Fame Became of Him: Hemingway as Public Writer

Fame Became of Him: Hemingway as Public Writer

Fame Became of Him: Hemingway as Public Writer

Fame Became of Him: Hemingway as Public Writer

Excerpt

As one of its "Photoquiz" features in the mid-1950s, Look magazine challenged readers to identify celebrities from photographs of each person's publicly identifying characteristic, his trademark. In one photograph, a battered military cap with "scrambled eggs" on the visor implied General Douglas MacArthur; in another, a bulbous nose suggested W. C. Fields. With a single exception all fifteen photographs were of political or show business personalities presumably familiar to Look readers. The exception was Ernest Hemingway, whose trademark was a curly white beard. It is difficult to imagine any contemporary American writer other than Hemingway in Look 's photoquiz; he alone of his generation enjoyed the double distinction of being a respected novelist and a celebrity. His fame was so large that Look editors could legitimately place him beside Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, President Eisenhower, Marlon Brando, and other luminaries from the worlds of politics and entertainment. Hemingway was a "star"; he was a culture hero to millions of his countrymen, not all of them intellectuals or even readers of books.

How this novelist--one of the most significant in modern American literature--became a celebrity is the subject of this book. Hemingway's literary achievement is tangential to understanding that public fame. The clarity of his prose style in his short stories, the deft characterizations of Jake Barnes and his friends in The Sun Also Rises , the economy and precision in the narrative of the retreat . . .

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