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The Earnest Mr. Hemingway

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

Some of the best novels ever written!

Three black Ernest Hemingway novels
Image by quentincompson49 from Pixabay

A dictionary in my bookcase defines earnest as showing depth and sincerity of feeling. They should just put our favorite author’s picture next to that definition.

As young men, both Paul and I treasured Mr. Hemingway’s spare prose, direct and understated. He wrote in a masculine style that for us, resonated. His books transported us. His adventures were the adventures we wanted to take.

The first time I read “The Sun Also Rises” was transcendent. That was in high school. To this day I still want that experience.

I’m not saying I want to be part of a group of disillusioned expats living in post-WWI Europe. I just want to be in Hemingway’s Pamplona for the party! Goatskins filled with red wine that must be drunk from sun up, ‘til the next sun up. There are ass-kicking parties in the streets and hotels that just don’t slow down for a week. No time to be hung over. Of course, there’s the running of the bulls, which I will watch from the bar.

In Hemingway’s glorious account, Jake Barnes and his friends are in search of meaning as they travel, drink, and chase girls during the Sanfermines. The festival held in honor of Saint Fermin, the co-patron of Navarre, Spain was just the place to meet their goals. There are many similarities to the policeman’s journey in search of meaning as he learns about America’s underbelly, drinking and chasing girls.

The books love interest, Lady Brett Ashley, was a military nurse during the war and became warm for Jakes form after caring for him as he recovered from his battle wounds. Today, cops still love nurses. And paramedics. Put a uniform on them and let them tend to victims, it’s power bait for young policemen. They share the same environment and often they intersect, both literally and figuratively.

Jake much preferred partying and drinking to working. The young boys and girls in blue are huge followers of the party and drink crowd. Why our book is a celebration of that “can do” spirit.

Jake and the gang all show up in Pamplona to watch the bullfights (you could do that back then without PETA and social media ruining your life). Jake doesn't take it lightly when he finds out Brett is prone to an occasional boinking by others who aren’t he. In fact, he and his pal Bill pack their trash and head for the south of France.

Never a choir practice goes by, that some copper isn’t bitching and moaning about his or someone else's squeeze, who’s cheating on him or her or some other similar theme. Often the medicine needed to recover is the same.

Jake and Bill spend ALL their time fishing, drinking and playing cards. Again, the same flow chart could be used for the young boys in blue. Actually, Paul and I still use that same flow chart, to kick off long bouts of collaborative writing.

The crew eventually reunite in Pamplona, staying at Hotel Quintana at 18 Plaza del Castillo. As I understand it, Juanito Quintana’s hotel was the model for Hemingway’s “Montoya’s” and the character of the same name.

Montoya knew Jake was a fervent bullfighting aficionado and introduced him to Pedro Romero a fiercely talented and handsome, 19-year-old bullfighter. In retrospect, Jake might not have introduced bull boy to the lovely Brett if he had it to do over. As one might guess, Brett ends up with the hot Spanish bullfighter atop, Jake gets punched out and Romero gets the crap kicked out of him too.

Can this boorish behavior be seen by members of the thin blue line you ask? You bet your sweet ass. Remember those nurses and paramedics, beat wives and the like? They seemed to often run afoul of real wives and girlfriends. When fueled by their drink of choice and the high-grade testosterone flowing through their veins, young troopers often lost all sense of propriety. Often they lost wives and half their retirements too.

After the battered Romero pulls off a stunning victory in the bull ring, he cuts off the bull's ear and gives it to Brett. Nice touch, back in the day. I’ll be honest the only parallel I can find to our cop lives takes place in a chapter of the Night Police called “Schnitzel and Tugjob”, but the scene stuck with me all these years, I had to mention it.

For many reasons, the gang splits up and heads for Madrid and other points south and Jake decides to lick his wounds in the city of San Sebastian. (Authors note: If only allowed to travel one more time in my life, it’s back to San Sebastian I would go. Wonderful, glorious, foodie-centric San Sebastian!)

Well, that doesn’t work out so well because almost immediately Brett telegrams Jake and urgently requests he meets her in Madrid. Ain’t that just like a woman? I didn’t say that, but somebody else might. He grabs a train and in more than a few hours he’s listening and annoyed. She explains that she’s dumped bull boy. She also announces that she’s planning to hook up again with Mike (a previous boinkee and part of their crew).

Insert: WTF! Really?!

This is graveyard shift, patrol cars 69’d together, bitching and moaning copper material if I have ever heard it. I can tell you that minus calls for service, this would be worth a long nites running commentary about the woes of dating and marriage and the much easier options that were available just for the asking. Sometimes you didn’t need to ask.

In the cab on the way to the train station, Brett laments she and Jake could’ve had a wonderful time together. Jake, not in good humor, thinks perhaps that’s an idea that’s all fuckered up; he sarcastically responds “Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so?”

I’m guessing, though it remains unsaid in Hemingway’s novel, that Jake was probably thinking, I just spent all-fucking-night on a train to Madrid, why didn’t she just put that in her fucking telegram. I’d still be eating pintxos and drinking Txakoli in San Sebastian.

The parallels between police work and “The Sun Also Rises” aren‘t often discussed. I‘ve taken a shot at it because I wanted to; that‘s my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

The earnest, Ernest Hemingway still transports Paul and me to other times and places. That is part of his magic.

Thank you, Mr. Hemingway, and forgive my summarization. No disrespect intended, I know you’d understand this is an homage, written by the lesser skilled.


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