The Bug House Files

Papa Hemingway and the booze delusion

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Mine's a spritzer: Papa Hemingway's boozing was not all it was cracked up to be.

Mine’s a spritzer: Papa Hemingway’s boozing was not all it was cracked up to be.

I am disappointed to learn that Ernest Hemingway was not totally pissed when he wrote his great novels.

According to an article in Food Republic, Papa was in fact staunchly against the practice of drink-writing.

‘Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked?’ he apparently told one interviewer.  ‘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.’

Hemingway is a hero of mine. Sparse prose allied with prodigious boozing has always seemed an ideal blueprint for the writer’s life, and although bullfighting has always left me cold I have always aspired to that kind of write-it-and-be-goddamned philosophy.

I enjoy a whisky or three when I write (I hasten to add I normally write in the evening). Sometimes, during a particularly gruelling chapter, half a bottle can disappear as if by magic. But there are physical limits. If you find yourself typing one-fingered while holding open one eye then the chances are your best work is behind you and it is time to go to bed.

Hemingway supposedly filled himself a pitcher of martini every morning before heading to his typewriter to write such classics as For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Afterwards he would revise his manuscript while sipping absinthe and daiquiri.

It now seems that this was not the case. He enjoyed his drink, but Papa always knew he had to pay for it, so he took his day job seriously.

The truth can be a bitter pill. And while I shan’t be blowing my head off with a shotgun any time soon,  I am not sure I thank Food Republic for shattering my illusions about one of the titans of modern literature.  Cheers indeed.


Author: Jim Ford

I'm an author and journalist. "The Bug House" series of Tyneside-based crime novels is published in 2014

One thought on “Papa Hemingway and the booze delusion

  1. I love your perspective of Hemingway. He’s my hero too. I write about him on my own literary blog. Your post is written nicely, great read.

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