Everybody Behaves Badly

Everybody Behaves Badly coverEverybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises
Lesley M. M. Blume
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 7, 2016), 373 pages
Kindle edition $10.16, Amazon paperback $10.69
Kindle edition purchased on sale for $1.99

I am not a big Hemingway fan, and I didn’t especially enjoy reading The Sun Also Rises for my American Novel class in high school. However, I am always interested in reading about the American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s and I very much liked A Moveable Feast, a collection of Hemingway’s recollection about those years that was published posthumously. And I also enjoy behind-the-scenes narratives. So when this book showed up in one of my e-book sale emails for $1.99, I decided it would be well worth the price.

Blume does a thorough job of portraying Hemingway’s early career starting with his days as a newspaper reporter and takes us through the publication of The Sun Also Rises and up to the stock market crash of 1929, when the Americans headed home.

What is noteworthy about The Sun Also Rises is that the characters are drawn from Hemingway’s crowd in Paris, and many of them are so thinly disguised as to be entirely transparent to anyone knowledgeable about that scene. In more that one case Hemingway infuriated those so portrayed. In particular, Hemingway based much of the novel on a trip the group took one year to Pamplona for the running of the bulls and the bullfight festival there, an event that Hemingway loved. The subjects, however, rarely appreciated the way in which Hemmingway portrayed them.

The author provides a detailed portrayal of the life Hemingway and his wife Hadley’s lived before the publication of the book, and how they survived on very little money, much of what was available coming from Hadley’s trust fund. Blume portrays Hemingway as being interested in promoting his own brand (long before that phrase came into use) and in ensuring his circle was well aware of his machismo. He also was not particularly interested in being faithful to Hadley, something she tolerated until they finally agreed to divorce around the time The Sun Also Rises was published.

If you’re interested in the story behind what went into the creation of at least one novel, Everybody Behaves Badly is good reading.



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