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bookman
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Posted: 19 January 2006 at 11:49pm | IP Logged Quote bookman

Elsewhere on this board there was a plug for the above book by Charles Whiting(a British military historian), which is being re-published. I had a copy which I hadn't read, so decided to give it a try.
It's one of the worst examples of Hemingway bashing I've ever read. Whiting sets his tone early on in the first chapter when Hemingway arrives in England, describing him as a hypochondriac and pathological liar,"Grossly overweight, face blotched and patched with heavy drinking,...", then later in the book, adds such descriptions as "drunken lout".
Whiting makes much ado about Hemingway's dislike of the English, but it is clear the feeling is mutual.
Whiting's purpose for the book seems to be to explode the "Hemingway Legend" surrounding his exploits in WWll, but he goes so far with his sarcasm and disparaging tone toward Hemingway, that it is hard to take seriously.
Whiting mocks Hemingway for suffering from bouts of impotence, as he trys to consumate his affair with Mary Welch. Then Whiting offers up some of biographer Kenneth Lynn's psycho-babble to explain Hemingway's problem. "Four of the five women who had been his mistresses became his wives..." (It's hard to think of Hadley as EH's "mistress". They had a traditional courtship, then he married her.) Whiting continues,questioning Hemingway's masculinity, "Thereafter, he had picked women whose figures were slim as boys, and whose hair was cut short, even cropped, when it was no longer fashionable for women to wear their hair like that."
The problem with that statement is that Pauline was indeed fashionable for the times(the 1920"s). Look at the pictures of her, Hadley, Lady Duff Twysden, etc., in Pamplona--they all wore their hair short. And there certainly was nothing boy-like about Jane Mason(presumably the 5th mistress Whiting refers to), or about Martha Gellhorn(who had long hair, by the way).
Whiting faults Hemingway for not reporting the war very completely in Colliers(fair enough), but then rips him later on for not "reporting" it accurately when he wrote it into the novel "Across The River and Into the Trees", as fiction. I'm not sure what it is about "fiction" that Whiting doesn't understand, but he seems to want it both ways throughout the book.
Whiting may write well on military history, but his contempt for Hemingway completely overshadows any merit the book might have had.

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Steve Newman
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Posted: 27 January 2006 at 3:00am | IP Logged Quote Steve Newman

Charles Whiting's 'Hemingway Goes To War' is certainly a book with a point of view, and remember Whiting fought in Europe during 1944 and 1945, with both the British and American armies, and knew first hand the horrors and conditions well. He is no arm chair historian, nor was he able - like most of the men who did the real fighting - to nip back to the Ritz in Paris when it suited him.

Hemingway was a man who dished out criticism and vitriol as and when it pleased him; and Whiting's criticism is, on the whole, justified, but it is also criticism born out of love for a writer he admired and once met.

And let's be honest Hemingway was also big enough to take such criticism on the chin, and with a smile.

Like Hemingway Charles Whiting is also a master of fiction, as well as military history, with over 300 titles to his credit. He is also not afraid to say what he thinks openly and not hide behind anonymity.

    

   



Edited by Steve Newman on 27 January 2006 at 3:08am


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bookman
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Posted: 27 January 2006 at 7:19pm | IP Logged Quote bookman

Ouch!
You plugged the book on a message board for Hemingway enthusiasts, presumably to get us to read it. With the "point of view" it takes, it's sure to elicit some criticism. I doubt it's just me. I think anyone who admires Hemingway would have problems with the tone and personal attacks on his character.
And Papa, were he alive, would never have taken it on the chin and smiled.

Edited by bookman on 27 January 2006 at 7:24pm
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hijo
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Posted: 27 January 2006 at 11:23pm | IP Logged Quote hijo

Have to read it, but it sounds actually like something EH, in a natural/normal moment, might find amusing, and who knows, might even have agreed with partially, as in "I guess I would have thought I was being that way too..." sort of way.

But I wonder if it was written post-The Garden Of Eden, in which EH describes a character experimenting with gender-reversal in lovemaking...

Regardless of his personality - and I'm not sure why we insist on taking offense at someone bashing that, considering most of us never actually knew or met him, and tend to read into his fiction what we perhaps believe to be his reality - he was a hell of a writer, far ahead of his time, which is why I admire him.

From the biographies etc I've read, he seemed to be generous of heart, sensitive, and a great friend, but also (bipolarly?) not the nicest to those he disagreed with or felt challenged by, nor the most convincing to his children (still can't get over Gregory's description: "All I ever wanted was for him to love me...").

Something to live up to, probably. Something to overcome, perhaps....

Best,
hijo
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Steve Newman
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Posted: 28 January 2006 at 2:41am | IP Logged Quote Steve Newman

Of course I want Hemingway enthusiasts to read the book, because they are, for the most part I'm sure (as hijo suggests) honest enough to accept that Hemingway was a many faceted character who, certainly during his time in Europe in 1944, showed himself to be brave, hugely patriotic, and useful at times to military intelligence, yet at the same time foolish and dangerous to know, and a man who broke all the rules concerning the conduct of war correspondents, especially the one about not carrying firearms. That action alone could have put the lives of other correspondents into jeopardy. And let's not forget that Hemingway was, in October 1944, effectively courts-martialled for that particular offence.

Now look, I love Hemingway too (although he exasperates me in equal measure) but as a writer (and I have tried to show my love, his generousity, and also my exasperation in my online serial about him) and publisher I can't ignore those sides of Hemingway that displease me and should displease all honest admirers of the man and his work. Hemingway himself would not have wanted that.

Charles Whiting's book has a strong point of view but is nonetheless a damned good read and a volume that tells us a good deal about Hemingway the man during a period of danger, confusion, evil, and massive human peril.

