The Hemingway You Didn’t Know: Papa’s Adventures

by Chris on August 11, 2009 · 55 comments

in A Man's Life, Lessons In Manliness


“Never confuse movement with action.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Nearly fifty years after his death, Ernest Hemingway remains a commanding presence in the literary world.  His works annually sell well into the seven figures, and several of his astounding 27 books and 50+ short stories are considered to be masterpieces of American literature.  Even the finest works of fiction pale in comparison, however, to Papa Hemingway’s real life.  His exploits are legendary:  winner of both the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes, Bronze Star recipient, world class sports fisherman, big game hunter, boxer, bullfighting aficionado, war correspondent…the list goes on.  Leaving the criticism of his literature for the pros, let’s instead take a look at the amazing life of the man himself.

It should be noted that Hemingway was at times neither a gentleman, a good father, nor a proper example of manhood, and no effort will be made here to rewrite history.  Yet for all his flaws he represents an enigma of masculinity that so easily captures the imagination.  His life was filled with the grand adventures that fill the dreams of many young boys and grown men alike.

Hemingway the Sportsman


As an accomplished outdoorsman, Hemingway was equally at home both stalking a lion through Africa’s long grass and cruising the Gulf Stream in search of marlin and tuna. Hemingway had learned how to handle a gun at a young age and was an accomplished hunter.  His interest in the sport varied between pheasant and duck shooting out West to big game safaris in East Africa.  It was in Africa that Hemingway hunted with P.H. Percival, a guide who had also hunted with another legendary sportsman, none other than Teddy Roosevelt.  Hemingway’s love for safari was very clear in his uncontainable excitement in planning his second major hunt in 1954:

“Going back to Africa after all this time, there’s the excitement of a first adventure.  I love Africa and I feel it’s another home, and any time a man can feel that, not counting where he’s born, is where he’s meant to go.”

-Papa Hemingway

During this second safari Hemingway became quite the professional hunter.  The local game warden even left him temporarily in charge of the district he was quartered in, commissioning him an honorary game ranger.  Hemingway loved the post and spent most of his days sorting out problem lions and elephants at the request of the local farmers.

Yet while Hemingway loved hunting, it was when he had a rod in his hand that he was truly successful.  It was from the deck of the Pilar that Hemingway famously landed the largest marlin caught to date in 1935, weighing an astonishing 1175 lbs.   Truly, his greatest exploit by his own reckoning may very well not have been his literary achievements, but his success with rod and reel.  In an interview several years ago, Hemingway’s son recalled that his father’s happiest days were always those spent aboard the boat he made with his own hands, chugging along the Gulf Stream in search of marlin.  During his years spent in the Caribbean, he managed to win every single organized fishing contest put on in Key West, Bimini, and Havana, much to the chagrin of the locals.

Hemingway the Boxer

hemboxing2“My writing is nothing, my boxing is everything.”

-Hemingway in a conversation with Josephine Herbst

Hemingway had practiced the sweet science since childhood and at one point was a successful amateur boxer.  Following one of his victories in a fishing tournament in Bimini, the locals who had participated became angered at his ability to better fish waters they had fished their entire lives.  Seeing an opportunity to combine his passions, he offered the locals a chance to win back their lost money.  The terms were simple…go toe to toe with old Papa in the ring for three rounds and win, and the money would be theirs.  The first challenger, a man who locals claimed could “carry a piano on his head,” made it only a minute and a half before the 35 year old Hemingway put him on the deck.  The next three challengers suffered a similar fate, and Ernest went home with his prize money.

Hemingway’s love for boxing was unmatched by his other passions, and he even had a boxing ring built in the backyard of his Key West home, right next to the pool, so that he could spar with guests.  Hemingway often dedicated his time not spent writing in Key West to boxing, even refereeing matches at the local arena.  In one instance, he was presiding over a match where one fighter was being brutalized by the other.  Every time the fighter would get knocked down, however, he would rise again to take more of a beating.  Weary of seeing his fighter being abused so, the fighter’s manager, “Shine” Forbes, threw in the towel.  Imagine his surprise when the ref picked up the towel and threw it out of the ring!  Shine tried two more times to concede the match by throwing in the towel, and on the final try the ref threw it back in his face, which sent Shine over the edge.  He climbed through the ropes and took a punch at the ref, effectively bringing an end to the match.  Later that evening he was informed that the ref he had thrown a punch at was none other than Ernest Hemingway, local legend and internationally famous author.  Embarrassed, Shine went to Hemingway’s home to apologize and was greeted by a smiling Hemingway who, not bothered by the punch thrown at him, had Shine and his friends come in for some sparring in his personal ring.  Forging a friendship with the man, Hemingway even had Shine and friends spar for his friends’ entertainment at parties, and would pass a hat around afterwards to collect money for the young fighters.

