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Hemingway: A Biography

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Distinguished by its precision, its graceful use of language, and its resonant depth, the innovative style of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) radically altered literary conventions and influenced generations of writers. In The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and numerous short stories, he explore Distinguished by its precision, its graceful use of language, and its resonant depth, the innovative style of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) radically altered literary conventions and influenced generations of writers. In The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and numerous short stories, he explored such universal themes as stoicism in adversity, as well as our futile struggles against nature and mortality.This evocative, sympathetic biography illuminates the events that informed Hemingway's vigorous life: an accident-prone youth and early rivalry with his father; his experiences in World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II; his stormy relationships with writers and women; his sudden fame, slow decline, and suicide. Based on previously unavailable information and exclusive interviews, Hemingway enriches anyone's understanding and appreciation of America's most important twentieth-century writer.


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Distinguished by its precision, its graceful use of language, and its resonant depth, the innovative style of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) radically altered literary conventions and influenced generations of writers. In The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and numerous short stories, he explore Distinguished by its precision, its graceful use of language, and its resonant depth, the innovative style of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) radically altered literary conventions and influenced generations of writers. In The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and numerous short stories, he explored such universal themes as stoicism in adversity, as well as our futile struggles against nature and mortality.This evocative, sympathetic biography illuminates the events that informed Hemingway's vigorous life: an accident-prone youth and early rivalry with his father; his experiences in World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II; his stormy relationships with writers and women; his sudden fame, slow decline, and suicide. Based on previously unavailable information and exclusive interviews, Hemingway enriches anyone's understanding and appreciation of America's most important twentieth-century writer.

30 review for Hemingway: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    i been reading it slowly over few month and in between many other books. i found it sometimes hard to read as it was painful to discover sometimes the insecurity and weakness of this great writer. but than i thought that Hemingway put them in his front to cover his sensitivity and ability and cleverness, the same he did with his characters. in the end maybe he is not modernist but still maybe one of the great american writers of the 20th century. i know how much he influenced me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This was a highly readable biography of one of America's most fabled writers. A model for all writers that followed him, despite peaks and valleys in his writing quality overall, but what a fascinating and intense life! There was also some great advice for writers which I found more than relevant: "From the beginning of his career Hemingway sought to base his fiction on reality, but he tried to distill the essence of the experience so that what he made up was truer than what we remembered. The vi This was a highly readable biography of one of America's most fabled writers. A model for all writers that followed him, despite peaks and valleys in his writing quality overall, but what a fascinating and intense life! There was also some great advice for writers which I found more than relevant: "From the beginning of his career Hemingway sought to base his fiction on reality, but he tried to distill the essence of the experience so that what he made up was truer than what we remembered. The vignettes from In Our Time illustrated his new asthetic theory: "If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." And also, "His basic principles of writing have been extremely influential: Study the best literary models. Master your subject through experience and reading. Work in disciplined isolation. Begin early every morning and concentrate for several hours a day. Begin by reading everything you have written from the start or, if engaged in a long book, from the last chapter. Write slowly and deliberately. Stop writing when things are going well and you know what will happen next so that you have sufficient momentum to continue the next day. Do not discuss the material while writing about it. Do not thing about writing when you are finished for the day but allow your subconscious mind to ponder it. Work continuously on a project once you start it. Keep a record of your daily progress. Make a list of titles after you have completed the work." (page 113) And again, in a letter to his father: "I'm trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across - not just to depict life - or criticize it - but to actually make it alive. So that when you have read something by me you actually experience the thing. You can't do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as the beautiful. Because if it is all beautiful, you can't believe in it. Things aren't that way. It is only by showing both sides - 3 dimensions and if possible 4 that you can write the way I want to." Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls are my favorites, but I also reread his The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and found it fantastic. The book provides loads on insight into the events in the writer's life that impacted his writing and inspired his characters, particularly excellent for understanding his short stories. There was a lot of irony in Hem's life and the over-shadowing of his father's suicide tainted much of his writing and, of course, his ultimate destiny. He seemed a bit obsessed with death and the idea of suicide. As noted in the book, "In 1961, the year of his own suicide, Hemingway wrote to Carlos Baker that Fenton had set a bad example to other biographers by jumping to his death from a hotel window, and wondered what he had been thinking about on the way down. (p. 496). I also liked these passages near the end of the book: "Hemingway described with unusual knowledge and authority physical pleasure, the natural world, violent experience and sudden death. He portrayed the heroic possibilities and tragic consequences of war, the psychic dislocation in battle and the stoicism of survival. He created unsurpassed images of Italy, France, Spain, and Africa. As a man he had intense idealism, curiosity, energy, strength, and courage. He attractively combined hedonism and hard work, was a great teacher of ritual and technique, carried an aura of glamour and power. As an artist, he wrote as naturally as a hawk flies and as clearly as a lake reflects. Hemingway's phrases now live in our language: grace under pressure, a separate peace, death in the afternoon, a clean, well-lighted place, a moveable feast." Norman Mailer was quoted as saying, "It is not likely that Hemingway was a brave man who sought danger for the sake of the sensations it provided him. What is more likely the truth of his own odyssey is that he struggled with his cowardice and against a secret lust to suicide all his life, that his inner landscape was a nightmare, and he spent his nights wrestling with the gods. It may even be that the final judgment on his work may come to the nothing that what he failed to do was tragic, but what he accomplished was heroic, for it is possible that he carried a weight of anxiety with him which would have suffocated any man smaller than himself." (p.571) Highly recommended if you are a Hemingway fan for insights into this uniquely powerful and ultimately human writer.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Terry Cornell

