One of the questions I get asked most often, by those who read my blog, is:
“Veronica, why in the H do you hate Hemingway so much?”
The answer to this question is as complex as my love of awkwardness. I hate him because I respect him. Also, because I feel like he probably never tipped a waitress a day in his life. And because, had I been born a few dozen years earlier (and most importantly, male) I very well could have been him.
There’s a saying I’ve been a big fan of for as long as I can remember. Something along the lines of, “We hate most in others the things we recognize and fear in ourselves.” That’s why bullies always target creative types, in other words, those able to more freely and articulately express emotion in a way which bullies have been brought up to believe makes them weak. It’s why the Kardashians are always reaming each other for their ever-escalating and blatant attention-seeking tactics.
IMO, it’s why Hemingway hated the establishment, which in his mind was made up entirely of liars, fakes, and pretty-boy pretenders like Oscar Wilde. On some level, I think he recognized that one day, hipsters in coffee shops would read his novels while sipping $7 soy lattes and wearing non-prescription glasses that cost $40 at Urban Outfitters. I think he knew that deep down, his work was commercial as f***, in its own way. And he couldn’t stand the idea of being remembered forever, but never totally understood as a human being.
Maybe that’s why I hate him in turn. Maybe I’m afraid of getting more and more bitter with age, or becoming so thoroughly fed up with the ridiculous unfairness of the world that I just throw up my hands and move to Cuba, or some shack in the woods. (With cable, central air, and super fast Wifi, naturally.) Or maybe it’s much more Freudian, and I really do wish I was born a man so it would be 100x easier for me to make a dent in this world with my angst-filled words.
Call it narcissism if you want. (It’d be just one more thing we had in common.) After all, Hemingway and I have both been trained as journalists. We’ve both traveled the world and lived in the Caribbean for a time. We share a penchant for elevated, yet slightly angry fiction. And I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until the FBI opens a file on me (if they haven’t already.) Like him, I aspire to a Nobel prize, but I’d rather get one for inventing time travel.
At the end of his life, like many great writers, Hemingway became obsessed with the idea that he was responsible for changing the world. In my mind, that pressure was what destroyed him. It saddens me to think that if he’d just learned to let things go, he might have lived a happier life. (Health problems aside, because those he couldn’t help.) If I’m being honest, I’d say both of those issues rank on my top ten list of ultimate fears, as a writer: 1) taking myself and my work too seriously and 2) running out of energy/health/time before I accomplish the things I want to accomplish.
The point of all this is, I think the old saying is absolutely right. We idolize some people because they’re not at all like us, and hate others because they are. Maybe that’s why the world is such a ridiculous, screwed up place.
I feel like Hemingway probably had a lot more in him to say about that.