Hemingway’s love of the sport carried over into the literary world as well.  He was known for using boxing analogies in interviews, as well as for attempting to teach the poet Ezra Pound to box during his years in Paris.  Several of his short stories reflect his love for the sport, including short stories Fifty Grand and The Battler, and the novel The Sun Also Rises.

Hemingway the Storyteller

It’s no secret that Hemingway could weave a masterful tale behind a typewriter, a fact that is reinforced by a glowing review of Across the River and into the Trees in the New York Times Book Review that labeled him “the most important author since Shakespeare.”  But Hemingway was not just a good storyteller on paper.  The tales he spun for friends and family captivated everyone within earshot, and were frequently so grand and full of wild incidents that those who listened were often left questioning whether one man could really have experienced so much in a single lifetime.  Indeed, many of his tales seemed to stretch the truth, often more than a little.  And yet, as his close friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner wrote, he so convincingly imparted his adventures that even the most outrageous yarn seemed feasible.  He once recounted a tale to Hotchner as they sat down in an old Paris bar Hemingway frequented:

“Back in the old days this was one of the few good, solid bars, and there was an ex-pug who used to come in with a pet lion.  He’d stand at the bar here and the lion would stand here beside him.  He was a very nice lion with good manners – no growls or roars – but, as lions will, he occasionally shit on the floor.  This, of course, had a rather adverse effect on the trade and, as politely as he could, Harry asked the ex-pug not to bring the lion around anymore.  But the next day the pug was back with the lion, lion dropped another load, drinkers dispersed, Harry again made the request.  The third day, same thing.  Realizing it was do or die for poor Harry’s business, this time when the lion let go, I went over, picked up the pug, who had been a welterweight, carried him outside and threw him in the street.  Then I came back and grabbed the lion’s mane and hustled him out of here.  Out on the sidewalk, the lion gave me a look, but he went quietly.” -Papa Hemingway

In Hemingway’s biography, Hotchner accepts this and other tales without question, noting that every time he questioned the truth of such a tale, Hemingway would somehow produce photographs or other corroborating evidence to support his claims.

Hemingway the Nazi Submarine Hunter

Yes, you read that right.  For nearly a year during World War II, Ernest Hemingway converted his 38 foot fishing boat Pilar into a Nazi submarine hunting ship in disguise.  Coordinating with the Havana branch of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, Hemingway loaded the Pilar down with heavy artillery and small arms alike, all the while maintaining the outward appearance of a standard fishing vessel.  He filled the Pilar with friends interested in being a part of the mission, and they carried out daily patrols in the waters off Cuba.  The goal was to look like a regular fishing vessel so that a Nazi sub would surface and attempt to board them.  The U.S. navy regularly used such tactics, the vessels being known as Q-Ships, in an attempt to draw Nazi subs to the surface.  Once a sub surfaced, the Q-Ships would quickly unveil their hidden firepower and hopefully sink the sub.  Eventually the FBI took over Caribbean counter-espionage, and while the Pilar and her crew never fired on an enemy sub, it was adventure of the highest sort nonetheless.

Hemingway the War Hero


As a young man, Hemingway served with the Red Cross on the Italian Front in World War I.  Originally, he had sought to enlist in the Army, but poor eyesight barred his admittance, leading him to take a position with the Red Cross as an ambulance driver instead.  Not long after arriving at the Italian Front Hemingway was seriously wounded.  While delivering chocolates and cigarettes to soldiers on the line, he was hit by trench mortar fire, leaving over two hundred shrapnel fragments in his leg and nearly destroying his knee.  Despite this gruesome injury, Hemingway managed to drag another injured soldier to safety, having stuffed the cigarettes he was carrying into his own wounds to temporarily stop the bleeding.  Hemingway was to receive the Silver Medal of Military Valor from the Italian government for his courageous actions that day.

