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June 01, 2006

hemingway: a short conversation


I did not want to believe it. I could not believe it. Hemingway in drag - impossible. But it was true.

My son Steven, a journalist and music critic for a newspaper in a city not far from Milwaukee, and I were having a nice discussion about two weeks ago when the subject of favorite writers came up.

"You know dad, I read that Hemingway's mother dressed him in girls clothes when he was young and that is why many people believe he was so adamant about being perceived as a man's man."

"No, it is not true. I never heard of such a thing", I protested.

Steven is not one to give up a debate easily especially with his old man, but it was my birthday and he felt charitable. He let me have the last word and I felt uneasy. Steven was too sure of himself. The conversation haunted me until I could stand it no longer.

I found evidence that Hemingway's mother dressed him in girls clothes like his twin sister but this seemed to have stopped by the time he was three. He was such a complex individual; it is difficult to say that this alone shaped his character. When he was once asked what he felt was essential to a writer’s career, he replied, "a rotten childhood".


When his mother died, he refused to go to her funeral and, many times, he stated that he hated his mother's guts. Did this cause the depression he suffered late in his life?

Why did he decide to blow his brains out with a shotgun in 1961? Did his father's suicide have a fatal attraction to him? Hemingway asked his brother to send him the pistol that his father used to kill himself. Many of his short stories has a morbid tone where the main or one of the main characters dies a violent death.

Hemingway's unrully schock of black hair and confident swagger in the graduation photo from 1917 is gone by the time he writes The Old and the Sea in 1951. Instead we see the brooding cynical face of a man who looks much older than his years. The beginings of his long alcholic aided slide into deep depression is very evident in the cover photo from 1952.

No one will really know the cause for his madness but one fact remains. He was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. I read his short stories over and over again. My favorite is "My Old Man".

Posted by roadapples at June 1, 2006 01:27 PM

Good to see you back on air...Haven't had a chance to read ur posts but will when time allows..Tj

Posted by: Tjilpi [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 04:40 AM

When did this get posted?

Anyway, your blog picture reminded me of this picture of Hemingway, even before I read this post.

Posted by: Paul at June 8, 2006 10:13 AM

I agree with you about Hemingway. Who can't like For Whom The Bell Tolls?

Posted by: Euclid [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2006 03:05 AM