More on Hemingway’s Brain and link to Findings of NFL Research on Concussion: Different take on it all

This is a long article but the points are interesting. Some of the formatting and photos of brain functioning could not be captured so my apologies.
As those of you who follow this blog know, Hemingway was outrageously accident prone–from a young age even before you could blame it on drinking: sky lights falling on him; car accidents when he was not driving; 2 plane crashes when he was a passenger. No question, with what we know now, these episodes could well have affected his ultimate health and functioning. Please read what you have time for. This was published in the Washington Post, writer Avi Selk.
Best wishes, Christine
April 28 at 8:30 AM

In one of Ernest Hemingway’s first published stories, a man goes into the woods and meets a disfigured prizefighter — insightful, though prone to fits of paranoia and violence.

“You’re all right,” says the visitor after they’ve chatted a while.

“No, I’m not. I’m crazy,” the fighter says. “Listen, you ever been crazy?”

“No. How does it get you?”

“I don’t know. When you got it you don’t know about it.”

Nearly a century after “The Battler” was written, psychiatrist Andrew Farah contends, we would recognize that the prizefighter suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE — the same concussion-induced brain disease now infamous in sports, particularly professional football.

And the prizefighter’s renowned author had CTE, too, Farah argues in his new book, “Hemingway’s Brain.”

The psychiatrist from High Point University in North Carolina writes of nine serious blows to Hemingway’s head — from explosions to a plane crash — that were a prelude to his decline into abusive rages, “paranoia with specific and elaborate delusions” and the final violence of his suicide in 1961.

Hemingway’s bizarre behavior in his latter years (he rehearsed his death by gunshot in front of dinner guests, for example) has been blamed on iron deficiency, bipolar disorder, attention-seeking and any number of other problems.

After researching the writer’s letters, books and hospital visits, Farah is convinced that Hemingway had dementia — made worse by alcoholism and other maladies, but dominated by CTE, the improper treatment of which likely hastened his death.

“He truly is a textbook case,” Farah told The Washington Post. “His biography makes perfect sense to me in the context of multiple brain injuries.”

Farah is not the only person to make the link. A shorter discussion of head trauma in Paul Hendrickson’s biography, “Hemingway’s Boat,” convinced a reviewer that the famous writer “was probably suffering from organic brain damage.”

But Farah’s book goes deeper, mixing biography, literature and medical analysis in what he writes is “a forensic psychiatric examination of his very brain cells — the stressors, traumas, chemical insults, and biological changes — that killed a world-famous literary genius.”

Farah dates Hemingway’s first known concussion to World War I, several years before he wrote his short story, “The Battler.”

A bomb exploded about three feet from his teenage frame.

Another likely concussion came in 1928, when Hemingway yanked what he thought was a toilet chain and brought a skylight crashing down on him — causing what Farah describes as “giddy concussive ramblings … about his own blood’s smell and taste.”

Then came a car accident in London — then more injuries as a reporter during World War II, when a German antitank gun blew Hemingway into a ditch.

The psychiatrist describes his reported symptoms: double vision, memory trouble, slowed thought. And headaches that “used to come in flashes like battery fire,” Hemingway wrote in a letter.

“There was a main permanent one all the time. I nicknamed it the MLR 2(main line of resistance) and just accepted that I had it.”

These were “classic and typical” symptoms of head trauma, Farah writes.

And not the last Hemingway would suffer.

After the war: another car accident. Then a fall on his boat “Pilar,” two years before he published “The Old Man and the Sea,” which a book reviewer called Hemingway’s “last generally admired book.”

Farah did not include in his list of concussions Hemingway’s flirtations with boxing, or accounts of head injuries he could not verify or which he suspected were the author’s tall tales.

But by the time Hemingway survived two consecutive plane crashes on a 1954 safari trip — escaping the second wreck by “batter[ing] open the jammed door with his head,” Farah writes — his remarkable brain was beyond repair.

“The injuries from earlier blows resolved, but, with additional assaults, his brain developed CTE,” Farah writes.