Much later in life, following his exploits as a Nazi submarine hunter, Hemingway left again for Europe to see the action of World War II as a war correspondent.  No stranger to action, Hemingway joined the Royal Air Force on bombing raids and followed infantry divisions around Europe wherever the fighting was heaviest.  He witnessed the D-Day invasion from a landing craft just offshore and recorded many of the horrors of the war.  Hemingway went on to take a much more active role in the combat he was there to document, often assuming the role of soldier himself in direct violation of the Geneva Convention’s guidelines for war correspondents.  He once charged up to a cellar known to be filled with German SS, and tossing in a grenade, threw aside his non-combatant designation for the remainder of the war.  In the chaos of war, Hemingway allegedly went on to form his own unit, which inexplicably had twice the firepower and alcohol rations of all other units, no doubt Papa’s doing.  According to Hemingway himself, he and his unit were the first to enter the city during the Liberation of Paris, when he and his unit retook the Ritz Hotel, and more importantly the Ritz Bar, from Nazi control a full day before the Allied liberation force entered the city!  An investigation into his actions during the war by the Army later charged him with several violations of his non-combatant status, including actions such as stripping off his non-combatant insignia and posing as a colonel in order to lead a French resistance group into battle.  He was also accused of keeping a virtual armory in his private room, including anti-tank grenades and German bazookas.  Hemingway responded to the allegations by noting that any titles given to him by the men were simply signs of affection.

“After all, anyone who owned a ship in New England was automatically a captain, and all those from Kentucky were colonels from birth.”

As for the weapons in his room, he claimed he kept them “only for the troop’s convenience.”  Several high ranking friends testified on his behalf, and at the end of the investigation he was not only cleared of all charges, but was awarded the Bronze Star for Bravery as a war correspondent.  Colonel “Buck” Lanham, a close friend and later a Major General, noted:

“He is without question one of the most courageous men I have ever known.  Fear was a stranger to him.”

Hemingway the Survivor

“Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

-The Old Man and the Sea

Perhaps most unbelievable of all Hemingway’s exploits was the sheer number of potentially fatal diseases and accidents he survived.  Aside from the remnants of fragment in his leg left over from the World War I mortar hit, he also bore a bullet wound in his leg.  This was the result of a self inflicted gunshot, an accident that occurred while trying to finish off a still thrashing shark he had dragged aboard while shark hunting.  While shooting yourself in the leg is by no means the most glamorous thing a man can do, if you must do it, it seems best to do it while shark hunting.  Hemingway’s more severe injuries and ailments came later in life.  In his later years he survived anthrax, malaria, pneumonia, dysentery, skin cancer, hepatitis, anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, and several major injuries.

During his last safari in East Africa, he survived not one, but two plane crashes.  News of the first crash, deep in the jungles of Uganda, set off reports of his death back home, spawning numerous obituaries which Hemingway would later read daily over his morning coffee with amusement.  Following the crash he, his wife, and the pilot were forced to camp overnight in the middle of elephant country, a survival story in itself.  The second crash, following just several days after the first, was much more severe, and Hemingway was severely injured as a result.  The pilot had been forced to perform an emergency dive to avoid a bird strike, and the plane ground-looped, eventually crashing.  The plane burst into flames upon impact, forcing Hemingway to shoulder the door open and help his wife and the pilot to safety.  He emerged with a laundry list of injuries, including first degree burns, internal bleeding, ruptured kidney, ruptured spleen, ruptured liver, a crushed vertebra and a fractured skull.  Quite the ordeal, yet Hemingway managed a smile for the reporters waiting at his evacuation point, saying to them “my luck, she’s running very good.”  Perhaps a bit of an understatement.  Not a month later Hemingway was back in action, this time receiving second degree burns on his left hand and face while fighting a wildfire.  All this and he lived to tell the tale.

Hemingway the Legend


Hemingway’s life experiences provided the source material for his literary works, and much of his life can be seen reflected in his fiction.  The male protagonists in so many of his stories share both his machismo and his hidden pains, yet always exhibited grace under pressure.  As he himself said:

“In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well oiled in the closet, but unused.”

-Preface to The First Forty-Nine Stories

Critics during and after his lifetime tried to paint Hemingway as overly macho, claiming that his public persona was merely an act.  Through reading his works and the biographies written about him by close friends, it becomes clear that Ernest Hemingway was not acting.  He was, in fact, one of the most genuine men who ever lived.  He lived life as he wished, never missing opportunities and never forsaking his passions.  Perhaps he is best summed up by actress Marlene Dietrich, a close friend, who commented on his life to his biographer:

“I suppose the most remarkable thing about Ernest is that he has found time to do the things most men only dream about.  He has had the courage, the initiative, the time, the enjoyment to travel, to digest it all, to write, to create it, in a sense.  There is in him a sort of quiet rotation of seasons, with each of them passing overland and then going underground and re-emerging in a kind of rhythm, refreshed and full of renewed vigor.”


