Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boys will be boys ...

... Hemingway’s fight club (1936).

I am inclined to take with several grains of salt Hemingway's own testimony regarding his pugilistic prowess. Canadian writer Morley Callaghan saw Papa (before he became Papa) laid out in the ring by Scott Fitzgerald, who was smaller and lighter but had boxed in college.


  1. Hemingway was a braggart, but he was one of those braggarts that truly had something to brag about.

    He did not need to exaggerate, but he often did.

    I've read mixed comments regarding his amateur boxing skills. Many of the comments were from people whose personal feelings towards Hemingway may have clouded their judgment (pro and con), and many of the comments were from people who were not qualified to judge, having limited or no expierence in the ring themselves.

    I was an amateur boxer from 12 to 29, and I have to say that Hemingway wrote better - or truer, to use his word - about boxing and fighting then any other writer I've read. And I've read a good number of books and stories on boxing.

  2. I'd like to add to the above, in addition to my signature, that Hemingway also wrote well and knowledgably about fishing, hunting, seamanship, crime and war.

    Anthony Burgess, writing an introduction to a book about Hemingway, noted that Hemingway was often criticized for wasting his days hunting, fishing, boxing, drinking and boating, rather than pursuing a traditional literary life at universities and cocktail parties with other writers.

    Burgess went on to state that "The Old Man and the Sea" was Hemingway's answer.

    Hemingway had not been wasting his time in the company of fishermen, hunters, soldiers, sailors, and boxers.

    Paul Davis

  3. I don't remember reading about a fight between F. Scott and Hem, so I'll have to look that up.

    In this case, the few bios I've read (Jeffrey Meyers in particular) say this one was on the up and up. God knows, you want to take anything Hem says with a shaker of salt, but he was on the level here.

    Hemingway fans, if they haven't gotten it already, should look at "The True Gen," a Rashamon-style oral biography that delivers all the backbiting, contradictory stories about the guy.

  4. Well, you are certainly right, Paul, that braggart though he was, Hemingway had plenty to brag about. There are plenty of examples of genuine courage on his part. I think he was a lot more insecure that he appeared to be - hence the actually unnecessary bragging. And, Bill: I read Callaghan's account, believe it or not, many, many years in a syndicated column of his that appeared in Philadelphia's Evening. I have since, however, heard it repeated and think it may be recounted in a memoir that Callaghan wrote.

  5. After posting my second comment here last night I reread "The Battler."

    The short story, like many of Hemingway's short stories, is still powerful.

    Paul Davis

  6. Next time I'm speaking with Michael Callaghan (a brilliant visual artist who just became a dad for the first time; so, understandably, he's a little enamoured of the process), I'll ask him about this since both his father, the fine poet, Barry Callaghan, and himself will have a copy of two of the memoir you mention, Frank.

    BTW, when I return 1 March, I have all the McLuhan answers for Art, Lee, (whom I've missed so very much), particularly the one involving McLuhan's source for his expression, "The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers."

    Eric took his time replying; and, to be honest, I don't blame him. His mom, Marshall's wife, passed away late last year and, despite the fact we all knew it would happen imminently, it still hurts like hell. You can't know till it affects you personally.

    (My mom left us 16 February 2004; and, I was thinking about her that day last week, thinking that even though she had suffered from Alzheimer's, I wasn't prepared for her loss and am just now coming to terms with it, a fact you also cannot know till it happens.)

    S'pose that's why I so loved your Yellow Roses, Art D. Reading about same was a fine comfort to me. Thank you.