Often — though not always — caused by concussions, chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that can manifest as memory loss, anger, dementia and suicidal behavior — usually decades after the head blow, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What is a concussion?

 

Play Video0:31
This video from the CDC illustrates and explains the science behind a concussion and the importance of recovery time for the human brain. (CDC via YouTube)

Unknown in Hemingway’s day, it has been found in the brains of at least 17 dead athletes, and researchers will look for it in the brain of Aaron Hernandez, a former NFL star who killed himself in prison last week while serving a murder sentence.

 

Less bizarre but perhaps more devastating to the author: his deteriorating ability to arrange words.

“The genius who had written masterpieces such as ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ was now paralyzed, fully in the grip of a severe mental illness” as he struggled to assemble simple sentences for his memoirs in 1961, Farah writes.

“Only an autopsy can put the 100 percent stamp of approval” on a diagnosis, Farah acknowledged to The Post. But he didn’t back down from his conclusions in the book. “The symptoms are just so obvious,” he said.

CTE accounted for about three-quarters of Hemingway’s dementia, Farah said. “The concussions, alcohol, hypertension, and pre-diabetes all contributed to the changes in Hemingway’s brain,” he writes in his book.

And a long history of suicide in Hemingway’s family couldn’t have helped the author cope with his condition, Farah said.

But he is sure that by the end of his life, Hemingway had concussion-driven dementia, not psychotic depression as his doctors believed — to tragic consequences, he writes.

But depression was not Hemingway’s main problem, Farah argues. The traumas and resulting CTE had physically changed his brain — demented and weakened it.

After a round of shock treatments in early 1961, Farah writes, Hemingway “grew more and more abusive to” his wife, “berating her because of his paranoia.”

She and some friends had to physically restrain Hemingway from shooting himself that April.

He went back to the hospital for more shock treatments.

A few days after being discharged a second time, on July 2, 1961, Hemingway woke before sunrise. He fetched his shotgun from the basement, this time with no one to stop him.

All his vulnerabilities coalesced in one final instant,” as Farah puts it.

Had he lived in the 21st century, Farah writes, Hemingway would have had an MRI scan, which might have revealed his much-abused brain was shrinking.

He would have been sent to a therapist, and told to stop drinking, to focus on his health, and “remind himself he is safe.”

He likely would have been prescribed antidepressants and vitamin B pills, and kept clear of stresses such as electric current.

Modern medicine could have saved Hemingway’s life, Farah said.

Even if not: “We would have at least understood him.”

“Hemingway’s Brain” by Andrew Farah was published in April 2017 by the University of South Carolina Press.

Four types of Alcoholic Types: One is called “Hemingway”

#Hemingwayand drinking

Scientists have separated the characteristics that people broadly show when they’re drunk into four categories: Ernest Hemingway, Mary Poppins, Mr Hyde, and The Nutty Professor.

I am not sure that I agree. This study/typecasting has the “Hemingway” type as one who changes little when drinking and whose intellect is not significantly impacted. My reading suggests that Hemingway was fairly shy and thoughtful when sober.  When drinking . . . not so much. But take a look.

The End of Something
The End of Something
Dining room in Cuba and drinking with cat
Dining room in Cuba and drinking with cat

 

Mr. Hemingway’s Favorite Drink and Drinking

A MOVEABLE FEAST
A MOVEABLE FEAST
The End of Something
The End of Something

Ernest Hemingway is often apocryphally attributed with the phrase, “Write drunk, edit sober.”

No, his favorite drink was neither a mojito nor a bloody Mary but a dry, very cold Martini! He also, contrary to other claims, did not invent the Bloody Mary (the claim being that it was named after his fourth wife, Mary), during what was to be the equivalent of a period of drinking celibacy with the claim being that he used the tomato base to disguise the vodka. Good story but not true.

A whole book has been written about authors who drink called The Trip to Echo Springs by Olivia Laing. While we all joke about Hemingway “drank here” and that he drank everywhere, it is clearly a serious topic that has decimated the writing population or enhanced their creativity depending on your point of view. While I usually ask, “Why do writers drink so much,” someone once asked me “Why do drinkers write so much?”