A. E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir

A&E American Author’s Series Ernest Hemingway: Wrestling with Life

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ced August 11, 2009 at 9:38 pm

wow now he is a Man

2 A Critic August 11, 2009 at 11:08 pm

While his exploits were legendary I cannot agree with you that he’s a man’s man. He destroyed himself. I do not respect a man who does that. He gave up.

3 Brett August 11, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Great post Hutch! I didn’t know much about Hemingway outside his literary works and this was thoroughly interesting and eye-opening. Despite his many faults, you have to admire a man who really lived life to the fullest.

I think it’s interesting that anyone could argue that his manliness was fake or an act. If you can do all he did and still be considered inauthentic, then there’s no hope for anyone to be “real.”

As usual whenever we have a post about a great man, the naysayers come out to point to this flaw or that fault as the reason which shouldn’t admire the man. To which I say, “Show me the man without a fault and I will devote every article and all my emulation to him!”

4 Playstead August 11, 2009 at 11:31 pm

While everything listed above it really cool and he had an unreal passion for life, a man that’s a crappy father is no man at all.

“To be a successful father . . . there’s one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

5 Gaurav August 12, 2009 at 3:15 am

“Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
-The Old Man and the Sea

if feel that people in old time had lived their life compared to the life in this era

6 Chris August 12, 2009 at 3:34 am

@A Critic-

Things are not always as they seem. I would encourage you to study up a bit more on the man’s life. Hemingway suffered from severe clinical depression at a time when there were not drugs available to control its effects like we can today. The Hemingway that took his own life in 1961 simply was not the same man as the one in the stories above.


See paragraph two.


Thanks boss!!

7 Sir Lancelot August 12, 2009 at 4:42 am

If his depression was cronic one must admit that to have the get-go he had is quite admirable for a depressive

8 anominous August 12, 2009 at 4:46 am

He was at once a macho dude and a tortured soul… One can be both. He was also an alcoholic, and took his head off with a shotgun. It was a miserable end.

Another great choice of writer and man’s man would have been jack london (boxer and referee, sled driver, and so much more). And his stories are incredible.

9 Josh K August 12, 2009 at 8:37 am

In response to Brett’s comment of a man without a fault…I would ask that you examine John 19:4-5, were we read: “And Pilate went outside again and said to them: “See! I bring him outside to YOU in order for YOU to know I find no fault in him.” 5 Accordingly Jesus came outside, wearing the thorny crown and the purple outer garment. And he said to them: “Look! The man!” Now THERE’S a man worthy of imitating, emulating and following as a true role model.

10 Alan August 12, 2009 at 8:55 am

This is why I mistrust the intentions of this blog. Hemmingway is not a man worth emulating in any way except his literary abilities. He is in fact, the poster-boy for the negative side of masculinity. He was an angry, wife-beating drunk – and grotesquely unpleasant to any others around him.

While there’s no downside to learning boxing (if you can control your temper) or fishing (if you’re not fishing for endangered species), Hemmingway’s “accomplishments” of killing large animals with powerful weapons, going rogue on the battlefield, catastrophic drinking, and suicide are not the best example of how to be a positive, masculine, man in the 21st C. He represents the reason masculinity had to be re-evaluated.

I suspect what this blog is really about is justifying the old masculinity, not trying to create a new one. Who’s next? Ancient warriors who raped their conquered enemies wives? Mike Tyson? Cecil John Rhodes?

If this blog is really about a new, sympathetic masculinity – maintaining what’s good about masculinity without the associated brutality – then draw a line.

11 Alan August 12, 2009 at 8:59 am

And Josh K, if we’re including fictional men, Aragorn, son of Arathorn was pretty flawless too.

12 Jonathan August 12, 2009 at 9:22 am

Great article!
Another great adventure was Hemingway the Spy. He was a spy for the U.S. and the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. All while fighting in that war as well. The U.S. asked him to keep tabs on the Nazi involvement. Also, For Whom the Bells Toll is believed to be more autobiographical than fiction. And the man is considered a hero in Spain.

And a recent KGB book listed Hemingway on there records as a spy for the KGB. Maybe not necessarily the best adventure in an American’s eyes, but he was on his downward spiral of depression and alcohol by then and proved to be more of a drunkard than a good spy for the KGB.

13 Dan August 12, 2009 at 10:19 am

Hemmingway, along with Winston Churchill, and Teddy Roosevelt, are perhaps the three manliest men ever. All three knew what the “strenuous life” was and lived it to the fullest.

To all the naysayers populating the comments, take a chill pill and relax…. nobody is perfect. Take your paragons of manliness with a grain of salt; admire them for their accomplishments and learn from their mistakes.

