Friday, August 17, 2007

Famous Men Bastards of Letters

The tough thing about being famous is that, no matter how much good stuff you do, some picky critics out there are going to dig around for dirt on you. The tough thing about being REALLY famous is that they're going to keep doing it even when you've been dead for years.

And so we here at 50 Books bring you Three Literary Bastards and Why to Hate Them.*

1. Ernest Hemingway
You think you hate Hemingway because he was a misogynist with an aversion to descriptive words. You wonder, rightly, how could anyone not like women and adjectives? They are the eleven herbs and spices on the juicy chicken thigh of life. But the thing about trashing on Hem for either of these reasons is that, let's be honest, it's old. It's been done. Ho-hum.

But wait no longer. If you want to trounce Papa, I have new fodder for you: declining fish populations.

2. Arthur Miller
Everyone loves to love Arthur Miller, especially book geeks like us. Homely guy marries sexiest woman in the world and writes one of the defining classics of his generation? It's the American Dream, nerd-style. How can you not love him? How about because he never acknowledged his Down-syndrome child, Daniel, and instead had him institutionalized from birth?

3. Ryszard Kapuscinski
Oh, Ryszard... not you, too.

I just don't know whom to believe in any more. Except maybe the bonobos. Or maybe not.

*Okay, they're not actually bastards. (Probably.) I just said that to get attention. And I don't actually hate them. I have a hard time hating dead people. Except for Hitler.


Rickey said...

Dig the blog. It's an awful lot like Rickey's blog: Riding With Rickey. Check it out sometime.

ChasityMoody said...

Well of course Hitler. Even Hitler hated Hitler.

Anonymous said...

How about the fact that Arthur Miller based Death of a Salesman on his uncle's family, causing a rift that was never mended? I had a professor who's father was the man that Biff was based on... Miller's cousin.

Anonymous said...

Nah, I'm pretty sure Hemingway was a bastard. Have you read Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill? It's about Gerald and Sara Murphy, who supported Hemingway (and almost every other writer/musician/artist of the time). They gave Hemingway money, encouragement, places to stay and he basically turned his back on them, blamed them for a lot of his problems and called them "rich bastards" in A Moveable Feast. Jackass.
That aside, Everybody Was So Young was a good book.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting about Kapuscinski. It's not like he had much choice, though he did all he could to make his reports benign. People forget what it was like in eastern Europe under communism. Stalin personally phoned Pasternak to ask him about a poem that was circulating written by Osip Mandelstam. No one knows exactly what was said in this conversation, though theories abound. One thing is for sure, Mandelstam disappeared shortly after this phone call and later died in gulag...

Anonymous said...

That piece on Daniel Miller is fascinating - and heartbreaking. Thanks for linking to it. Normally I tend to resist the tendency of articles to draw Grand Sweeping Conclusions about this or that famous character on the basis of one heretofore unknown story...but I think there may be something to this one (i.e. the idea that Miller's quasi-abandonment of his son and his failure after a certain time to continue producing timeless work are connected). The story of Daniel Miller is practically a dramatic work in and of itself. Bet someone will turn it into a play eventually.

Nazis. I hate those guys.

RossK said...

Perhaps Mr. Hitler just loved adjectives too much.

Alternatively, if he'd spent more time fishing.......?


Anonymous said...

Add Charles Dickens to the list. See the "The Marriage of Charles Dickens" at

Anonymous said...

Everybody loves Charles Dickens online!