Hemingway drank a lot but it didn’t start out that way.  He drank socially although significantly.  He did not drink while working.  On one occasion when asked by a journalist if he drank while writing his novels and short stories, he said,

Drinking and working with cat

“Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”

William Faulkner
William Faulkner

Drinking began early, probably at age 17 and then more drinking while in Italy during the war. Then, once he moved to Paris with Hadley, “the cafes, bars and bal musets became rallying points, look around the table and you might see the brightest minds of the Lost Generation—F. Scott Fitzgerald insanely drunk on champagne, Ezra Pound sipping absinthe, Gertrude Stein enjoying a fine red, James Joyce savoring scotch and Ford Maddox Ford sending back a brandy for the fourth time. They drank up liquor, they drank up life, they drank up each other.” Quote from Hooching with Hemingway by Frank Rich.

Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Fitzgerald

 

Scott and Zelda from Midnight in Paris
Scott and Zelda from Midnight in Paris

Hem was highly critical of Scott Fitzgerald’s drinking in their salad days, claiming it sapped Scott’s creativity, in addition to Zelda doing the same. He was annoyed by Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and occasionally criticized his writing in public. Hem and Zelda hated each other and there was never a détente in those feelings. Hem clearly did not see himself falling deeper into the alcoholic lifestyle as the years passed.

By the time Hem left Paris, his drinking habits had changed.  “Where before he’d been a classic binge drinker, he now kept a steady bottle-killing pace. The transition had taken place just months earlier, after Hadley had lost a trunk containing most of his early work, literally years of labor. Crushed, Hemingway turned to alcohol as a means of drowning his bitter rage—when the anger came, he would slip down to the cafe and drink brandy and carouse with friends until happiness seeped back in. Quote from Hooching with Hemingway by Frank Rich

 

Hem also had fun with it.  When Jigee Viertel revealed one evening that she had never had a drink of hard liquor, Hem was astounded. When she indicated a desire to try one, he suspended all that he was doing to consider whether Jigee— now in her mid-thirties— should end her tee totaling and if so, what the proper first drink was. Hem thought she should at least try a drink. He ran down options from a Bloody Mary, to a Manhattan to various gimlets. Finally he decided only a Scotch Sour would do.  Jigee broke into a smile at the first sip, and Hem said, “It’s a good omen.”  (A.E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway Page 60-61)

A Scotch sour and a breeze!
A Scotch sour and a breeze!

Hem brought his own booze to Spain or had it supplied; he kept it on his boat in great abundance.  While he went through periods of abstinence, it never lasted and it was his pacifier of choice.  My own reading leads me to think that initially, he became gregarious; on his own, he could be quite shy.  I have the impression that once a certain point was passed, he became overly verbose and cantankerous.  There is that thin line between wonderful raconteur and domineering ego-maniac who keeps going to the point of becoming a boor and a bore.. I don’t know if that was so in Hem’s case but I think it is what  happened particularly in the later years.

Drunken people crossing
Drunken people crossing

 

Sadly, alcoholism did play its role in Hem’s demise and decline. It appears to have ravaged other relatives after him too. Sad to consider other works that Hemingway may have written absent depression and alcoholism.

 

The below site talks about Hem’s drinking and some specifics.  Interesting article. Check it out.

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/10/30/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-ernest-hemingways-dr

http://austin.eater.com/archives/2013/04/10/modern-mixologist-tony-abouganim-on-hemingways-cocktails-brazilian-boozing-at-the-austin-food-wine-f.php

 

Was Hemingway Bi-polar?

FROM THE moment Ernest Hemingway saw Finca Vigia ( Lookout Farm) outside Havana in 1939, it became his home in the deepest sense.

The above article discusses Hemingway’s time in Cuba, self-medication perhaps with alcohol, and his love for his Cuban home. Very interesting. Best, Christine

 

The “Hemingway Bar” in Prague

A Moveable FeastFrom creating cocktails named after Hemingway’s wives, carefully selecting and crafting the beautiful interior and creating a massive selection of rums and quality absinthe, it’s been one hell of a ride

A cocktail connoisseur has just opened a bar in Prague where this is apparently a novel concept. Take a look.