Josh K: Nice try suggesting Jesus. But this is not supposed to be a blog about religion, just manliness in general. That being said, a post (just one) here about Jesus’ manly qualities would certainly not be remiss on this site and I will put my vote in for that post.

Alan: Aragorn was perfect because he was fiction. Tolkien wrote LOTR as allegorical fantasy and Aragorn represented Christ. Thus, he had to be perfect. Such perfection is easily attainable in ficiton, but not so in reality. Ficticious characters should not be admired for their qualities….if anything, their authors can be admired, but not the characters, because they are not real.

14 Mark August 12, 2009 at 10:20 am

I do agree with Josh K.

I enjoy Hemingway’s writing style. I try to learn from it. But as a man he seems to have fallen short by way of all his struggles. As “tough” as he was in all these areas he just couldn’t handle himself. I think Blaise Pascal was right when he said all men seek happiness and this is even the motive of those who contemplate suicide.

15 Kait August 12, 2009 at 11:01 am

I see that people fail to recognize that Hemingway was sexist, particularly in his stories. He often saw women as the less imtelligent sex and did not see them as intellectual equals. Yes, I understand that the majority of women in his day were uneducated, he saw them as babbling airheads who were only good for cooking and cleaning. If you do not believe me, then read any of his poems about women.

And as a writer, I personally loath his style. He hides behind dialogue and his short stories can drive a reader in circles trying to figure out what the characters are talking about. I had to read “Hills Like White Elephants” for my writing class and we had to read the story five times before our teacher gave up and told us that it was about abortion. I personally see no appeal in his writing style.

16 Paul August 12, 2009 at 11:28 am

Dan Simmons’ “The Crook Factory” is a fictionalized account of Hemingway’s days as a spy in Cuba. Good stuff!

17 Jaymz August 12, 2009 at 11:52 am

It is pieces like this for which I am an AOM subscriber. I loved this one. Keep up the good work.

Also, I’m with Kait on “Hills Like White Elephants”. I had to read it for a human development class for my psych degree, and I had to read it many times through, and I still didn’t get it. A class mate who I believe studied it before told me what it was about.

18 Steve Anthony August 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Great piece. Love Hemingway’s writing and he led a fascinating life, well worth studying and analyzing with emphasis on both the good and the bad.

Criticizing him as a sexist, using current standards is silly. Sure he was a sexist, as were 95% of men in that era. He was born in a period before women were allowed to vote. Judge him on contemporary standards and he was not out of the mainstream on the issue.

@Dan- Where did you come up with the fact that Aragorn was an allegory for Christ. I’ve read an awful lot of Tolkien (including interviews) and the one thing he was adament about was that literary critics had always tried to read more into his writing than he ever intended. This is the first I’ve ever heard about a “Christ” analogy and I’m sure J.R.R. would be the most surprised.

19 David August 12, 2009 at 2:03 pm

I must agree, Hemingway with all his flaws was indeed a “man’s man” without a doubt. And, who among us – don’t at least have some flaws? Yes, Hemingway’s flaws were more significant and greater in magnitude – but perhaps because he was an individual that was also larger than life. Hemingway deserves his place among Teddy R and Churchill as the greatest examples of manhood. Studying Hemingway’s life will lead to not only a great example of how to live life to the fullest, but also serve as an lesson of the traits to avoid.

20 John Gutierrez August 12, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Thank you for this post! It’s my favorite so far because Hemingway is one of my favorite authors. I especially love “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “The Green Hills of Africa,” “The Old Man and the Sea” and “A Moveable Feast.” Truly Papa knew how to man up!

21 Terri August 12, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Hemingway had four wives . This was back in the day when men were not financially raped in Family Court – men could afford to be men.

22 Wayne Key August 12, 2009 at 4:27 pm

I must say that in reading this post I was reminded of Robert Heinlein’s famous character Lazarus Long. Lazarus was the man so in love with life that he refused to die. Once, when confronted by someone who asked him if he knew the “meaning” of life, he paused and then replied, “the meaning of Life is to LIVE it, and to live it with Style.” Amen.

23 Jannah August 12, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Wow, I just discovered this site, and have really enjoyed what I have skimmed over so far! I plan to read more of the articles throughly very soon. I am a female, and fully believe that even women in the 21st century need to learn to “man up” about now. I cannot image many women nowadays being able to brave life traveling across the wild prairies into the New Frontier of the West in nothing but a covered wagon, with some tin pots and pans, for making coffee, beans, and saltpork for daily vittles. We all need to relearn the positive values and fortitude of our ancestors before the memories of their brave acts are forgotten, because all of our 20th century mentors are passing quickly and will not be around to teach us their values and adventures for much longer. :-(

Thanks very much for this fascinating outlet for passing on the old traditions of manliness and human fortitude in general.

