It can be argued that Ernest Hemingway was one of those authors that turned their own life into a story they were writing and selling.
Whether it was a conscious effort or an unplanned consequence of a number of circumstances I cannot say, but it’s certain that “Hemingway” was not just a set of books, but also a style, an attitude, a lifestyle.
A brand and a platform, modern marketeers might say.
Look at all those photographs.
We don’t have as many shots of, say, Raymond Chandler or Dorothy Parker, they are not so widely circulated.
It is not surprising then if Ernest Hemingway became the subject of other people’s fiction.
Two nights ago I read in a single sitting Cayos in the Stream, by Harry Turtledove, a novella about Hemingway chasing a submarine, during World War Two.
It’s short and compact and I guess Hemingway would have approved of the style, if not of the merciless (and yet sympathetic) analysis of the writer’s mindset and inner contradictions.
But who knows, he was a complex man.
A great read, Turtledove’s book, that reminded me of The Crook Factory, a thriller by Dan Simmons that covers more or less the same period – Hemingway in Cuba, his work for the American intelligence – but in 400 pages instead of 40.
Once again we have espionage, and German spies, and Hemingway eagerness to bag a himself a Nazi trophy.
Another excellent read, another take on the same subject – a man trying to be a hero because that’s everything he ever wanted to be. A big damn hero, to use a Firefly quote.
Simmons’ book is, of course, a lot more complicated than Turtledove novella – more characters, more events, a different style and a different intent. The Crook Factory is a historical spy thriller, while Cayos in the Stream is an alternate history story.
And yet at the core of both sits the same character, who made such a good job of building his own legend that, despite the authors being different, and the stories being different, and their tone and purpose being different, Hemingway is still Hemingway.
Towering, cynical and yet fragile, reckless in a very studied way, manipulative, self-centered and in the end weak and fragile, a victim of his own legend.
Both books are highly recommended.
Hemingway vs the Nazi should be the major selling point, if nothing else.