    Mostly biography, part literary analysis of Hemingway's works. Overall a very interesting read, but bogged down when the author would compare real persons in Hemingway's life to literary figures in his books. I know this illustrates how Hemingway depended on his real life experiences and personal relationships, but made the book more confusing at times. A good biography on Hemingway and well worth the read. Mostly biography, part literary analysis of Hemingway's works. Overall a very interesting read, but bogged down when the author would compare real persons in Hemingway's life to literary figures in his books. I know this illustrates how Hemingway depended on his real life experiences and personal relationships, but made the book more confusing at times. A good biography on Hemingway and well worth the read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Wow. Hemingway was a bigger jack off than I'd ever imagined. Other than that, the writing is great, the reporting of events seems fair and as unbiased as possible, and I was greatly entertained by Hemingway's train wreck of a life. I will definitely check out Meyers' biography on Fitzgerald next! Wow. Hemingway was a bigger jack off than I'd ever imagined. Other than that, the writing is great, the reporting of events seems fair and as unbiased as possible, and I was greatly entertained by Hemingway's train wreck of a life. I will definitely check out Meyers' biography on Fitzgerald next!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Al

    A fascinating biography in which the author reveals many little known aspects of Hemingway's life and relates how so much of his writing was drawn directly from incidents which occurred during his own life. If you have read and enjoyed Hemingway's novels and short stories, you should definitely read this book. A fascinating biography in which the author reveals many little known aspects of Hemingway's life and relates how so much of his writing was drawn directly from incidents which occurred during his own life. If you have read and enjoyed Hemingway's novels and short stories, you should definitely read this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Roycroft

    A thorough and honest portrayal of a giant man's strengths as well as his weaknesses. Meyers' reflections on Hemingway's life reflected in his art is a lucid prism with which to view the man and the history. I rarely award 5 stars. Nearly did this time... A thorough and honest portrayal of a giant man's strengths as well as his weaknesses. Meyers' reflections on Hemingway's life reflected in his art is a lucid prism with which to view the man and the history. I rarely award 5 stars. Nearly did this time...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lee Kofman

    I really enjoyed this book. It offers a comprehensive account of the writer’s life interspersed with astute psychological and literary analyses. I also really loved the broad perspective of the biographer, how well he contextualized Hemingway’s life within the broader historical context. I learned a lot from this book – about Hemingway’s creative process, about Cuban history, Spanish war, human nature and more and more.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Summer Lileck

    Incredibly well-researched. Too much detail about certain irrelevant characters and not enough detail, at times, about more important people in Hem's life. This book did not paint Hem in a good light at all, which may have mostly been due to Hemingway's abhorrent behavior. Incredibly well-researched. Too much detail about certain irrelevant characters and not enough detail, at times, about more important people in Hem's life. This book did not paint Hem in a good light at all, which may have mostly been due to Hemingway's abhorrent behavior.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    What an unbelievable life he lead!

