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Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences

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In this brilliant, elegantly written biography, award-winning author James R. Mellow offers a thorough reassessment of a man who was both a literary giant and an icon for his age. The final volume in Mellow’s ”Lost Generation” trilogy, Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences is also a homage to Paris in the 1920s and a tribute to the writers and artists who set the indelible standards for the modern age.

Award-winning author Mellow offers a thorough reassessment of a ...

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Overview

In this brilliant, elegantly written biography, award-winning author James R. Mellow offers a thorough reassessment of a man who was both a literary giant and an icon for his age. The final volume in Mellow’s ”Lost Generation” trilogy, Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences is also a homage to Paris in the 1920s and a tribute to the writers and artists who set the indelible standards for the modern age.

Award-winning author Mellow offers a thorough reassessment of a man who was both a literary giant and an icon for his age. Uncovering new material, Mellow reveals aspects of the writer's life unexplored by previous biographers. "The best work done on the writer to date."--New York Times. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hemingway's (1899-1961) third wife, Martha Gelhorn, bore no great affection for him, but she did cogently sum up his importance: ``He was a genius, that uneasy word, not so much in what he wrote as in how he wrote; he liberated our written language.'' If true, this idea may justify the continuing proliferation of Hemingway biographies, to which Mellow has made a notable addition with this concluding volume of a trilogy devoted to the modernist writers and artists of the ``lost generation'' ( Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company and Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald ). With two-thirds of its pages concentrating on the first 30 years of Hemingway's life, Mellow's work is especially valuable for its exploration of the influences that shaped the writer's skills--particularly the impact of Stein and Ezra Pound--and led to his becoming the 20th century's most famous author. Hemingway's pose as a literary tough guy accounted for much of his celebrity and has provided ample material for the psycho-sexual speculations of biographers--including Mellow, who examines in great detail the many instances of male bonding that accompanied Hemingway's interests and lifestyle. Mellow softens Hemingway's harsh portrait of his mother as a domineering harridan, while he acknowledges that Hemingway's unresolved feelings about his mother affected his relationships with women. Hemingway was haunted, too, by the suicide of his ineffectual but admired father, from whom he learned the ``masculine'' pursuits of hunting and fishing, although Mellow contends that Hemingway's fear of death obsessed him long before that devastating loss. Hemingway's hoard of private papers to which Mellow had access--character notes, outlines and early versions of now-famous stories and novels--reveal much about him; the papers provide insight, for example, into the process by which a writer transforms the ordinary stuff of life into art. Mellow devotes only a few pages to Hemingway's slow decline into the pontifications of the ``Papa'' period, aptly remarking that ``one has to fight back the feeling that Hemingway let himself down badly.'' These words resonate against the image of the writer as a charismatic young man with a wide smile and big shoulders whose great promise and considerable achievements Mellow so sensitively assesses. Photos not seen by PW . ( Nov. )
Library Journal
Mellow manages an amazing achievement in this undercooked biography; he makes Hemingway's life boring. The book suffers from several ailments, not the least of which is that it is not the biography of a dedicated artist who changed the face of American literature but of a drunken, bullying braggart who also penned a few stories. It's all ``Papa'' and no Ernest. The coverage is generally uneven. Hemingway's ordinary youth is dissected in wearying minutiae while the last 20-plus years of his life, during which he wrote several major works, is crammed hastily into a mere 100 pages. Other drawbacks are the lack of fine detail and critical analysis. Though Mellow often waxes philosophic on the function of the biographer, he fails to fulfill that role by offering little insight into his subject. Overall a poor performance from a National Book Award-winning biographer who should know better. Save your money for Michael Reynolds's upcoming Hemingway: The American Homecoming .--Michael Rogers, ``Library Journal''
Bill Ott
"There's another one?" Expect this response if you tell a friend you've been reading a new biography of Hemingway. It's ironic, of course, that a writer whose great goal was to write simply, "to put down what really happened in action," should have his literary corpse picked over so incessantly and so ravenously by all variety of critics and biographers. Choose your theme: penis size, fear of homosexuality, macho neuroticism, competitiveness--these and more are among the detritus that has been diligently unearthed in the ransacking of Hemingway's life and art. So, indeed, why another biography? To complete a trilogy is the simple answer. Mellow's study represents the third and concluding volume in his Lost Generation series, following "Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company" (1974) and "Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald" (1985). But does the book add anything new to the Hemingway shelf? Not really. Yes, there is a valuable new focus on the writer's relationships with his various men friends, both older confidants and younger idolaters, but, on the whole, this is the same life we have read about so many times before. And, yet, even without any new discoveries or radical reevaluations, Mellow's book is immensely satisfying. Rather than building an interpretation around only one aspect of Hemingway, as so many other biographers have done--either celebrating the young writer in Paris or condemning the ego-obsessed literary lion of the forties and fifties--Mellow, showing remarkable balance and a graceful prose style, gives us the whole man and makes us see more clearly than ever before the tissue that connected the Oak Park teenager to the Paris journeyman to the Key West Papa to the Ketchum suicide. Most people remember Hemingway's books fondly, but usually as something they read in high school or college and later outgrew. The real triumph of this biography is the way it makes us reevaluate our own responses to Hemingway--and even to reach once more for that tattered, gray-and-blue Scribners paperback of "In Our Time".
Booknews
This biography is the final volume in Mellow's "Lost Generation" trilogy (the others: Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company and Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From Barnes & Noble
Legendary writer, peerless war correspondent, avid sportsman, and icon of his age, Ernest Hemingway lived a life profound in its accomplishments and tragic in its personal implications. This brilliant reassessment of a literary giant & a flawed, mercurial man illuminates a fascinating cast of characters and some previously unexplored aspects of a great life. B&W photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395377772
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 11/1/1992
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.81 (d)

Meet the Author

James R. Mellow won the National Book Award for his biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences completes the trilogy that includes Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company, and Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. In his thirty-six year career as a writer, art critic, and biographer, Mellow has written for The New York Times, Architectural Digest, The Washington Post, Gourmet, and Arts magazine, among other publications, He lives in Clinton, Connecticut.
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