24 Sir Lancelot August 13, 2009 at 2:18 am

JRR Tolkien was a “devout Catholic” (how come Catholics are always “devout” and Protestants are always “staunch”? Anyway…) so you could say he was very influenced by Jesus. I don’t know whether Aragorn in particular was based on Him though.

25 Alan August 13, 2009 at 4:58 am

JRR Tolkien loved fantasy of all kinds – which is probably how he became the most renowned writer of the genre. The fact that, in terms of his catholicism, he couldn’t tell fantasy from reality did not affect the quality of his writing.

“Criticizing him as a sexist, using current standards is silly. Sure he was a sexist, as were 95% of men in that era.”

Erm… yes. And this blog is ostensibly about finding a new masculinity free from the more grotesque elements of its last form. So maybe it should be looking to the 5% for inspiration, eh?

“Hemingway had four wives . This was back in the day when men were not financially raped in Family Court – men could afford to be men.”

Ah yes. Men were not financially raped while women were physically raped – because rape in a marriage wasn’t recognised as a crime at the time. Good days. Good days… No. Wait. Is it just me who thinks that unpunished rape in marriage was a monstrous atrocity that shames men and humankind in general?

And men could certainly afford to be men. Wives cast off on a whim of their husband’s couldn’t “financially rape” them. They were too busy struggling to survive in poverty as divorcees.

This blog is a convenient way of justifying sexism in the modern era.

26 Sir Lancelot August 13, 2009 at 7:04 am

Alan, I don’t think there is a particular agenda privvy to this blog, as visions of manhood here are as diverse as the blog’s contributors and readers.

First, I’ve never seen anyone here condoning violence against women. Actually, respecting women seems to be a recurring idea on here.

Second, the dichotomy is not old manhood vs new manhood, but right manhood vs wrong manhood. I don’t think the purpose of this blog is to promote some kind of New Man who rejects masculinity, as invented by the market to sell cosmetics, but rather a “new man” as in a man who tries to become a better, more rounded man than the one he was. But a MAN all the same. Not less manly but more so.

I take offense at your assumption that “old school manliness” means wife-beating and rape. That’s an insult to all the great men in the past, both illustrious and anonymous.

27 Nomad August 13, 2009 at 7:37 am

I find it laughable that some nominal men here are attacking Hemingway because he drank, or hunted,or spoke his mind, or fought with bravery when fighting was necessary. I guess he should have proven his manliness with spa treatments and limp wristed politically correct apologies. Perhaps he should have shunned hunting altogether, and turned Vegan?

Back to your hair products and GQ magazines, fops!

28 James NomadRip August 13, 2009 at 9:35 am

“While shooting yourself in the leg is by no means the most glamorous thing a man can do, if you must do it, it seems best to do it while shark hunting.” Indeed! Fantastic article, Chris.

Admittedly, I knew very little about Hemingway up until a few years ago. Of course I always knew of some of his titles and a few stories, but not nearly enough. Visiting the museum that had been his home in Key West and doing some reading since then gave a small glimpse into his near-mythical life.

They truly don’t make too many men like him anymore.

29 Jannah August 13, 2009 at 12:38 pm

LOL Lancelot about Catholic and Protestant descriptons. I agree with what you mention about Tolkien. He did say that there was allegory in his stories, but it was more sprinkled liberally across the characters and elements and not strictly attached to any, specifically. Such as Aslan was, by C.S. Lewis, for example. I’ve read that Tolkien stated that Jesus’ characteristics came into play through many of the main characters on their quest, and he made no point in having one alone represent Jesus directly.

As a new reader of this blog, I too see the difference between praising manliness as brutishness, as opposed to gentlemanliness. Thus far I have not seen the former represented here at all. Any time you learn from the past, you keep the good and toss out the bad after learning from it as a mistake, as Sir Lancelot put it best. The biggest mistake is to throw out the past altogether, just because of the negative aspects. That’s just foolish.

I think that the so-called Steampunk genre is a good example of referencing the past in the right way, as it embraces the elements of a by-gone era of scientific romantics, etc., and turns it into a reformed version for today that embraces the past and utilizes it for the present.

