ERNEST HEMINGWAY: A Biography
by Mary V. Dearborn
At the age of seventeen I read A Farewell to Arms. I endured the vivid descriptions of war while embracing the passionate relationship between Catherine and Frederic. The final page of the novel, in my estimation, is one of the more moving in modern literature. Despite my love of this book I was not a Hemingway fan. I found the reputation of a man who reveled in watching bulls die in a dusty ring, deserted one wife after another, and cultivated a macho image distasteful.
I’m currently working on a novel where a number of literary giants from the 20th Century meet in a fictional place and time. Hemingway is one of the writers. At first he was accorded a cameo, but his complex personality demanded more. I committed to reading articles, interviews and biographies in order to deepen and expand his character. Mary V. Dearborn’s biography is by far the finest biography I’ve read. Her book is well researched, and her pace and use of language immediately drew me in. Dearborn cracked the shell of clichés that has, for me, encased Hemingway all these years. I must add that for a woman to write about Hemingway without the need to advance his overt manly image was refreshing.
While I’ve read of his wounds during World War I as an ambulance driver in Italy, it wasn’t until I read Dearborn’s biography that I learned of his two other traumatic brain injuries, or that Martha Gellhorn was the only wife who asked for a divorce and how deeply it hurt him. Hemingway craved the spotlight, he had an insatiable desire for alcohol and shooting a variety of species, and yet loneliness plagued him. His devotion and dedication to writing to the best of his abilities is admirable and can never be denied. Dearborn’s biography gives readers the best picture yet of a troubled man and a fearless writer.