. But he was concerned that to do that, he might have needed to hurt Hemingway, and he didn’t want to be known as the brute who clobbered the illustrious writer. Kahn speculated further that Hemingway may have said things of an anti-Semitic nature (Dempsey had a Jewish great-grandmother) trying to goad him into the ring. All in all, not out of character for Papa. Or Dempsey.

I’ve been a Hemingway fan (his writing) since I was a teenager, so most of the stuff here wasn’t new to me. But I absolutely loved the footage with Sylvia Beach when she claimed Hemingway “liberated Paris.” Great bookend to his time there in the 20s. I didn’t know she was still there when Paris was liberated and the fact that they ran into each other was pretty cool.

They were all early celebrity writers, yes, but the only one about whom the descriptor “a writer whose public image becomes more famous than anything he or she writes” is probably only applicable to Oscar Wilde. I’m not sure that either Dickens or Twain were figures of public fascination during their lifetimes.

I’ve seen zero evidence that Hemingway was anti-Semitic, other than his unflattering portrayal of the Jewish character Robert Cohn in The Sun Also Rises. One character in one book out of his dozens of published works.

Indeed they were. Both toured extensively and gave public (and lucrative) readings to huge crowds.

An interesting 1998 Joan Didion essay on Hemingway’s writing, and the pitfalls of editing and publishing it posthumously: Hemingway’s Mysterious, Thrilling Style | The New Yorker