    



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Posted: 28 January 2006 at 7:49pm | IP Logged Quote docnme

HI Hijo,

I have read on your other posts, "All I ever wanted was for him to love me..." I never thought too much about it the first time because I also know that Gregory had great problems, and who knows why?  One day last week my son stopped for a visit and we were discussing some important Hemingway issues and something was said that reminded me of your statement. I told him.  He said,  "Just because Gregory said that it does not mean that it was true, maybe he believed that he wasn't loved , that still does not mean that it is so."  Maybe noone or nothing would have convinced him that he was loved."Most people, especially young people and people who are not very adult or mature often think they are not loved (even for a short time) for many many reasons. It is also used as an excuse sometimes for our own failures.  You know, the old blame game, because when I was a kid...As for anyone growing up thinking that they are not loved is a terrible thing, but it happens to many and most cope somehow, learn as they grow and have a reasonably satisfied life. 

Those children were some of the very fortunate...in many ways, as far as being exposed to a good life especially during the years they were brought up. Compare to what some of the other children of the time were exposed to during the depression etc. It seems they could have gleaned out a fairly happy life even with some of the other chaos they lived through. I have seen so many others who grew up with nothing and no exposure to the good things in life and yet go so much farther.

Not to ramble on, but just because he said that in an interview, does not make it so.  Just another point of view.  (CHOICE)

Best regards,

Ramona



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hijo
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Posted: 03 February 2006 at 9:49pm | IP Logged Quote hijo

Ramona: you're absolutely right.

However, considering the fact EH's children - all sons - spent most of their childhoods at either boarding schools or with their mothers, rather than with EH as he traveled the world and gained fame and fortune, and was seen as a symbol of the solid, stoid, masculine manly-man, with a different woman on a variety of visits, the statement struck me more in terms of an explanation for his (Gregory's) life choices than anything anyone has reported of him.

Of course, one tends to read much into the statements of others and, when I saw him say it in the interview, and my nearly at the time infant son was asleep in his room, I reflected on having heard from an uncle about my grandfather who I'd never met.

My grandfather was with my father until my father was 10 years old. My grandfather told my father to wait on a corner of a street in south Detroit in 1933 when they were out for a walk and to not move until he came back from some errand across the street.

My grandfather then left for California, where he started another family with someone he met in Detroit. My grandmother took a trip across the country to California about a year later to try and reconcile with my grandfather, who was beginning his new life and new family.

As far as I know, my father never heard from my grandfather after that, though both served in World War II, as did siblings my father didn't even know he had until meeting them in a family reunion in 1988.

The point is, much of how my father coped with the world was explained to me when my uncle told me about how my grandfather went to California and left my father. I wish my father had told me when he was alive, because much I hadn't understood or misunderstood about the way he dealt with my own childhood, and that of my brother, suddenly became clear.

Really, I'm still just trying to point out that most of us (you and your family of course excepted) really know very little about the man as a man, and yet we insist on chafing and defending any aspersions as if we just were with him yesterday and he would be offended at such suggestions.

Who knows how well children ever know their parents? Not me. Especially when their parents make it a point of not revealing much about themselves. It's natural (I'm learning) for children to want to be loved, and for children to try and strive for acceptance from their parents, and to regret anything that may have gotten in the way of that once their parents are dead.

I only know like many I wished I'd had more time to know my own father, and he in turn never had an opportunity after he turned 10 to know his father. And it seems, whether real or imagined, Gregory, at least, either didn't know his father or felt his father had never known him well enough.

Anyway, like the all stories, Gregory's ended in death. I merely wanted to note that it is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that one could enjoy a book on military history, or by a military historian, that purports a different glimpse of personality than what we prefer to see.

Without meaning to offend.

Allbest,
hijo
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Posted: 04 February 2006 at 12:44pm | IP Logged Quote Papa Cosa

 

  There's one thing that always bothered me about Hemingway fans who can't take any negative statement made about the man.  He wasn't a god - he was human.  Nobody is perfect.  As for hem being overweight and a drunk?  It was my impression that he was.  I've seen pictures of him during that time and he certainly wasn't trim.  I think to appreciate the man we must look at him as a whole.  Only then can we learn the most.  Blind devotion is not the way to go. 

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Steve Newman
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Posted: 04 February 2006 at 1:01pm | IP Logged Quote Steve Newman

The sentiments expressed by Papa Cosa and Hijo are spot on, and to accept Hemingway with all his faults results in a much better, and richer, understanding of the man and the writer.

I remember when I first read Charles Whiting's book, 'Hemingway Goes To War', back in the 1990s it was like a breath of fresh air, and a great inspiration to me during the writing and rehearsing of my play about Hemingway, 'Across The River'.

You can never stop genuinely great people from being great, and Charles' book only adds to that greatness by stripping away some of the nonesense.

 

 

 



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Posted: 04 February 2006 at 3:10pm | IP Logged Quote bookman

Papa,
You mis-construe my criticism of the book. I've read extensively on the man, I suspect as much as most of you, and have always accepted him, "warts and all". A good Hemingway scholar gives a more balanced portrayal of his strengths and weaknesses, though.
It's all in the tone and interpretation, I guess. But I think you can say someone is alcoholic without calling him a drunken lout. Or make fun of his beard, which EH describes as covering up some skin cancer from the sun (a possibility since he'd just spent the last fifteen years or so in Key West and Cuba, much of the time out on the sea). Whiting decides the beard is to cover up the ravages of the alcohol. Okay. However, the same alcohol couldn't have caused Hemingway's bouts of impotence with women. No, that must be because he secretly preferred boys.... You get my drift. The book's over the top. Read it and you'll see what I mean. (Note- it is entertaining.)
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