  10. 4 out of 5

    ger

    A detailed biography of Hemingway with a good overview of his work from a critical point of view. I did think the last chapters could have been shorter and some of the details of the lives of the people around him seemed too much. Meyers often wrote that other books about him by those who knew him were biased, and that may explain why I don't think I came away with a feeling of who Hemingway was on a Human level. It was a dry record of what he said and did and certainly pointed out very well his A detailed biography of Hemingway with a good overview of his work from a critical point of view. I did think the last chapters could have been shorter and some of the details of the lives of the people around him seemed too much. Meyers often wrote that other books about him by those who knew him were biased, and that may explain why I don't think I came away with a feeling of who Hemingway was on a Human level. It was a dry record of what he said and did and certainly pointed out very well his hypocrisy, lies, self delusion and self serving temperament but I'm still no clearer on what it would be like to be in a room with him. All in all he comes across as not a nice guy but some folk loved him a great deal. A job well done though.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Eastburn

    My dear family friend, Dick Martin, sent this to me along with several of Hem’s books, some of which I’d read. I found myself getting slightly infuriated with H for his sexism, chauvinism, brutality, etc., and yet you can’t help but be moved by the example of his life. If any story isn’t proof that alcohol destroyed his life—(He drank a quart of gin a day)—Maybe he could have written a great book about WWII instead of chasing supposed spies around Cuba.

  12. 5 out of 5

    AJ Dickens

    jeffrey meyers is a good writer, but in this biography he likes to pick and choose what aspects of hemingway to present, and often seems more like a fangirl trying to justify their problematic fav than a critical look at a deeply flawed man.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Role

    Good book to get to know good old Ernesto better. Generally, written very detailed, but for my taste too much focus on his relationships with women

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Stamfors

    Boring and uninspired. Half the book is unnecessary. A very factual book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ian Williams

    As a writer, Hemingway is a giant of 20th century literature. His novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, is the only novel that I read as a teenager to which I keep returning again and again and the magic does not fade. His two “African” stories – The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and The Snows of Kilimanjaro – are the most perfect short stories that I at least have ever read. When he wrote well, he wrote beautifully. A style of writing that he learnt as a journalist – straight clear language wi As a writer, Hemingway is a giant of 20th century literature. His novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, is the only novel that I read as a teenager to which I keep returning again and again and the magic does not fade. His two “African” stories – The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and The Snows of Kilimanjaro – are the most perfect short stories that I at least have ever read. When he wrote well, he wrote beautifully. A style of writing that he learnt as a journalist – straight clear language with no adverbs and no adjectives, - coupled with a perceptive insight into human psychology. As a human being, however, he was less than perfect. In fact he was often a complete shit. He was mean to his wives, turned against all his family and friends, including Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos, physically assaulted critics, and on several occasions, offered people an opportunity to spar with him in the ring, then take that opportunity to beat them up. He had a positive side. He was handsome, a charismatic raconteur, courageous, and could be generous with money. Above all, he was a man of action. He took part in World War 1 and the Spanish Civil War, hunted big game in Africa, fished off the coast of Cuba, and boxed. He never went to university but was extraordinarily well read. He was a voracious reader. His library had 9000 books. Meyers does a good job in bringing to life this complex man, who was easy to admire but difficult to like.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    This is reference to Jeffrey Meyers book: An exhaustive presentation of the life of Hemingway and those who he surrounded himself with in his lifetime. Filled with references and explanations of his work and quotes from friends and colleagues, this book is the definitive guide of the novelist's life and work. For anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the Lost Generation, the politics of the mid-century, and the psychology of an author, will find this work gratifying, gripping, and historic. This is reference to Jeffrey Meyers book: An exhaustive presentation of the life of Hemingway and those who he surrounded himself with in his lifetime. Filled with references and explanations of his work and quotes from friends and colleagues, this book is the definitive guide of the novelist's life and work. For anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the Lost Generation, the politics of the mid-century, and the psychology of an author, will find this work gratifying, gripping, and historic.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wilson Hines

    Absolutely adding more light to the subject than Baker's bio, this fantastic book talks about the family in a more retrospective way with more distance than the honorable Baker. Sometimes it takes forty years to really understand the history of a man, and distance to see his greatness. No matter how great Baker's bio is, and it is great, Meyers seems to take the distance of time and the distance from the family that Baker didn't enjoy and use it for his advantage. Read it! Absolutely adding more light to the subject than Baker's bio, this fantastic book talks about the family in a more retrospective way with more distance than the honorable Baker. Sometimes it takes forty years to really understand the history of a man, and distance to see his greatness. No matter how great Baker's bio is, and it is great, Meyers seems to take the distance of time and the distance from the family that Baker didn't enjoy and use it for his advantage. Read it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    This was a really good read on Hemingway. Personally, a little more than I really was looking for, but interesting none the less.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diane Rashid

    lots of detail. Lots of Papa

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Lau

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steen Alexander

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey W

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ali Athi Ullah

  25. 4 out of 5

    Richard

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christian Badali

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  30. 4 out of 5

    R

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