30 MIKEY August 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Papa must be having a good laugh right now cause I know I am after reading some of these posts… naturally alot of things Papa did are not politically correct these days & quite frankly i’m not much of a hunter or fisherman myself… but the guy was a helluva storyteller… The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell To Arms, The Old Man and The Sea are probably some of the greatest works of modern fiction… his book on bullfighting, Death In the Afternoon is exhaustive but gives great insight on a “sport” most Americans cannot even begin to fathom… anyway in the late 70s i visited Papa’s house in the Keys… he was an interesting guy to say the least and was the first one to have a pool installed in all of the Keys which cost him a small fortune… the house and grounds were also overrun with all manner of cats… after the tour my lady and i visited Sloppy Joe’s Papa’s favorite bar where he actually did some of his writing and alot of his drinking… i don’t know what i was expecting but it turned out to be this hole in the wall redneck country western bar… being the 70s i was still sporting long hair and a beard which didn’t fare too well with the locals.. but my lady was long legged good looking blonde british girl and she had those boys wrapped around her little finger in no time… if you’re ever down that way it’s worth stopping by both places…

31 Daniel August 14, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Hey I have been a reader for a few months now and I think this is a great site! I am sorry to say that I am part of Generation Y, so naturally I like reading the articles here to see what it means to be a well rounded man and a gentleman like the men of old. Reading the articles about great men lets me at least try to emulate them in some ways and try to attain the great qualities which they possessed. It is true that many men today don’t know what it means to “man up”, and this site does give useful tips on how to do so. And believe it or not, after reading this site I don’t go get drunk, beat women, justify sexism, and glorify all other vices as Alan is convinced most readers here do.

32 Jeff August 14, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Since were including fictional men (jesus, Aragorn), perhaps emulate Santa as well. He seems pretty perfect to me…

Hemingway did many bad things in his life, but to experience as much of this world as he did is worthy of praise. A life of legend. Great piece.

33 George August 15, 2009 at 6:18 pm

“While there’s no downside to learning boxing (if you can control your temper) or fishing (if you’re not fishing for endangered species), Hemmingway’s “accomplishments” of killing large animals with powerful weapons, going rogue on the battlefield, catastrophic drinking, and suicide are not the best example of how to be a positive, masculine, man in the 21st C. He represents the reason masculinity had to be re-evaluated.”

Seriously? Except for the suicide, all of those things are awesome. It goes right back to the caveman instincts. And let’s face it, the suicide was probably because he was unable to do all those very manly, very awesome things anymore and didn’t want to go out with a whimper. I’m not a supporter of suicide, but after a life like that, who can blame him for not wanting to crap himself while in old age?

34 Ron - Heroic Nature August 17, 2009 at 10:56 am

All his demons aside, Hemingway was as macho as a guy can come based on such figures throughout history. As an aspiring writer myself, I admire the guy because although he was masculine (sometimes extremely), he could still get in touch with that artistic and spiritual side of himself to compose engaging stories. I live in The Bahamas, and my grand father and his father both live in Bimini and the people here remember Hemingway for his never-ending zest for adventure. Not to mention his never-ending love of fishing.

35 jeb h August 19, 2009 at 1:12 am

This is a great post. I have been reading The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition as my own summer reading. I really enjoy not only the simplicity in his writing style, but also the “manliness” of each story. From short two page stories packed with meaning, to longer chapter by chapter stories about anything from down-on-their-luck boxers to Cuban fishing tales etc, I highly recommend this edition to all my fellow art of manliness readers. 17 dollars from amazon, and it even has some never before published stories.

36 Andy August 19, 2009 at 11:18 am

Great post. As an English teacher / athlete / writer, I really enjoyed it. I wrote a little piece that some of you might like, if you feel a little trapped in your suburban life…

37 Ben August 22, 2009 at 1:43 am

+1 To Nomad, couldn’t have said it better myself.


38 Darcy August 24, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I have to respond to those who say they don’t like Hemingway’s style because of the story “Hills like White Elephants.” Sure, you have to really read the story and the dialogue to understand it–but it can be understood. It’s an emulation of how people talked in those days. Would a couple then, with the strict social norms, talk about abortion in public openly? Of course not. And the symbols embedded in the geography also clue you in to the nature of the dilemma. Even if you don’t “get” the problem the couple has, the writing still manages to give you the theme of the story: men and women act think differently, particularly in stressful situations.

This is the problem with people these days. Any work that demands a bit more effort into understanding it is seen as “obscure” or “vague.” Everything has to be in-your-face and direct. Subtlety is a lost art; an art mastered by Hemingway.

39 Justin August 25, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Great post!

@ Brett: “Show me the man without a fault and I will devote every article and all my emulation to him!” Answer: Jesus.

40 Brett McKay August 25, 2009 at 12:33 pm


As this is not a religious site, I think it is obvious that I was referring to mortal men, not gods.

