Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ernest Hemingway liked to dress up as a man. He accessorized sometimes with a glass of alcohol, sometimes with a rifle that he used to kill animals and himself.

Grace Hall Hemingway, his mother, liked to pretend her two first children were twins--the son and daughter were about a year apart, Ernest was younger. His mother dressed them the same until they went to school, usually as girls. Sometimes she dressed them identically as boys.

It wasn't totally unusual for boys to be dressed as girls at that time, when they were young, but it wasn't too usual either. Usually if it was done it stopped when the child was about 18 months old or about 4. Going on till school time was long.

Ernest Hemingway lived longer than his father, Clarence Edmond, called Ed, Hemingway. His father killed himself with a rifle when he was 56. Ernest Hemingway killed himself with a rifle when he was 61.

They had lots of rifles to choose from, they were outdoorsy.


Outdoorsy and guns almost always went together back then.

When Ernest Hemingway was wounded in World War I, he was engaged in handing out candy bars to troops at the front. This was clearly dangerous--he got wounded. He was working for the Red Cross. He was a non-combatant. He didn't carry a rifle.

A shell exploded near where he was and he was hurt to the extent of limping with a cane months later back in the United States.

He wanted to go to that war that happened when he was a young man but he didn't want to get in a big old hairy awful place, so he volunteered for the Red Cross. I would say that was an intelligent move, but would he?

Men who served in the trenches in France, slogging in the mud that was also a graveyard, living in holes in the ground next to dead people they had once known were often messed up in their minds by that experience, their minds if no place else. They were however cured of the idea of a strong relationship between guns, violence, war, and being a real man.

Ernest Hemingway didn't take the cure. He served in the American Red Cross in Italy, which didn't have that kind of combat that consisted of making and living in a graveyard.

He spent his life trying to find the combination of clothes and risks taken that would make him be a real man.

But, dude, it's a fake category.

Once there was some hoohah in the newspapers about how Senator John McCain had behaved when he was a prisoner of war for years in North Vietnam.

How do you become a prisoner of war in North Vietnam? By using very expensive technology to drop explosives on a poor country. That wasn't what the controversy was about.

The controversy was something about had he been maximally brave every second of the years and years he was a prisoner.

One of his fellow prisoners said, "We weren't John Wayne in there, you know, none of us" or words to that effect. As if being the kind of tough, imperturbable movie hero John Wayne portrayed was an achievable option.

John Wayne, the human, never got near combat.

Wayne and his screenwriters and directors made this believable to some utopian idea of man that didn't have to exist in the real world.