Did Hemingway purposely set out to change the style of the American novel- or was it a combination of things that came together at the right time?
Initially I was somewhat skeptical about this book and suspected a kind of “hit job” emphasizing Hemingway’s less than admirable qualities (of which there were many) but the writing is very accomplished, sometimes rather clever and incisive and seems to be well researched; nothing really original--see Sarason, "Hemingway and the Sun Set" and many others for more on this topic--- but it does capture the atmosphere of post war Paris literary expatriate life rather well--better than a number of previous Hemingway biographies and critical studies. My reservations about the book involve the over use of Kitty Cannell's recollections---some of which have been debunked and/or revealed as unreliable by Michael Reynolds in his massive, scrupulously researched, multi volume Hemingway bio (see Reynolds, "Hemingway: The Paris Years: pp. 298-99, 321-22), the dubious suggestion that Hemingway may have slept with Pauline’s sister and with Duff-Twysden for which there is no real evidence at all--in fact Duff denied it saying she would not sleep with a married man and besides was fond of Hadley, Hemingway never gave any indication that their flirtatious friendship included sex which he probably would have gladly accepted should it have been offered (and would most likely have bragged about to someone) and if they did have carnal relations they could not have kept it secret from the small circle of people in which they moved---Harold Loeb's brief affair with Duff became known practically from the moment it started. Also, I think the author places a little too much emphasis on the autobiographical aspects of the novel and on the careerist part of Hemingway’s Paris years. There is little discussion of the relationship between Hemingway’s early stories and vignettes and “Sun” and the painstaking aspect of the novel’s composition once the first draft was complete and his extensive revisions began--- other than Fitzgerald’s certainly very critical editorial suggestions. I do commend Blume for including Hemingway friend Bill Smith’s comment that “Hemingway was not a diarist. He was an artist” (Smith was present at the now famous 1925 San Fermin Festival) as well as Blume’s own very perceptive, well-expressed observation that in “Sun” Hemingway was “ confronting the masses with a terrifyingly modern world bereft of any comforting stylistic trimmings….There was no shelter in that writing, nary an adjective to shade readers from a harsh sun.” It is rare that any new book about Hemingway--surely the most written about American author of all time---will hold my interest but this one did. Definitely worthwhile despite a few shortcomings.
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