Hemingway, Stinker and Writer
Some people on FB are gassing on about what a stinker Hemingway was, and concluding therefore that he couldn't write. Treating novelists as either heroes or demons, ideologues or intellectuals, is a grave mistake that is generally made by people who do not read, much less understand literature. Just because Hemingway was by an large a terrible person does not mean that he was a poor writer, and the fact that he was a sucker for the fashionable ideologies of his time puts him in the same category with at least 90% of mankind.
Glen Gould was a neurotic, but that has little bearing on his musicianship. Proust was a homosexual, Baudelaire a drug-taking degenerate, Coleridge and De Quincy were dopers. Big deal. EH's stories and first novel are, by modern American standards (admittedly not very high) well done and useful if only for telling boys and young men the code they are supposed to aspire to. The observation that EH did not practice as he preached is, well, trivial and silly. At least the com symp womanizing suicide preferred to spend his time fishing, hunting, drinking and wenching instead of displaying his ignorance on FB.
Some poor writers are wonderful people, some great writers are stinkers, but there is no equation of moral evil with literary greatness. From everything we know, Aeschylus and Sophocles were fine men, and across the centuries some of the greatest writers have led good lives. Walter Scott comes to mind, and, after he got off the booze, Booth Tarkington. I am reminded of a newspaper editorial on the presidential race between Grover Cleveland and James Blaine. Cleveland was making payments to support a bastard (he may or may not actually conceived, since he was taking the fall for married friends) but was an honest politician, while Blaine, a model family man, was a crook. A sane man knows which of the two deserved his vote.
We live in a rotten period, where even people who make a stab at leading responsible lives fall terribly short. When a man or woman has done something well--painted a picture, written a song, worked hard to rear his children--his accomplishments should be celebrated. A number of good people have recently asked me how I viewed my atheist leftist (almost certainly CPA at one point) father. I answer always, "With profound respect and admiration." One of the reasons I am not attracted to more intellectualizing versions of Christianity--Calvinism for example, or certain schools of thought in the Catholic Church--is that they seemed to restrict salvation only to people who can understand complex theological questions and come up with answers that please the leaders of sect or school. There was an early ruling of the Church that Arian heretics who were put to death not for their heresy but for their faith in Christ should be regarded as martyrs. Amen.