Aug 27, 2022·edited Aug 27, 2022

I don't like the mob either. Morality police is how I would call it. I haven't read Hemingway in a long time, so I can't say how I'd feel about his work specifically.

Yet, this is how I'm relating to what you've written from my experience. It makes me think of Michael Jackson. After watching the documentary of the survivors of his sexual abuse tell their story, I can't enjoy his music. Whenever I hear it, I hear the voice of a rapist and I see images of those boys, of Michael molesting them, of how he hurt people and got away with it, and I feel physical pain in my chest.. and anger.

A song that previously made me happy and joyful, now makes me angry, because I know what the artist was doing while he was creating and I can't ignore that. Some people can.

My cousin loves his music and always will. My cousin says the art is not the artist. The art has its own life. That can be true. I see the beauty of that perspective. As an artist myself, I want that to be true - I want my art to be an entity in and of itself.

In this case, my cousin can hold the art and the artist separately. I can't. Maybe in another case, with a different artist, different art, and different vices, I'd be able to and my cousin wouldn't.

Like Hemingway, Michael Jackson revolutionized his field, and I continue to enjoy the music that has evolved from the developments he initiated. I am grateful for his contributions to the evolution of music, as I am grateful for Hemingway's contributions to literature. (So, so grateful!) At the same time, for me, in my body, Michael's own songs have become visceral reminders of harm.

For me it's not about jumping on a bandwagon or joining a mob, it's about how I feel. I imagine this must be true for at least some of Hemingway's detractors, no?

I think it's OK, great even, that many people can continue to appreciate the work, I think it's OK, great even, to be angry at the morality police, and I also want to acknowledge a third group, people whose sensitivities are too overpowered by the harm perpetuated by the artist to continue to enjoy the art.

I think these groups can coexist peacefully, and when we take a super wide lens perspective, I think we need them all. Does that resonate, or have I missed your point?

Thought-provoking topic, Richard! Thanks for sharing!

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Well done Richard. I like to see this kind of push back when all the literary world gangs up on a good writer. And Hemingway is clearly that and all the admirable things you say about him. I love teaching one of my favorite Hemingway books, A Moveable Feast, but that text highlights the real complication of Hemingway's literary legacy. The writing is mostly pitch perfect. But there are chapters–like the one in which he expresses disgust at Stein's lesbianism, or his awful treatment of a gay writer in "The Birth of a New School," or his reprehensible evisceration of Fitzgerald's alleged sexual inadequacies (being dead F was unable to defend himself), that certainly justify the criticisms that some readers level at him. When my students read that book, and express their disdain for those chapters, they aren't piling on or joining the mob (they are blissfully unaware that such a mob exists), but telling me what effect the writing has on them.

I'm guessing, though, that your defense of H brackets this text, since it IS (ostensibly) his life and not a part of his fiction (though I seem to recall that he wanted it read as fiction). And if you think readers should separate a writer's life from his/her work, I guess we have to exclude their avowedly autobiographical texts from our assessment of them.

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For decades I have been, and remain, a huge fan of much of Hemingway's work. Not that every sentence he wrote was a classic, but when he got it right his lines are about as good as it gets. Thanks for reminding us that a writer's life and his work are not the same, and that we can value one, without appoving of the other.

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Thank you, Richard for the thoughtful and straightforward analysis. As you know, I’m a big Didion fan and agree with her comments as well.

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Wise words, Richard. I've shared this with my reading group. I'm waiting for the Jane Austin disparagers to rise up in concert!

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