I have a friend who recently said she wants to live like Hemingway. I immediately was disgusted by this, even though he was a remarkable writer. But what is a writer? What is it that makes a writer out of you? I think that Hemingway wrote brilliantly, but for me, to be remembered solely as a writer is not enough. It’s too romanticized for me; his life is portrayed too storybook. For all the beautiful words he put on a page, the words written about him were slightly ugly.
Hemingway was, by all brutal accounts, a womanizer and a drunk. He was a seasoned soldier, I’m sure having seen and endured the worst of humanity over and over again. I hear how our vets come home, and how affected our grandparents were, I can’t imagine the toll it takes. He had four wives, all of which he cheated on in order to marry the next. All of which he married within months or even weeks of his divorces being finalized. Stand up guy. And he drank so heavily it affected his health, his relationships, and I’m sure his sanity for most of his adult life. Alcohol is one of those drugs that alters a person to their core. It can change you in terrible ways, in so much that it can mutate your character and your soul.
I just don’t see how living a life this way is worth being as renowned as he was, and is. When I go, I want people to look back on who I was as a person and remember me for the joy I brought to people’s lives and the goodness I put into the world. I don’t want them to look back and see an estranged person, so inept at making relationships that they took a shotgun to their head.
It would be interesting to meet him, and see what his disposition was like. He had great friends: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and so many of the other great classical American writers. Were they all miserable? It seems a cliché to be a writer and be misunderstood and different. How do these people connect so well with our souls under this guise? Are we attracted to their misfortune? It is undoubtedly their misfortune that makes them great.
I don’t know. It’s a personal reaction, and I just thought to myself, “with all the world has to offer these days, a world where you have opportunity at every corner (or you create it yourself), why would you want to be anywhere but here?” I wouldn’t want to be in a world where women writers were not taken seriously, or what I want to write about is off limits. Don’t be a Hemingway, be a you. We had one of him already, give us something else to consider, something else to label classic.