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People & Arts: Books

Everybody Behaves Badly

The Opportunist Also Rises

By JAKE SOMMERS     Dec. 13, 2016

ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S RISE as a writer and public figure seemed fueled as much by his charisma—and all the well-connected supporters who helped launch his career—as by his talent and innovative writing style.

As Lesley M. M. Blume writes in her deliciously readable book Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Hemingway’s debut novel and ticket to stardom was a gossipy roman à clef about his own experiences traveling to a drunken fiesta in Spain with a group of friends in 1924.

The reportorial book, essentially non-fiction with just enough invention added to call it fiction, was elevated to high literature by a title taken from the Bible and the opening epigraph “You are all a lost generation” from Gertrude Stein.

Blume’s book reveals that for all his popularity, Hemingway was an opportunist and a back-stabber who used his friends, wives and supporters to further his career. He then tossed them aside, and even publicly mocked them, once they had fulfilled their purposes for him.

And yet, like those friends, Hemingway’s loyal fans and readers can’t help liking him, anyway.

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