Charles O'keefe
AUTHOR OF THE NEWFOUNDLAND VAMPIRE SERIES

Details from Audible:

By-Line Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades

Publisher’s Summary

Across three continents and four decades, here is Hemingway: the adventurer, the reporter, the man! More intimately than in all his fiction, Hemingway the reporter reveals Hemingway the man, driving an ambulance through a bullet barrage or leading guerrilla forces into Paris, always in the thick of the action. Here are his most sensational dispatches: the grisly truth about Mussolini, the horrors of total war, the rootless expatriates of the Lost Generation, the blood and beauty of bullfighting and big-game hunting…the behind-the-scenes stories that became For Whom the Bell TollsA Farewell to Arms, and The Sun Also Rises.© ©1967 By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc.; renewal copyright ©1995 Patrick and John H. Hemingway ©1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1939, 1941, 1949 Ernest Hemingway; renewal copyright ©1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967 Mary Hemingway and By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc. ©1944 Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, Mary Hemingway and By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc. ©1938 Ken, Inc. and Ernest Hemingway; renewal copyright ©1966 by Mary Hemingway and By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc. ©1954 the Estate of Ernest Hemingway and By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc. ©1956 Mary Hemingway and By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc. ©1937, 1938 New York Times and North American Newspaper Alliance, Inc.; renewal copyright © 1965, 1966 Mary Hemingway, By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc. and the New York Times Company ©1951 Fawcett Publications, Inc., Ernest Hemingway and By-Line Ernest Hemingway, Inc. (P)2007 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Initial Thoughts:

Ahh Hemingway, my favorite author both for his writing and his amazing life. For what he means to me go here to my thoughts on his unusual memoir. While it’s still Stephen King I’ve probably read the most books by, I will get to all of Hemingway someday and I think the fact that he’s been dead over 50 years (’62) and I am still learning about him make him an incredible literary and historical figure. This book got good reviews, was on Audible and of course is about Papa, so I was in.

Main Points:

There are way too many articles for me to talk about each one. So instead I’ll give thoughts on each time period that is covered here (its over 4 decades and 5 parts).

Part 1:

This is a young Hemingway taking place 1920-1924. While there were many articles I enjoyed, some others were rather dull and tedious. I love a light-hearted Hemingway doing things like getting a shave from a barber college and getting a tooth pulled by a student (these were both funny). As time passes we already get to see glimpses, though, of his realistic views of the world, the state of other countries, his hatred for Mussolini (if only he really had been a bluff as Hemingway stated) and of course his fascination with bull-fighting. The weird part with the bull-fighting is that he admits its a tragedy, the bull always dies of course and sometimes even the matador but he still finds it incredibly exciting and loves to watch.

Part 2:

Here we see Hemingway’s long-standing love for Cuba and of course for fishing and hunting. We also see where he gets the inspiration for “The Old Man and the Sea” , I had always thought this was something Hemingway did but it turns out it was a story about a fisherman off Cuba who struggled with a huge fish for days, only to have it eaten away by sharks. His love of Key West (and boxing) show up here, along with some unexpected humor about birds. Again not the best section of the book, some parts were dull but as a big fan of Papa I still enjoyed it.

Also in this section there is a wonderful part where Ernest gives advice to a young writer. It is similar to things he said in “A Moveable Feast” but still just wonderful for me as a writer myself. He actually gives a long list of books to read and perhaps his best advice (which I’ll paraphrase). “Whatever you write about you have to capture the emotion of it. Whatever it felt like to be there, do to the act, what the other people felt, what they said. If you can capture the feeling of act and make it true, make the reader believe it, then you’re done your job as a writer.”

Part 3:

Hemingway, despite his flaws like animal cruelty, a huge amount of hunting, womanizing, alcoholism, racist tendencies and by some accounts misogyny, was a true patriot, brave, heroic and a great reporter will do go in the most dangerous places to get the truth.

In this part we see Ernest in the Spanish Civil War and right on the front lines. Here we get descriptions of the gruesome sights of war but also the heroics and the strange way life carries on. He also manages to bring us some humor along with the importance of true reporting. He talks of one reporter who wanted a false story reported, a story that had it been discovered would have been death for the poor female tricked into taking it out of the country. Here also we see keen Ernest views of the world have become, he predicts the start of WWII within six months. Even Ernest could not have predicted Pearl Harbor, though, and along with many other Americans feel they should have stayed out of a war in Europe.

Part 4:

This is the best part of the book for me. It starts with a something I’ve never heard before, an interview with Ernest, which I had hoped would actually be audio somehow preserved but no. Still the incredible part is that he corrected it himself, even with just an interview he was always the perfectionist and the storyteller.

His assessment of Japan-China relations is very interesting and it gives details to the war I didn’t know, that Russia was making money by funding both the Axis and the Allies. Again here we are left to wonder if his advice was correct, Japan had some skirmishes with China but never did invade a country so large. If Japan had taken China, they may have continued inland and the whole course of the war may have been different (perhaps its a good thing he was wrong).

He also shows the incredible determination and resourcefulness of the Chinese with a great story of how they build a massive runway with almost no tools, just a lot of people working night and day as hard as they can.

Speaking of, I knew that Hemingway was there in WWII but I didn’t know all the details. His descriptions of his landing on D-Day in France was amazing, how close he came to death just to get a story is nothing short of astounding. He said himself that he could have wrote a book on D-Day, it’s sad that it never happened.

Hemingway was in WWII as a reporter but he stayed so long that the men started to think of him as an officer. He even had fun by telling one man that he couldn’t rise above the rank of Captain because he couldn’t read or write.

This review has gotten long but as always it shows my love of Hemingway and I was on vacation when I wrote this with lots of time to spare. His descriptions of the fight for Paris and then for Germany are incredible to listen to. Especially when they are getting German’s out of this entrenched bunkers. Hemingway, whom I read did fight but got away with it when discovered, threw a grenade and even shot and killed German soldiers. They way I read it, he was defending himself in a time of war and would not have been charged with anything, still though he acted like a solider and really became one that day, when he was a reporter. For me, though, it just cements by vision of him as a hero. How many reporters have you heard of fighting right alongside of troops? I’ve never heard of anyone, except Hemingway.

Part 5:

With the war over we see Hemingway return to what he loves, exploring the world, hunting, fishing and writing. His description of Cuba is wonderful and makes me wish I could have seen the countryside as he did back then (I’ve been to Havana and a resort on Cuba but wasn’t overly impressed). We see Hemingway now as he becomes weary with the world, he gives hints that he is drinking more and that he wants to see people less. He talks about several places he has lived as being ruined and says that Cuba is one of the only true places left for him but even there he knows it will change and he’ll have to leave.

He made me sad when he talks about cock fighting, not just watching it but raising his own roosters just to have them fight and die. It’s always hard to comprehend who someone who loved cats and dogs would want to watch (and participate in) such a brutal act. Some would say it was Hemingway repressing his feelings, that perhaps he was homosexual or at least curious, maybe they are right, I’ve come to see his hyper-masculine activities were certainly a cover for some kind of issue (or issues) he had.

The book ends with another incredible (and sad) story. How he and his wife survived not one, but two plane crashes. Hemingway tells us of a time he was trapped by an angry elephant on top of a small hill, without his gun all he could do was fling rocks at the animal until it finally gave up. The saddest part is that once he does make it out of the wilderness of Africa he has to prove that he is still alive and later becomes obsessed with reading his own obituaries. In fact he wrote this final report to clarify all the mistakes made in the obituaries! Hemingway is in his 50’s here and he knows he is getting older, can feel himself slipping. Still he doesn’t seem like a man who would later take his own life, it is a tragedy that more people couldn’t have helped him after this point, maybe he could have written another masterpiece? He at least could have finish several stories of his. Despite all the sadness here I was also amused at a tale of how he finally agrees to get a bodyguard/assistant. It shows us that Hemingway was an intensely private man and didn’t like all the fame he would get in public places. He loved those friends and associates close to him and he makes an incredibly sad (and true) statement towards the end. Once more I’m paraphrasing, “All of the jerks, idiots and losers live on and on, yet the ones we love, the special people in our lives die all the time. As the years, months and days go by we continue to lose them, their lights forever snuffed out and never to return.” As someone who has recently lost his father I couldn’t agree more, life is terribly unfair and it’s true that the good people seem to die first, old assholes seem to hang on forever.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve always been fascinated with WWII and Nazi Germany in particular. So for me learning more details of the war both the political aspects and the first hand accounts of Hemingway, was wonderful. I’ve always love Hemingway, despite all his flaws. He was an incredible man, an amazing writer and ultimately a sad and tragic figure. Like most great writers he was tortured, in mind, body and spirit and ultimately those demons won. This is an excellent non-fiction collection of Hemingway’s life and his adventures as a reporter. I’ll admit there were times I was bored and I did find it long in places. Still though I highly recommend it. A solid 8 out of 10 from me. The voice work is excellent (though I would recommend listening it at speed 1.5, it takes nothing away) and I was sad to have it end. Not for children, due to graphic violence and language I would say ages 16+. Until next time (which won’t be so length, promise!), have a good one!