New Book about The Sun Also Rises: Everyone Behaves Badly

No one defined masculinity more thoroughly than Ernest Hemingway, particularly in his best years, i.e. the 30’s and 40’s. I just read a review of a new book out by Lesley M. M. Blume, called “Everybody Behaves Badly:  The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece, The Sun Also Rises.” 


I always liked that quote from The Sun Also Rises. Maybe it’s just cynicism, but I prefer to think that it’s realism.  The end of that quote is “Everyone behaves badly—given the chance.”

In addition to discussing the real life people upon whom the characters in the book are based, Ms. Blume’s book discusses the issue of sexuality in “The Sun Also Rises” as well as in Hemingway’s posthumously published 1986 novel, The Garden of Eden with its gender-bending main characters well ahead of their time.  Hemingway was “one of the last authors to be a celebrity in his own right, back when ‘manly’ was a good thing.

Lesley Blume with Valerie HemingwayLMMB VH Plaza


The book attempts to answer the question of whether Hemingway’s persona of hyper-masculinity was real or fake and notes that “we haven’t solved the problem of how to be a man in the modern age and Hemingway was a caricature of the last generation’s attempt to do so, as Donald Trump may be of ours.” We no longer admire—thank God and for good reason—killing large animals in Africa or watching them die in bull fights. The concept of masculinity is complex and evolving.

Parenthetically, I highly recommend watching the documentary called The True Gen.  It’s about Hemingway’s friendship with Gary Cooper.  Gary Cooper apparently was always a gentlemen and Hemingway…wasn’t always restrained.  Yet, somehow they had an extremely strong friendship that lasted for a lifetime—which was a rarity for Hemingway—with Cooper at times forcing Hemingway to stop with the image and be real. Despite personalities that were almost polar opposites, both worked hard, were more sensitive that you might suspect, and hid parts of themselves for the image each wanted to project. It worked for them.  The movie is a gem and is well worth watching.I found it extremely touching. Cooper and Hemingway died 6 weeks apart: Cooper of cancer and shortly thereafter, Hemingway killed himself.


So the book by Lesley Blume sounds valuable and additive to Hemingway analysis. She knows the period well and I expect the book will ring true and be a load of fun to read.

4 thoughts on “New Book about The Sun Also Rises: Everyone Behaves Badly”

  1. Hemingway makes for fascinating study. Your entry about his letter to Mrs. Pfeiffer, for instance, where he describes his fondness for his father. Clearly Hemingway was a complex and conflicted personaliy. He was fond of his father, and yet he writes that as a lad when mad he would aim his shotgun at his dad from hiding and relish having the power to kill his father. And in his writing, especially in For Whom the Bell Tolls, he criticizes his father for taking the coward’s way out, and yet elsewhere doesn’t he mention that it took courage to take the coward’s way out?

    1. Hi Walter: Yes, he loved his father and felt his mother drove him to suicide. Always hated his mother. And while Hemingway called suicide a coward’s way out in For Whom the Bell Tolls as Robert contemplates his fate, he also wrote often about living and dying on your own terms. I think he fully understood a desire to go out by your own hand if/when your life cannot be lived fully as you want to live it. Very conflicted and complex personality! You are so right, Walter. Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting. Best, Christine

  2. I’m writing an entry for my blog about Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, and came across your blog. I should tell you from the off that I am puzzled by claims made about how good the novel is, including the claim made in the publisher’s blurb on the back of my paperback editions that it is ‘a masterpiece’ and that Hemingway is a ‘writer of genius’. To those two claims all I can say is ‘up to a point, Lord Copper’.

    As for the perpetual macho posing, this guy is never convinced by that kind of thing when he comes across it – especially ‘hard drinking’ – and always wonder whether the doing the posing is trying to kid himself on as well as other people.

    I have previously only read a few of Hemingway’s short stories and A Farewell To Arms, and that was a long time ago, so I can recollect little. As for Fiesta, after I had finished reading it, I was so puzzled by the grand claims made for it, that I immediately read it again. I didn’t change my opinion, however. It and the claim that it is about ‘a lost generation’ is more phoney than not, in my view.

    1. Dear Patrick: Yes, i know what you mean. I view The Sun Also Rises as “great” because it was so different from the writing of its time and hard hitting about some key issues. And honest about how Brett felt about her life and actions and getting ahead on her looks and sexuality. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it and your thoughts. Keep reading, especially For Whom the Bell Tolls. I do think you hit a point about Hemingway’s own insecurities and ambivalence about masculinity. Best, Christine

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