We spoke with Marty Beckerman, one-time GMP blogger and author of the forthcoming book The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within … Just Like Papa!, about manliness, hard drinking, Ted Nugent, satire, hating on Fitzgerald, and tweeting pictures of yourself.
Three-part question: Is there any contemporary figure who even approaches being a modern-day Hemingway? Would Hemingway punch this guy in the face? And, Marty Beckerman, if you stumbled back in time to expatriate France a la Midnight in Paris, what would Hemingway think of you?
Ted Nugent is probably the closest we have to a modern Hemingway, except that he refuses to drink alcohol, so he can never be Papa’s equal.
I’d like to think Hemingway and the Motor City Madman would get along, but if it came to blows, Papa would need a weapon to counterbalance Nugent’s crossbow. A harpoon might work.
Hemingway would think that I’m a total sissy. This book isn’t written from the perspective of “I’m the ultimate man, and I’m going to lecture my inferiors.” It’s written from the perspective of “I’m a cosmopolitan infantilized eunuch who eats cupcakes and drinks smoothies just like everyone else with a Y chromosome, and this needs to stop.” I want to learn how to hunt, I want to learn how to sail, I want to learn how to short-circuit my liver … and Hemingway is my North Star.
This book appears to have been written with tongue so far in cheek that your cheek probably got a little distended. Was it tough to write in so consistent a satiric style? Did you ever get tempted to break character and just talk straight, either to your reader or about Hemingway? What do you think is gained by using a sardonic tone throughout?
Yeah, I thought it was appropriate to open the book with Hemingway’s quote: “The parody is the last refuge of the frustrated writer. … The greater the work of literature, the easier the parody. The step up from writing parodies is writing on the wall above the urinal.”
Actually the biggest challenge was balancing the satirical and biographical elements. The early drafts read like a research paper with jokes thrown in, which didn’t work, but it also wouldn’t have worked as modified “Chuck Norris facts,” which tell you nothing about the real Chuck Norris. I wanted the reader to genuinely learn about Hemingway—my book cites dozens of sources with hundreds of footnotes—but I also wanted to make that reader laugh his or her (probably his) ass off. And with Hemingway, it’s often difficult to tell when a true story ends and a joke begins.
Hemingway, like Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner, has a persona that even today dominates American literature—there are kids (guys, mostly) who’ve read every Hemingway novel but couldn’t name a single living American fiction writer. Why do you think this is? What does it say about today’s novelists, and about today’s readers?
I’m not even sure those guys have read Hemingway’s novels—they’re too busy playing Xbox and watching YouTube clips of kitties playing with string—but everyone knows the Hemingway cartoon character. Matthew Bruccoli, the world’s preeminent Fitzgerald scholar, had a great line: “Ernest Hemingway’s best-invented fictional character was Ernest Hemingway.” That’s his most enduring legacy. You can go to bars all over world and order a Hemingway mojito; he remains synonymous with Key West and Spain and Paris and Cuba and African safaris. As much as I love Gatsby, Fitzgerald doesn’t have a lasting iconic persona. Nobody aspires to be F. Scott Fitzgerald, except for lame-o English majors and people who hope to die in a gutter.
—Photo Gilderic (Recovering)/Flickr