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.

Some Hemingway Trivia

  1. Until Hemingway was four, his mother dressed him up like a girl to match his sister who was about year younger than he was. His hair was kept long as well.the family

    young Ernie fishing
    young Ernie fishing

 

  1. He hated the name “Ernest.”

 

  1. In World War I, he was denied entering the military due to very poor eyesight. He was only 17 at the time. He convinced the military to let him in as an ambulance driver.

 

  1. Hemingway once said of Fitzgerald that, “Scott thought that the rich are different from “you and me.” Hemingway felt they just had more money.

 

  1. Hemingway had a favorite hamburger recipe that has about 10 ingredients. I tried it once and didn’t find it worth all of those ingredients, which include garlic, green onion, India relish, capers, sage, Spice Island’s Beau Mond Seasoning, Spice Island’s Mairen Powder, one egg beaten, dry red or white wine, one tablespoon of cooking oil. He also had a notation noting soy sauce and tomato could be added at the end.

 

  1. Hemingway often wrote standing up. He liked it, but after the plane crashes in 1954, it hurt his back less to stand.

    Standing and Writing
    Hem Standing

 

  1. Hemingway was married four times and was married to his fourth wife at the time of his death, Mary Welsh Hemingway. Hadley, his first wife, remained a good friend and preferred to be referred to as Mrs. Paul Mowrer as opposed to Hadley Hemingway. Martha Gellhorn, his third wife, never liked being referred to as his third wife and required that interviews not mention him.

    Hem and Hadley
    Hem and Hadley

 

  1. Hemingway survived exposure to anthrax, malaria, skin cancer, and pneumonia. He lived with diabetes, two plane crashes, a ruptured kidney, hepatitis, a ruptured spleen, a fracture skull, a crushed vertebrae. As we all know, it was his own hand that ultimately did him in.

 

  1. For five years his wife Mary insisted that his death was accidental as opposed to a suicide.

    Mary and Hem
    Mary and Hem

 

  1. Hemingway felt strongly that it was bad luck to talk about how he wrote and the writing process.

 

  1. Hemingway initially began to wear a beard due to a skin condition that made it painful to shave daily.

 

Hem relaxed--with the beard
Hem relaxed–with the beard

Valerie Danby-Smith Hemingway: Odd happenings

Hem and ValerieHemingway often took younger women under his wing and wanted them around. Sometimes it was intellectually stimulating. Sometimes there was an attraction. Sometimes they amused him. Sometimes he just liked them. He had many women as friends: Marlene Dietrich, Slim Hawkes, Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall.  He was infatuated with many: Adriana Ivancich is of great note.

Valerie Danby-Smith was initially providing secretarial services to Hemingway. She was part of the entourage of his trip to Spain in 1959 and by the end of the trip, Hemingway wanted her to continue on. Was he romantically attracted? Probably. Valerie asserts that he begged her to continue on to Cuba as he needed her with him. She was 19 at the time; he was 59..  I also think he simply liked her cheerful ways and good nature.Hem and Valerie 2

She has written a book about her time with him and is now leading tours in Paris to the old Hemingway haunts. .

Did I mention that she married Hemingway’s son, Gregory? Yes, she did.  They met  through the Hemingway connection and had four children together. and while their marriage ended in divorce, she appears to have maintained a good relationship with Gregory until his death. She wrote “Running with the Bulls” about her time with Hemingway. valerie book cover

The Strange Writing Habits of Writers

November is National Writing Month, so today I muse about how some writers write. Ernest Hemingway’s first rule for writers was to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. But not all authors are able to survive with such a simple approach.http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/nov/14/lederer-good-time-to-reflect-art-of-writing/

Every writer has his/her own comfort place where writing is easier and better for him/her. Hemingway often wrote standing up especially after the plane accidents but he also enjoyed writing at a big table. His fourth wife, Mary, created a studio for him on the Finca property but he never took to it and preferred to write in the house. He typed but he also did a fair amount long hand and edited long hand, slashing, writing, correcting, modifying.

Hem Standing
Hem Standing

The above article is about other writers’ habits. To quote the author of the article, Richard Lederer:

Francis Bacon knelt each day before creating his greatest works. Martin Luther could not write unless his dog was lying at his feet, while Ben Jonson needed to hear his cat purring. Marcel Proust sealed out the world by lining the walls of his study with cork. Gertrude Stein and Raymond Carver wrote in their cars, while Edmond Rostand preferred to write in his bathtub.

Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac

 

Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson (NOT EMILY, I AM TOLD. See below for the real Emily)

 

Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton

Emily Dickinson hardly ever left her home and garden. Wallace Stevens composed poetry while walking to and from work each day at a Hartford, Conn., insurance company. Alexander Pope and Jean Racine could not write without first declaiming at the top of their voices. Jack Kerouac began each night of writing by kneeling in prayer and composing by candlelight. Friedrich Schiller started each of his writing sessions by opening the drawer of his desk and breathing in the fumes of the rotten apples he had stashed there.

Some writers have donned and doffed gay apparel. Early in his career, John Cheever wore a business suit as he traveled from his apartment to a room in his basement. Then he hung the suit on a hanger and wrote in his underwear. Jessamyn West wrote in bed without getting dressed, as, from time to time, did Eudora Welty, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain and Truman Capote. John McPhee worked in his bathrobe and tied its sash to the arms of his chair to keep him from even thinking about deserting his writing room.

This is me again. So you always knew writers were a weird and rare breed. I don’t have any habits that rival the above. Give me a fire, one of my dogs, and some smooth jazz and I usually can get something down.

Any other strange writing habits out there?

I lick the paper before I can write.
I lick the paper before I can write.