The end of Something
The end of Something

Hemingway Myth #2: Mr. Hemingway Drinks a little

Harry's Bar
Harry’s Bar

Actually he drank a lot but it didn’t start out that way.  He drank socially although significantly.  He did not drink while working.  On one occasion when asked by a journalist if he drank while writing his novels and short stories, he said,

Drinking and working with cat

“Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”

William Faulkner
William Faulkner

Hi favorite drink, contrary to some claims, was not the mojito, but a very dry martini, very very cold. He also, contrary to other claims, did not invent the Bloody Mary (the claim being that it was named after his fourth wife, Mary), during what was to be the equivalent of a period of drinking celibacy and that he used the tomato base to disguise the vodka. Good story but not true.

Drinking began early, probably at age 17 and then more drinking while in Italy during the war. Then, once he moved to Paris with Hadley, “the cafes, bars and bal musets became rallying points, look around the table and you might see the brightest minds of the Lost Generation—F. Scott Fitzgerald insanely drunk on champagne, Ezra Pound sipping absinthe, Gertrude Stein enjoying a fine red, James Joyce savoring scotch and Ford Maddox Ford sending back a brandy for the fourth time. They drank up liquor, they drank up life, they drank up each other.” Quote from Hooching with Hemingway by Frank Rich.

Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Fitzgerald

 

Scott and Zelda from Midnight in Paris
Scott and Zelda from Midnight in Paris

Hem was highly critical of Scott Fitzgerald’s drinking in their salad days, claiming it sapped Scott’s creativity, in addition to Zelda doing the same. He was annoyed by Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and occasionally criticized his writing in public. Hem and Zelda hated each other and there was never a détente in those feelings. Hem clearly did not see himself falling deeper into the alcoholic lifestyle as the years passed.

By the time Hem left Paris, his drinking habits had changed.  “Where before he’d been a classic binge drinker, he now kept a steady bottle-killing pace. The transition had taken place just months earlier, after Hadley had lost a trunk containing most of his early work, literally years of labor. Crushed, Hemingway turned to alcohol as a means of drowning his bitter rage—when the anger came, he would slip down to the cafe and drink brandy and carouse with friends until happiness seeped back in. Quote from Hooching with Hemingway by Frank Rich

Martini: drink of choice
Martini: drink of choice

 

Hem also had fun with it.  When Jigee Viertel revealed one evening that she had never had a drink of hard liquor, Hem was astounded. When she indicated a desire to try one, he suspended all that he was doing to consider whether Jigee— now in her mid-thirties— should end her tee totaling and if so, what the proper first drink was. Hem thought she should at least try a drink. He ran down options from a Bloody Mary, to a Manhattan to various gimlets. Finally he decided only a Scotch Sour would do.  Jigee broke into a smile at the first sip, and Hem said, “It’s a good omen.”  (A.E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway Page 60-61)

A Scotch sour and a breeze!
A Scotch sour and a breeze!

Hem brought his own booze to Spain or had it supplied; he kept it on his boat in great abundance.  While he went through periods of abstinence, it never lasted and it was his pacifier of choice.  My own reading leads me to think that initially, he became even more gregarious than he normally was when he drank. Once a certain point was passed, he perhaps became overly verbose and cantankerous.  There is that thin line between wonderful raconteur and domineering ego-maniac who keeps going to the point of becoming a boor and a bore.. I don’t know if that was so in Hem’s case but I think it happened in the later years.

Drunken people crossing
Drunken people crossing

 

Sadly, alcoholism did play its role in Hem’s demise and decline. It appears to have ravaged other relatives after him too. Sad to consider other works that Hemingway may have written absent depression and alcoholism.

 

The below site talks about Hem’s drinking and some specifics.  Interesting article. Check it out.

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/10/30/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-ernest-hemingways-dr

http://austin.eater.com/archives/2013/04/10/modern-mixologist-tony-abouganim-on-hemingways-cocktails-brazilian-boozing-at-the-austin-food-wine-f.php