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Papa Hemingway’s Mom Wasn’t A Fan

I can’t read the following passage without hearing the voice of George Costanza’s mother as I read it.

This comes from a letter Hemingway’s mother, Grace, wrote to Ernest after the publication of The Sun Also Rises.

The critics seem to be full of praise for your style and ability to draw word pictures but the decent ones always regret that you should use such great gifts in perpetuating the lives and habits of so degraded a strata of humanity …. It is a doubtful honor to produce one of the filthiest books of the year …. What is the matter? Have you ceased to be interested in nobility, honor and fineness in life? …. Surely you have other words in your vocabulary than “damn” and “bitch”—Every page fills me with a sick loathing.

Man, that’s criticism where it hurts. Hemingway undoubtedly wrote back, “Thanks for the sweet note, mom.”

This goes back to a topic we discussed a few days ago—what does it mean to “glorify” a topic in literature? Obviously, Mrs. Hemingway thought her son was glorifying a lot of things that need not be glorified.

But this: “Every page fills me with a sick loathing.”

Come on, Ma Hemingway. No wonder your son had so many problems–with that kind of support and scathing criticism. The guy was an author, not the anti-Christ.

Hemingway received a fair amount of praise in his life, which hopefully helped ease some of his family’s angst toward him.

But, man, Grace Hemingway…that woman was harsh.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reminds me of my mom… 🙂


    April 2, 2013
  2. the harshest — that is just terrible — hope he ignored her


    April 2, 2013
  3. Sadly, sometimes the things that are most precious to us are trashed by people close to us. How sad he must of felt hearing such harsh words. However, it also shows how determined he was and how many personal obstacles he had to overcome and get past.


    April 2, 2013
    • I agree. I can’t imagine hearing something that awful from my mother.


      April 2, 2013
  4. OMG!! Now that’s a ‘damn bitch’ that fills me with sick loathing right there!


    April 2, 2013
  5. I definitely hear that last line of her letter in Mrs. Costanza’s voice. Haha!


    April 3, 2013
  6. She was from a different era. I think that was a major factor in her “review.” But yes, she could have kept her views to herself.


    April 7, 2013
  7. wow.. that is terrible
    poor Hemingway


    April 8, 2013
  8. John #

    I don’t know, man. Hemingway was a straight bastard to women. Perhaps Ma understood her son better than any of us (surprising, I know, that a mother would understand her son better than people who read his books). Remember, this is a roman a clef, with one difference. Hemingway slept with Duff while his wife was with him. Then he fought for his mistress openly in front of his wife.

    Not surprisingly, his wife divorced him not long after. Then the book is published, and any good mother would (rightfully) ask why their son would wish to air such sordid personal details to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 22, 2014
  9. The entire family took dysfunctional to a new height. The more books that are written about Hemingway, the lower his reputation sinks. The price of literary fame, I guess.


    May 15, 2017

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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