41 Dave August 28, 2009 at 6:34 am

Great article.

Thanx for clearing that up, Brett.

Next literary article should be on Hunter S Thompson.

42 TomK August 28, 2009 at 10:39 am

Just remember when reading about tall images from the past, that their adventures although sometimes exotic and daring, should not be confused for what they really were, escapes from real life problems both physically,and mentally…

43 Ernest September 4, 2009 at 2:09 pm


Yeah, nowadays we just sit around on the internet to escape. Those guys were suckers.

44 John Harrod September 5, 2009 at 9:24 pm

There are many new biographies of Hemingway in bookstores or in the library. A.E. Hotchner’s book is not really a good bio and it’s outdated. You shoulld read them all before forming an opinion about the man. He was a complex individual.

45 Caca October 1, 2009 at 12:34 am

Great post! People like him was a product of an era, and like many others, genius and great man, had some kind of mental disorder, depression or social bad behavior, probably this altogether made men like them act without restriction, for good and sometimes for worse too. And even being an admirer of people like Jesus or Mahatma Ghandi, expoents of kindness and goodness, we can’t forget that Ghandy menace to beat her wife when she refused to clean toilets in the comunity that he formed, and even Jesus lost his temper on Jerusalen’s Temple, beating merchants and money traders.

46 Yavor October 1, 2009 at 5:32 am

Thanks for this post. In fact I will go right now and dig one of his novels and embark on my own papa adventure.


47 West LA October 18, 2009 at 7:34 pm

If you’re new to Hemingway’s writing and want to see what the fuss is about,
start with the short stories (such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and Soldier’s Home), which was the form he truly mastered, not the novels (the best of which being probably The Sun Also Rises). For sheer style & charisma, check out his 1930′s Esquire non-fiction pieces in a collection called By Line: Ernest Hemingway. One of the best biographies was called By Force of Will, by Scott Donaldson. Also, the Michael Reynolds five volume bio is excellent.

Hemingway’s life story is fascinating, both for 1. the contradictions of the man, and
2. the places he went, the people he knew, events he witnessed, things he did, etc.
Reading about his life can inform you about the world,
including much of 20th Century world history (the first 50 years of it).

Don’t feel bad about not living his adventurous, exotic life. Up until he was almost forty years old, it was financed largely by his wives or by his 2nd wife’s Uncle Gus.
Apparently much of EH’s macho behavior was driven by his deep insecurity about being masculine enough to respect himself. He seemed to be fighting off self-disgust often and contemptuous of most other people. After age 30 or so, his love of being famous and looking heroic reduced his growth as an artist (he still improved and achieved, but probably much less than he otherwise could have done).

Great writer, fascinating individual.

48 Guy December 28, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Ernie had a heck of a life and lived it well during that time period. He had many faults but he lived with gusto and had acomplishements others only dreamed about. From what I understand the electro shock treatments he received for depression blew his mind and contributed greatly to his suicide.

49 Cal February 2, 2010 at 5:06 am

Hey Alan,

Go back to your “Men remaining togeather” seminars.

If you can’t see the good in people and only find the faults you’re a wanker.

You know what’s worse than a loser? Fucking critics like you.

50 joe February 2, 2010 at 10:45 pm

a man is a man right? and every great man has his flaws…….as does everybody he wasnt a perfect idol to look up too this was just an ordinary man who took initiative in all the things he wanted to do

51 kayla May 4, 2010 at 12:57 pm

y did he kill him self i had no idea tht he would do such a thing to himself as i didnt kno tht he boxed or sharked hunted i took a qiuz on this 1 website this 1 day and i knew my author veery well i al just wanted to let rthe people kno tht he has inspired me to write a play called the evil strp mother now in stores

52 Aashish March 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Hemingway was a brave bastard. Those who doubted it didn’t know much about him or his exploits away from the typewriter. Many men daydream about hunting, fishing and giving a good fist fight. Hemingway did all that and also picked this planet’s most honourable prize for his skill with the words. Enough to make many jealous and try to show him as some sort a counterfeit. Hemingway was the hunter in the truest sense. If he had known before that he was the prize prey that he was looking for, his death would have been at an earlier date.
I thank you for this article!

53 kyle July 12, 2013 at 7:53 am

do not judge a man till you have been in his arena. we are men after all, seeing death as much as he has will do tormentuous things

54 Joan Grzesik December 8, 2013 at 1:52 am

So attractive! I love the earthy & classic tones from the wedding! I am so stealing the succulent idea. Beautiful bride, handsome hubby & bridal party. Wonderful pics as always Tammy!

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