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Hemingway: A Biography Paperback – May 7, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Hemingway always insisted that he had the obligation to withhold his work from public view till it satisfied his stan dards. In a slender volume that traces Hemingway from boyhood through World War I and his first marriage, Griffin ignores those standards, print ing for the first time five inept, occa sionally silly pieces of post-adolescent fiction, only one of which (``Cross roads: an anthology'') even hints at Hemingway's mature genius. Griffin's other contribution is biographical. He establishes that Hemingway indeed had affairs with his wartime nurse, Agnes; and, while engaged to his first wife, with their mutual friend, Katy Smith. Otherwise, Griffin adds little of critical, interpretative, or biographical merit and does so without stylistic grace. Meyers's style is also pedestrian, but more serviceable. What he lacks in grace he makes up for with scrupulous honesty. Where Carlos Baker withheld information or veiled its implications, Meyers details fully. The portrait is not flattering but it is always believable and often pitiable. ``A man is essentially what he hides,'' Meyers writes, arguing that beneath the mask resided a ``re flective man of innate sensitivity.'' Many will agree; at its best, Heming way's prose supports that view. To prove his thesis, Meyers proceeds chronologically, interpolating special analyses ranging from literary battles to influences; from ethnic and sexual prej udices to religious beliefs; from paren tal relationships to the complex in volvement with wives and mistresses. Occasionally, Meyers enthralls, as when he records the FBI's ``pursuit'' of Hemingway. Too often, however, we learn too little that is new or insightful. Within its limits, Meyers's bulky vol ume nevertheless deserves attention and respect. Arthur Waldhorn, En glish Dept., City Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 734 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (May 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306808900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306808906
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeffrey Meyers is the author of Edgar Allen Poe: His Life and Legacy , Hemingway: Life into Art , Gary Cooper: An American Hero, Bogart, Edmund Wilson, and Joseph Conrad. He lives in California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 95 people found the following review helpful By timelesshemingway.com on February 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Carlos Baker is generally known as the founding father of Hemingway biographical studies. His 1969 biography, "Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story" is the so-called "authorized" Hemingway bio and it was the first book of its kind to explore the author's life. All subsequent biographers owe a great deal to Baker and the seven years he spent producing "Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story."
Calling Baker's bio the definitive bio of Ernest Hemingway is difficult though for several reasons. First of all, being published in 1969, the book is now outdated to a great degree. Second of all, a slew of other biographies have been published since 1969 and some are very formidable. Baker's book, in my humble opinion, is probably the most tediously researched biography of Hemingway. His "Notes" section is just over 100 pages.
If I had to recommend one standard Hemingway biography, I would likely choose "Hemingway: A Biography" by Jeffrey Meyers. I have read many Hemingway biographies and in comparing them, the work of Meyers does stand out. He offers details not present in other bios and provides fine commentary on EH's literature. Meyers gets as close to definitive as I think one can come in a single book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on August 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Mexican beer, Dos Equis, has reportedly experienced over 20% growth since launching their hilarious marketing campaign featuring a mature, bearded man who "is often questioned by police just because they find him interesting" and who's "blood smells like cologne."

The inspiration for this contemporary advertising marvel is clearly Ernest Hemingway (who incidentally later in his life endorsed Ballatine Beer in the US). And Jeffrey Meyers' marvelous biography of the writer generally confirms that heroic, manly caricature; a hulking, hirsute stud who perspired pure testosterone while running with the bulls, boxing with local toughs, reeling in half-ton marlins in the Gulf stream, hunting lions and elephants in Africa, fighting the fascists in Spain and France/Germany, and bedding an endless string of beautiful women, who were dangerously mature when he was a young man and dangerously young when he was in his twilight years. (Here is a Hemingway quote, which may be my very favorite: "I [fornicated with] every woman I wanted to [fornicate with] and many I didn't, and would like think I [fornicated them] well.") He is, for sure, a model of envy and emulation for any red blooded but morally ambiguous young man.

There was so much about this book that I loved. Here are three simple endorsements.

First, Meyers' presents a complete and unadorned portrait of the master. In no way is Hemingway idolatrized, nor is he necessarily vilified. He was larger-than-life, largely because that is the life image he created for himself. He could be fun and self-effacing, the boisterous but interesting man toward whom the floor seemed to tilt during a cocktail party.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Konrei on November 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jeffrey Meyers' eponymous biography of Ernest Hemingway is, as some have made it, a saltier companion to Carlos Baker's masterful 1969 definitive authorized biography. Meyers is not overly adoring of his subject and gives us a different view of Hemingway. Still, although Meyers is grittier than Baker and manages to dig deeper into Hemingway's complex and contradictory personality, he is not gritty enough nor does he dig deep enough to displace Baker as the biographer nonpareil.

And neither does he capture the reader's imagination. HEMINGWAY: A BIOGRAPHY presents Ernest Hemingway in surprisingly muted tones, especially considering the almost cartoonish excesses to which Hemingway could drive himself. This is a very competent and workmanlike biography. However, its pacing and voice are didactic and dry and its portrait of the artist lacks color. Like twenty other books about the man, HEMINGWAY: A BIOGRAPHY belongs on the shelf as part of a well-rounded collection, but can replace none of them.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mark S. Roupe on April 4, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Now being well into my fifties, being in good health, and financially sound I have had the opportunity to study my favorite author. I have already traveled to his old haunts in Italy, London, and Paris (Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore) but I needed more in the way of in a truly great biography.

So I decided to buy the biography of EH by J. Meyers after this book was recommended to me by a EH scholar in Paris.

Anyway, what I wanted was a book that would give me insight into what kind man EH was all about. Where did he get his passion and his energy? Did he have a temper? What did he drink? What hours did he keep? Why did his love relationships fail? When did his health go bad? Why was he so prone to accidents?

This book that gave me more than his life's history and I think you will have a good read, too. BTW, Key West and having a go at deep sea fishing is next of my list of things to do. This is a buy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Clagett on November 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have loved Hemingway's stories for a long time, and wanted to learn a little about the man who made them. I did not exactly get what I wanted from Myer's book. I learned A LOT about him instead. This book is rich in detail and critical analysis of both Hemingway's life and his work.

It is NOT some adoring cartoonish portrait. It is Hemingway stripped raw, and you will feel like you knew him. Whether you like what you see is another thing. He had a fascinating and complex life, but he was full of character flaws and his life was full of sadness and broken relationships. Myers does a very good job of portraying both the greatness and the sadness of his life in equal measure.

My only criticism is Myer's style. He plunges right into each paragraph and section without a warmup to let you know what the topic will be, and I think the book could have been better organized. It groups events based on certain time periods or influences rather than going straight through in chronological fashion. That leads to confusion at points. Sometimes he refers to a person by their first name when they haven't been mentioned for 25 pages and you have to think about who the heck he is talking about. And he talks about other authors of the time period as if we know their writings already. I would also have loved more pictures so we can see the people being discussed, but in the age of the internet you can find them on your own.

Despite the length, and despite the fact it is was way more than I wanted, I could not stop reading it. I do not think the average reader will be disappointed to get as much detail as you get. You need it to get the real picture of a very complex person. I dogeared about 20-30 of the pages I will want to reread many times, or be able to refer to later. Much of the detail is that good.

All in all, I can confidently recommend this book to anyone wanting to know who Ernest Hemingway really was.
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