In Marty Beckerman’s new book The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested Retro-Sexual Legend Within, Just Like Papa!, he mocks the dumb macho imitators Hemingway spawned and restores Hemingway’s stature as the Most Interesting Man in the World.
I sat down to drink beer by the gallon and consume heart-attack inducing red meat with Beckerman to discuss why the Heming Way and today’s male are both so very dumb.
Hemingway is known for his achievements and literary immortality, but he must have done a lot of dumb stuff in his day too.
He had a lifelong ability to shoot himself or fall off his boat. One time a skylight came crashing down on his head, randomly. He was extremely accident-prone, which probably goes along with being massively drunk all the time. When you’re drinking gin and whiskey for breakfast, you’re gonna occasionally shoot yourself by accident, what with so many guns in the house. He did shoot himself in the foot by accident, although maybe that was practice for blasting his face off, I don’t know.
What’s the single dumbest thing Hemingway ever did?
He’d probably say leaving his first wife, which he beat himself up over for the rest of his life. Of course, it didn’t stop him from leaving wives numbers two and three… or making four’s life hell.
What’s the dumbest thing about the Heming Way, that lifestyle?
He was trying to live up to this uber-masculine idea… but it’s not exactly masculine. He was super insecure, trying to prove things to other people, but a real man doesn’t have to prove anything to everyone.
When Hemingway was a child, his mother dressed him in baby girl clothes; she dressed him as the twin of his sister until he was four, five-years-old. Long hair. Pink, flower bonnets, pink dresses. She gave him dolls and he didn’t know at Christmastime if Santa Claus would know if he was a girl or a boy. This might have something to do with his lifelong quest to prove his masculinity to everybody on earth.
Did he really have four bottles of wine for breakfast every morning?
That’s true. Towards the end of his life, his doctors had to talk him down to only having beer for breakfast instead of liquor. The alcoholism that people think is exaggerated is actually very true. George Plimpton, the editor of the Paris Review, said you could see Hemingway’s liver stick out from the rest of his body like a long eel. [Laughs] Which every man should aspire to.
Did he do dumb, heroic-like stuff during the war?
He had this plan to get captured by the Nazis. On one of their submarines. And that they would be so overcome by his stature as this famous writer – the most famous writer – that they’d let their guard down, try to get his autograph, at which point, he would break out all the Navy guns and grenades. And he sailed around looking for Nazi submarines to surrender to in order to make this happen. J. Edgar Hoover said: “That is the last man alive who should be trusted with this kind of duty.”
He once had to face a Geneva Convention war crimes tribunal, that’s true. He had been illegally ordering men around during WWII when he was supposed to be a journalist. He claimed that he answered to the name “colonel … in the same way that citizens in the state of Kentucky are sometimes addressed as colonel without it implying any military rank.” A legal technique known as the KFC defense.
Any crazy rumors or myths we should dispel?
There was one in which Hemingway supposedly didn’t like the decision in a boxing match, jumped into the ring and knocked out the world champion. Not true, but it was in a press release to sell a movie of one of his books, and he actually got angry about that.
But some of those rumors are true. A book critic once accused Hemingway of wearing false hair on his chest – meaning, he wasn’t as much of a man as he made himself out to be. The next time Hemingway was in the same room as this critic, he knocked the critic to the ground, ripped his shirt open, and found the critic had no hair on his chest at all. And that [incident] made the front page of the New York Times.
What would Hemingway think is the dumbest thing about America today?
He would’ve been disgusted with how we deteriorate away in retirement homes instead of going out in a blaze of glory. You know, we’re living longer than ever before, but we’re not living more. It’s that kind of existence that I think he would have found sad and discouraging.
He’d actually be a big advocate of YOLO – You Only Live Once. [Laughs] Damn, I should have put that in the book…
More about Beckerman and The Heming Way here.