Hemingway, a Biography

Jeffrey Meyers, Author, Frank Ronan, Photographer HarperCollins Publishers $27.5 (644p) ISBN 978-0-06-015437-0
There was a cartoon famous some 35 years ago that depicted an editor returning a manuscript to a crestfallen author: ""But you have a wonderful style; Hemingway's, isn't it?'' In this critical bigraphy, Meyers, a professor at the University of Colorado and author of some 20 books, charts the life of the man who created that ``wonderful,'' innovative style imitated by so many over the decades. It was virtually a new language, seemingly simplistic but carefully forged and intensely suggestive. Hemingway himself was flamboyant and hugely personable, and, in his prime, had the good looks of a movie star. The understated tone of his writing was identified with his image and an attitude toward life and loss that he seemed to exemplify. It is amazing that this Midwesterner, with only a high-school education, should, in his mid-20s, have been crony of the likes of Joyce, Pound and Gertrude Stein, as well as other literary notables who colored expatriate Paris after the Great War. Hemingway became not only the best known of the lot, but quite simply one of the most famous people in the world. He assiduously courted that fame and it was among the things that eventually undid him. Among the telling details in the life of this man, who created himself as the personification of maleness, is that his mother dressed him as twin to his sister until he was three. By five he was a ``soldser'' who, when asked what he was afraid of, would shout, `` 'fraid of nothin.'' Norman Mailer, whom Meyers terms ``the hip pocket Hemingway of our time,'' wrote sympathetically that Hemingway's life had been heroic, that he had struggled with cowardice always and that ``his inner landscape was a nightmare. . . . It is possible that he carried a weight of anxiety with him that would have suffocated any man smaller than himself.'' Meyers's biography in no way replaces Carlos Baker's massive 1969 achievement, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, but it is marvelously rich in new, revealing anecdote and it deservedly stands beside Baker's as a saltier and less discreet companion volume. Photos not seen by PW. 20,000 first printing. October 23
Reviewed on: 10/01/1985
Release date: 10/01/1985
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