The World Isn’t What You Think It Is

by A. Jay Adler on January 9, 2012
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Col. Charles T. Lanham and Ernest Hemingway in...

It wasn’t ‘t even what you thought it was when you thought it was it.

From “Ernest Hemingway: war hero, big-game hunter, ‘gin-soaked abusive monster’,” Time Literary Supplement

James Campbell reviewing The Letters Of Ernest Hemingway, Volume One: 1907–1922 and Hemingway’s Boat: Everything he loved in life, and lost, 1934-1961, by Paul Hendrickson

Of Ernest Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory:

“When it’s all added up, papa, it will be: he wrote a few good stories, had a novel and fresh approach to reality and he destroyed five persons – Hadley, Pauline, Marty [Gellhorn], Patrick, and possibly myself. Which do you think is the most important, your self-centred shit, the stories or the people?”

Gregory’s mother (and Patrick’s) was Pauline Pfeiffer, whom Hemingway had taken up with in 1926, leaving Hadley with their three-year-old son John. In 1937, when Patrick was nine and Gregory six, he deserted Pauline for Martha Gellhorn. Gregory, who was writing the day after his twenty-first birthday, as if having waited until the age of entitlement, called his father a “cocksucker” and a “gin-soaked abusive monster”.

“God have mercy on your soul for the misery you have caused. If I ever meet you again and you start piling the ruthless, illogical and destructive shit on me, I will beat your head into the ground and mix it with cement to make outhouses.”

As for “filial respect”, he scarcely needed to make the point that it was dead, but did so anyway, perhaps in the service of pressing home another: “It’s gone Ernestine dear, it’s gone!”

Even Hendrickson cannot say whether “Ernestine” was another of Gregory’s fancies, or if the bark had a surprise bite. Five years earlier, Hemingway had begun writing The Garden of Eden, in which his and Mary’s transsexual role playing is rendered in light fictional coating. David and Catherine of the novel (published posthumously in 1986) are not far removed from Ernest and Mary. A year after responding patiently to Gregory’s fury, he wrote in Mary’s journal: “She loves me to be her girls [sic], which I love to be”.

The focus of Gregory’s present anger was a minor incident which took place on September 30 the previous year, and a major one twenty-four hours later. Hearing that Gregory had been charged with causing a public disturbance after entering a cinema in Los Angeles dressed in women’s clothing, Pauline flew down from San Francisco to attend a court hearing on October 1. Between touchdown and the commencement of court proceedings, she suffered a ruptured blood vessel, caused by an undiagnosed tumour, and died on the operating table. The “Ernestine” letter is cited by Hendrickson as part of an extensive, compassionate examination of Gregory’s history. In 1995, by then a qualified doctor and the father of five children by three women, Gregory underwent gender realignment surgery and became Gloria. In his memoir Papa (1976), he wrote of his father’s attempt to blame Pauline’s death on his transgressive habit: “I believed him”.

via Ernest Hemingway: war hero, big-game hunter, ‘gin-soaked abusive monster’ | TLS.

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