Best, Christine

 

 

 

ADDENDUM: An astute reader wrote to say that the above photo is not of Emily Dickenson. So much for Google image search. Here is another and I hope it is correct.  Many thanks!  C

Emily Dickenson
Emily Dickenson

How well do you know Hemingway?

Hem on beach
Hem on beach
Key West
Key West

#Hemingwaytrivia

Hemingway and Key West have influenced one another in many surprising ways. See for yourself: Take the How Well Do You Know Hemingway? quiz.

So I think I know almost everything about Hemingway. I got 7 of ten correct and I think I know everything. However, I misread one question or I would have had 8!

It’s fun. Give it a go if you think you know Hem. Love, Christine

Thinking
Thinking

Photos only with commentary: Part 1. Hadley years

Wedding to Hadley
Wedding to Hadley
Bride and Groom
Bride and Groom
Hem and Bumby
Hem and Bumby
hadley
hadley

I thought I’d post some photos that I had not viewed in a while and are not as frequently viewed. I love them all and hope you enjoy them too. Best, Christine

While injured in WW I
While injured in WW I
Max perkins
Max perkins
Papa and Jack/Bumby
Papa and Jack/Bumby

Hemingway Places

Nice article about places to visit and feel Papa’s memories. I did not know that his usual seat at La Flordita in Havana was blocked off and a daiquiri placed on the counter daily near his statue. I have it on good authority that his favorite drink however was a mega-cold Martini. However, a daiquiri will do. Hem Places

Paris

 If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. Ernest Hemingway

Hem in Paris
Hem in Paris
Paris
Paris

It’s the beginning of a very rugged winter—or so it seems—in Connecticut. Yesterday the winds were grueling and temps were in the twenties.  I’m writing this in November as I have a busy December and a trial in January so things will be even worse here by the time this is printed.. 025

Winter!
Winter!

I’m sustaining myself by planning my springtime trip to Paris.  I’ve never been to Paris unless you count passing through it one day in college.  On that trip I stayed outside of the city of Paris in a little town called Meaux.  I don’t know if I was particularly hungry but the restaurant in the small hotel that I stayed in was one of the best I’d ever had. I’ve always carried that fond memory of France with me.

 

For my June trip, I’ve rented an apartment for eight days. It’s located in the  Marais district on a quiet street.  I’ve heard that the Marais is quaint, has lots of boutiques and restaurants, and encompasses both the gay district and the Jewish district, an interesting juxtaposition.

Not our things
Hem in the 20s

 

 

I’ve looked on the internet and found suggested Hemingway walks and tours.  I’m sure that many of Hemingway’s places are no longer there but I can imagine.  I’ll check out Shakespeare and Company, Montparnasse, the old home of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the apartment where Hemingway and Hadley lived and the separate place where Hemingway rented a room to write.  I know that we all romanticize Paris of that era and it doesn’t exist anymore except with the help of Woody Allen’s admirable efforts to revive it in Midnight In Paris. However, I’m still looking forward to the trip.

Gertrude Stein and Bumby in Paris
Gertrude Stein and Bumby in Paris

 

The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises

I’ve heard that Paris is the most magical city in the world. I’ve also heard that it’s just one more big, dirty city.  I want to decide for myself.

 

If anyone has great ideas about places I should go or must see places that are Hemingway-related or just great places, please do let me know.

I'd like to see Paris before I'm too old
I’d like to see Paris before I’m too old

 

I’ve already booked dinner at a place that is featured in my new book.  It’s a restaurant called Dans Le Noir where dinner is served completely in the dark.  I’m told that it is really completely dark.  The waiters and waitresses are blind and it’s supposed to be an amazing experience of your senses.  In my new book, I’ve renamed it En La Obscuridad and made it a Spanish restaurant in New York City.  A dramatic scene takes place there so I must try the original.  As I’m clumsy anyway, this should be good: eating in the dark.

A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast

 

Anyway, let me know your thoughts on “must see” and “must do” events in Paris.

My Irish Connection

Windy in Dingle
Windy in Dingle

A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning how to relate my trip to Ireland in May to my Hemingway obsession and I just came across an article about a new biography of Maeve Binchy, the great Irish novelist who cultivated the cozy neighborhood story to high art and who passed away recently.  She wrote many novels, usually about the west country of Ireland which is where I was.  Her writing style, her topics, and her resolutions are/were about as far from Hemingway as you can get but the article was fun and began with a famous Hemingway belief.

Dingle Peninsula
Dingle Peninsula

“It was famously laid down by Ernest Hemingway that the first condition for a writer is to have an unhappy childhood. I assumed that Maeve Binchy was the exception to the Hemingway principle, as she always spoke about the idyllic nature of her childhood.”

http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books-arts/memories-of-maeve-29469292.html

So, I qualify!  My childhood is a story for some other longer post, probably in some other blog that focuses on Dickensian beginnings.  I was born in NJ; my parents died 5 months apart when I was seven; the court became involved, and the story goes downhill from there in certain ways but also uphill in other ways.

Anger
Anger
My life falls apart when I'm awake!
My life falls apart when I’m awake!

Hem in some ways had a good childhood in the sense that his family was large; his father took him hunting and fishing; and there were family vacations at a lake in Michigan yearly that formed the basis of many of the short stories. Hem got his love of the outdoors and nature while on the lake in Michigan with many friends and family.  However, Hem’s relationship with his mother was always a struggle and his father was a more shadowy figure in Hem’s life, who ultimately killed himself.  His mother later sent the gun to Ernest as a gift. Huh? .

So tell me about a great writer who had a great Rockwellian childhood! I’d like to hear about it.

Love crazy
Love crazy
Intelligent and happy?
Intelligent and happy?
Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher