The man ran on foot through the African safari, shooting down lions, rhinoceroses and zebras. He swallowed more whiskey than water, killed Nazis and won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The man was Ernest Hemingway.
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death. And just in time to commemorate the many personas — both good and bad — of inarguably one of the best American authors is former Esquire editor Marty Beckerman’s latest parody book, “The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within ... Just Like Papa!”
Released in June, the how-to guide to unleashing the booze-inhaling, animal-slaughtering, war-glorifying, hairy-chested, retrosexual legend within is Beckerman’s way of encouraging men, himself included, to bring back Hemingway’s legendary brand of machismo.
“What we do as men now is we go to cupcake bakeries and we go to Pinkberry’s frozen yogurt and we go to yoga for God’s sake. It’s pathetic,” he said. “I don’t think a man can respect himself when he’s doing these things; where he can certainly respect himself when he’s taking down lions and grizzlies and zebras and unicorns.”
Instead of wasting the day indoors and in front of computer and cell phone screens, Beckerman said men should be climbing mountains, dominating battlefields and transforming majestic creatures of the South Hemisphere into
And in “The Heming Way,” Beckerman’s suggestions for becoming a real man include sporting a beard because “peach fuzz won’t save you from pneumonia” and hunting for one’s own meat, because Hemingway’s “grocery store was the great outdoors.”
While Beckerman said the manliest thing for a man is doing whatever the hell he wants, there’s that conflicting notion where Beckerman said he doesn’t think a man can respect himself if he’s doing yoga or Pilates.
“I just don’t think that’s the kind of masculinity we can really feel good about,” he said.
He added that today, men are also really afraid of death. Men used to think there were worse things than death, Beckerman said.
The topic of emasculation in American men was something Beckerman said he had wanted to write about for years and years. The idea of the parody popped in his head one day, and surprisingly, after Googling the idea on the Internet to see if it had already been done, he said he couldn’t believe no one had written a parody about emasculation based on Hemingway.
Like most American teenagers, Beckerman first read the author’s most renowned novel, “A Farewell to Arms,” in high school. And like most teenagers, he read it, but it didn’t quite seep through.
“In the ‘90s and in peacetime in suburban America, a novel about being on the frontline and in the trenches and running off with a woman, it just didn’t apply to my life at all,” Beckerman said.
When Beckerman came back to the novel for part of his research for “The Heming Way” themes, such as the grim reality of war and loyalty, they made a lot more sense to him, he said.
“It’s more [relevant] probably when you get older and you start coming into manhood,” he said. “Entering the adult world and dealing with these adult challenges and seeing what it means to be a man in the world today kind of makes you want to go back to Hemingway.”
Beckerman read all of Hemingway’s short stories and major novels, as well as 15 biographies because, to do a parody well, the writer has to know his or her subject inside and out he said.
“So for a relatively short humor book, a hell of a lot of research went into it,” he said.
He wanted to make an appeal to those who haven’t read much of Hemingway, he said, but he didn’t want to disappoint the hard-core fans either.
“Even though my book is a joke, I hope it inspires people to read the real stuff,” he said.
Though some may not have read Hemingway classics such as “A Farewell to Arms,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea” Beckerman said, most are familiar with “the over-the-top, drunken, animal-slaughtering, jumping-into-war-head-first-again-and-again, munching-on-a bullet-sandwich, crazy man” persona of the author.
If anything, they are at least familiar with the cocktails named after the author, such as the Hemingway mojito and daiquiri.
“Everyone knows the persona,” Beckerman said. And to best sum it up, “Ernest Hemingway’s best-invented fictional character was Ernest Hemingway.”
“That character, that persona had outlasted his books,” he said, quoting the book’s epitaph from Dr. Matthew J. Bruccoli. “And I actually think he would have been okay with that.”
To Beckerman, Hemingway was like the William Shatner of his time — a ubiquitous entertainer. People knew him as a great writer, but he was also a great fisherman and a great hunter.
“And I’m not completely sure Hemingway considered himself a writer above all else. He considered himself as much of a bullfighter and an aficionado as he did a fisher, a hunter or any of these other things,” he said. “He wanted to be champion of the world.”
Printed on 06/30/2011 as: "Heming Way" leads charge for reform of modern man