Ernest Hemingway was one of the most famous authors of the 20th century. His realism, unflinching depiction of war, and terse style influenced countless writers. I sat down with the literary legend to get a glimpse of the man behind the pen.
The Bygone Bureau: Hey Ernest, how are you? Thank you for making the journey out of the afterlife.
Ernest Hemingway: Oh please, it was nothing. Do you have any idea what combat is like? Probably not, you pansy. Coming back from the dead was nothing compared to the Spanish Civil War.
I’m glad it wasn’t too much trouble. Now that you’ve had a few decades to let your canon of works rest, how do you feel about it? Do you have any regrets?
Only pansies have regrets. If I could change anything, though, I would shorten some of the sentences in For Whom the Bell Tolls. There are way more adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions than I would like in some of those sentences.
Many of your works mirror your experiences in World War I and the Spanish Civil War. How autobiographical are your novels?
If you’re trying to figure out if I’m impotent like Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, the answer is a resounding “fuck, no.” I am an Adonis; masculinity personified. I am more virile than a Bonobo.
That’s good to know. I wasn’t concerned so much with your virility as the role war played in shaping your literary perspective, but let’s move on.
Much has been made regarding your portrayal of female characters. Critics claim that they are either manipulative and domineering, or incredibly weak and passive. How do you respond to these criticisms?
How many women do you know that spent days wrestling a giant, metaphorical fish? How many women do you know that fought valiantly in two of the most brutal wars in history? How many women do you know had the balls to blow out their own brains with a giant shotgun? I’ll tell you: zero. And that, my little friend, is why my female characters aren’t complex. Because females aren’t complex enough to do masculine things, like fighting a humongous allegorical fish and killing each other in war and committing incredibly gruesome suicides.
Touché, I suppose. Although Sylvia Plath (who Jordan interviewed last year) killed herself in a rather gruesome way. And women now serve in the military, killing the enemy just as men do. Also, if the fish was metaphorical, how did you spend days wrestling it?
How much do you weigh, son? 125 pounds? I could crush you. I’m dead, and I could crush you.
You’re out of line–
[Hemingway rises from his chair, lifts Merrion by the legs, submerges his head in a toilet, and flushes.]
How do you like that? That’s called a swirly.
It’s been a long while since I’ve had one of those. Your minimalist writing style is often credited as a forerunner to “hard-boiled” crime novels. How do you feel about that?
Great. There’s nothing I enjoy in the afterlife more than sitting down in my rumpus room and reading about some cop busting ass with a truncheon. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be a truncheon for me to enjoy it. Cudgels are great too. I just wish there was more bullfighting in crime novels. Do you have any idea how many bullfights I’ve seen? I’ve seen more men gored by bulls than you could ever guess.
I’ve never seen anyone gored. Moving on, which of your works would you say is best?
That short story where I anthropomorphized the lion that gets killed on a safari. The story is actually partially told from the perspective of a lion that is hunting a human. How creative is that? F. Scott Fitzgerald could never come up with that shit. Eat your heart out, Fitzgerald! I could drink Fitzgerald under the table any day. That fop couldn’t handle his liquor like I can. Do you have any idea how much I can drink? I can take down a fifth of Jack Daniel’s without even batting an eyelash. I don’t even have eyelashes. Eyelashes are for pansies. Have you ever seen anyone smash a beer can on his or her forehead? I can do that.
Well, I am starting to get a little frightened, so this will be my final question. Who is your favorite literary character of all time?
Right now it’s a tie. I’m going to be liberal in my use of “literary character.” I can do that because I am dead. I’ve really been admiring Zeus lately. He had a lot of women. And I respect that. Turbo from American Gladiators also demands a lot of respect. Of course, I could beat them all down. I can handle pain. I’ll show you. Hit me in the groin right now. Come on. Give me a tipper.
Mr. Hemingway, I will not hit you in the groin. Thank you for joining us, though, and enjoy your return to the afterlife.