gall and gumption

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Real Man

Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns, and Money notices an almost obsessive preoccupation with masculinity in Death in the Afternoon. I started writing a comment and it got away from me and then it was too long for the comment box. Just as well, really. Here it is:

I've never been able to read Death in the Afternoon because accounts of animal suffering give me nightmares. But I can speak from A Moveable Feast, that conversation between Hemingway and Gertrude Stein on the subject of male homosexuality. The men that he professed to dislike were not effeminate; they were even more he-man than himself, the guys who lived and worked in logging camps or on construction projects in the wilds of Michigan. Orwell, I think in Down and Out in Paris and London, has a long passage about how men who are solitary and down and out are invisible to women. They are isolated in this all-male world, lonely and sexually frustrated. As we know from all those awful prison jokes, men so isolated have sex with one another. I do not think you could state this explicity in a book intended for the general reader in Orwell's lifetime: you could only circle around it. That is, the woods and dark alleys and lonely country roads were scary for men for the exact same reason they were scary for women. Unwanted sexual attention occurs. I think in that conversation with Gertrude Stein Hemingway is trying to explain this, referring, obliquely, to encounters he may have had in Michigan.

But I do think that Hemingway's apparent preoccupation with his masculinity is more accurately a preoccupation with authenticity; even Hemingway's admirers often misunderstood this difference, and a whole genre of "hard-boiled" imitation Hemingway emerged out of this misunderstanding. Hemingway spent a good part of his life on the edge of a nervous breakdown. There appears to have been a family predisposition to frighteningly severe clinical depression. Hemingway's father committed suicide, as did Hemingway and one of his granddaughters. You can see it in his novels: his protagonists are drawn to model themselves, or simply buddy up to, people they judge to be more authentic and "whole" than themselves, who are usually so by virtue of their intense involvement in art or sport. (There's real insight in this; these activities demand intense concentration, which is one of the best ways of tricking oneself out of depression, at least temporarily.) Hemingway treats his "inauthentic" characters with unmitigated scorn. And then, his writing style itself, there is a dogged stripping out of all ornamentation, of anything that might appear to have come to him from somewhere else--basically, from other literature tainted with phoniness. Sure, this particular strategy was one theme of the modernism of Pound and Stein and the other mentors, the rejection of pre-war cultural forms etc. But with Hemingway I think there's more in it than that; for me, reading his most "Hemingwayesque" prose is like watching someone chewing their fingernails till they bleed. It makes A Farewell To Arms absolutely unreadable for me.

6 Comments:

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Chuckling said...

I so want to make an intelligent comment, but unfortunately haven't read all that much Hemingway. Pretty much only "A Moveable Feast," which I liked but don't think is typical of the stereotypical Hemingway style. I like the stereotypical Hemingway style, btw, but was never able to finish any of his major works. I like style, but I guess I'm more into story. Nevertheless, your essay makes me want to give "Death in the Afternoon" another go.

But something about your observations made me wonder if you've ever read Knut Hamsun? Maybe something to do with the question of the authentic male. I'd be really curious to know what you think of the Glahn character in "Pan." I'd rate him as perhaps the most authentic male character in literature. That's not saying much, I know...

Oh well, nice essay as usual. Thanks.

 
At 8:59 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Thanks for reminding me about Hamsun. When I was in my teens my mother gave me a copy of "Hunger" and I tried reading it but it went right over my head. I should give him another go.

A Moveable Feast is not in that "Hemingway" style. I really like most of the short stories, especially some of the Nick Adams ones. I'd recommend those for sure. The Sun Also Rises is OK too. No, better than OK, but all the issues are there. And if you do read Death in the Afternoon let me know what you think.

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger 柯云 said...

2015-12-28keyun
canada goose
cheap oakley sunglasses
michael kors outlet
louis vuitton bags
cheap air jordans
uggs sale
timberlands
michael kors outlet
kevin durant shoes
rolex watches
michael kors outlet store
ray ban sunglasses
michael kors outlet
ugg boots
ugg outlet store
coach factory outlet
louboutin femme
oakley sunglasses
mont blanc mountain
cheap oakley sunglasses
ugg boots sale
mulberry uk
sunglasses oakley
louis vuitton handbags
lebron 12
air max 95
ralph lauren outlet
giuseppe zanotti outlet
ugg boots sale
nike air huarache
hollister clothing
ugg australia
tory burch outlet
ralph lauren sale
louis vuitton handbags
nike running shoes for men
oakley sunglasses
ugg outlet
tiffany jewelry
louis vuitton outlet

 
At 8:56 PM, Blogger Chen Zhiqin said...

miami heat jersey
nike outlet
jordan 4
jordan 11
nike outlet store
titans jersey
supra shoes sale
pittsburgh steelers jerseys
cincinnati bengals jerseys
chicago bears jersey
oakland raiders jersey
san antonio spurs
new england patriots jersey
new york jets jersey
ferragamo shoes
new england patriots jerseys
tods shoes sale
atlanta falcons jersey
mac cosmetics sale
los angeles lakers jersey
miami dolphins jersey
new york knicks jersey
arizona cardinals jersey
golden state warriors jerseys
ed hardy clothing
baltimore ravens jerseys
dallas cowboys jerseys
nike mercurial
new york knicks
instyler ionic styler
czq20160629

 
At 8:56 PM, Blogger raybanoutlet001 said...

true religion jeans
nike huarache
michael kors outlet
seattle seahawks jerseys
versace shoes
yeezy boost 350 black
atlanta falcons jersey
christian louboutin shoes
cleveland cavaliers
ecco shoes

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger raybanoutlet001 said...

san antonio spurs
michael kors outlet
ed hardy clothing
steelers jerseys
adidas nmd runner
air jordan uk
nike trainers uk
ray ban sunglasses
hugo boss sale
rolex watches
2017.6.23

 

Post a Comment

<< Home