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Seti The Great
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Joined: 04 December 2005
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Posted: 04 December 2005 at 2:16pm | IP Logged Quote Seti The Great

My best friends mother is a high school english teacher in California. She is always rambling on about her job, so one day I asked her if she teaches any Hemingway, assuming she did. She made a comical sneer and replied "No no, I would never teach anything that he wrote". Then she looked at me like I was stupid and said "Hemingway was a womanizing drunk you know? So I teach Jack London instead". Now I have heard that quip before and Jack London was a good writer, but he is not Ernest Hemingway. Anyone else get this kind of response when they mention E.H.

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Papa Cosa
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Posted: 04 December 2005 at 3:58pm | IP Logged Quote Papa Cosa

 

  Sure.  It's nothing new.  Since I was 18 and discovered Papa my mother was always complaining he was a drunk who committed suicide.  My wife complains about him too.  She doesn't care for his writing because he uses the word 'nigger' too much.  She doesn't care that it was a commonly used word back then.  She finds parts of his life interesting but despises the womanizer in him.  It's amazing how some people can look past the accomplishment while some can't becuase of some charcater flaw.  People do the same thing when it comes to Jack Kerouac. 

  Remind your friend's ma that London was a drunk as well.  See what she says.

  Plus, I have to admit that with some writers I can't look past some of their flaws to see any value in their writing or if I can I simply abandon them.

  Papa Cosa

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bookman
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Posted: 04 December 2005 at 4:07pm | IP Logged Quote bookman

It's a fairly typical response from some people who fail to separate the man from the artist. Even if it were true that he was a drunk womanizer (he wasn't), you would think an educator would judge the literature alone, not be prejudiced by her distorted perceptions of the man.
I've encountered this reaction to Hemingway many times. Invaribly, if pressed, I find out that the person hasn't really read any biography on him, and often not even his literature.
It's an impression based in ignorance, and it's a shame.

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Yando
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Posted: 04 December 2005 at 8:40pm | IP Logged Quote Yando

 

 

    I think Zelda  Fitzgerald  hated him  too.

She  called him a "pansy with hair on his chest."

 Well we  all know  now Zelda was  sick.

 

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hijo
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Posted: 05 December 2005 at 10:09am | IP Logged Quote hijo

Seti: your friend's mother should definitely read the man's stories, perhaps again if she hates him because she was forced to read him in school. Tell her to read "Islands," paying close attention to the description of a man and his sons, and "Soldiers Home." And ask her if she's ever been anywhere or done anything out of school. No, wait. Don't. No need for you to get in an argument with her. She's not your teacher, I hope.

Suggest she read Mark Twain and Joseph Conrad again as well - you too, Larry, have your wife read "Nigger of the Narcissus," and Henry James' "The Europeans," among others.

To base early to late 20th Century literature on late to early 20th Century moraes is detrimental to education and instruction.

Ask her to name the "pure" English literature writer who was neither on occasion in an altered mental state or unfaithful in mind or body if not in heart. In love stories, are male novelists only to write about their wives or monogomous relationships? Byron - not a chance. Cheever? Nope. Fitzgerald? Nope. Norman Mailer? Give me a break. Faulkner? nope.

What was the real wound preventing Jake Barnes from consumating his relationship with Brett? His war injury was a metaphor, for God's sake. It makes the story all the sadder to realize if he wasn't wounded he could do what his mind and heart want, and he thinks Brett wants, except for the tiny little fact of fidelity that Hemingway was struggling with at the time, I'll wager.

Ask her if she knows how and where London wrote his moving piece on the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906... (Hint: he wasn't there. That's how good a writer - and liar - he was).

Years ago I met a woman who said that if she'd been around Hemingway in his time, she'd have wanted to marry him. She understood him. She was a hard-bitten journo. My wife of 15 years read "Green Hills" and still raves about it to whomever will listen. She's a classical guitarist.

"In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it dull, and blunt, and in need of a grindstone than smooth and shiny and well oiled but unused, in a closet..."

On second thought, Seti, you and Larry maybe ought to read what I suggest you suggest this teacher read. Then you can note with authority she has a right to her opinion but it is always preferrable to base one's opinion on facts...

Which isn't to say I don't have some problems with perceived character flaws of the man's (EH's) personality, particularly after seeing his troubled middle son, Gregory, in an interview state like any child of a famous or not famous father: "all I ever really wanted was for him to love me."

Everybody has their own personality, but for a child to grow up believing from the beginning they're unloved doesn't sit well, at all, with me.

Best,
hijo
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Papa Cosa
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Posted: 05 December 2005 at 4:18pm | IP Logged Quote Papa Cosa

 

  I agree everyone has a right to their opinion but being a huge fan of Papa and hearing people blast him for silly reasons like those stated above always sits with me the wrong way.  I know Hemingway had his flaws.  As for a writer I avoid because of their personality traits - etc - I would say Allen Ginsburg.  He wrote some good stuff but the fact that he's a member of NAMBLA sickens me to no end.  But NAMBLA is a far more serious and disturning than alcoholism and adultery.

  Papa Cosa 

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rob on the job
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Posted: 07 December 2005 at 3:48pm | IP Logged Quote rob on the job

When I wrote for newspapers, I had a weekly feature wherein I would do someone else's job for a day. On one occasion, my job-for-the-day was teaching the English Lit class at a nearby and well-respected liberal arts university.

I thought I would teach the students how to write quick, punchy introductions that would compel people to finish the article. I had them all address the same topic: the death of Ernest Hemingway.

Many were pretty creative, but there was one student who wrote the most disparaging thing I have ever heard. The other students were not shocked.
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