Stuff You Should Know: Ernest Hemingway


July 2nd marks the 50th anniversary of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway’s death, and masculinity—which he pretty much defined—isn’t quite the same these days. Whereas Hemingway decimated woodland critters, dominated battlefields, married more women than Donald Trump, and drank an ocean of alcohol, modern guys practice yoga and veganism when they’re not busy patronizing Jamba Juice and Pinkberry. Absolutely pathetic.

The good news is that it’s not too late to redeem ourselves. But since you’re too busy watching videos of precious (six-toed) kitties on YouTube to read a tome such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, here’s everything you need to know about the legendary author, adapted from the new book The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within… Just Like Papa!

Yes, He Really Drank That Much


Some guys, after a night of moderate drinking, brag about their (much exaggerated) intake. Ahhhh, bro, you wouldn’t believe how many Jäger shots I pounded, bro—it was so bro!

However, Ernest Hemingway didn’t tell “big fish” stories about his drinking. (He told them about his fishing.) In fact, he drank like a fish, if fish were raging alcoholics. According to biographer Kenneth Lynn, he would regularly drink “two or three bottles of liquor a day, as well as wine with meals.” Paris Review editor George Plimpton said “you could see the bulge of [his liver] stand out from his body like a long fat leech.”

For breakfast he would guzzle—this is not a joke—absinthe, whiskey, vodka, wine, gin, tequila, and champagne. (And you thought you were a degenerate for waking ‘n’ baking.) In the evenings he would guzzle… well, pretty much the same. And the next morning, he was feeling wonderful again, because he never awoke with a hangover. Lynn quotes a Cuban drinking buddy who revealed that Hemingway’s “capacity for recuperation was incredible. He would be drinking quite heavily… The next day he was just as well, just as strong, just as normal as he could be…” And just as blitzed.

He Slaughtered More Animals Than Ted Nugent

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At age three Hemingway was a precocious killing machine: while his peers scribbled with crayons and drooled on themselves, he could load, cock, and shoot a musket. When the wunderkind toddler wantonly killed a porcupine, his father—who taught a “you kill it, you eat it” philosophy—actually forced him to devour the animal. (Scholars are unsure whether Hemingway then sneered, choking down quills, “It tickles.”)

Worse, young Ernest had to pay a hefty fine for blasting an endangered bird to bits. He learned an important lesson: you cannot take pleasure from hunting endangered species; the pleasure comes from making them endangered.

As an adult Hemingway once killed four hundred rabbits in a day, putting Elmer Fudd to shame. On a single boating trip Papa hooked nearly two thousand pounds of fish, including “the largest caught on rod and reel in the Atlantic.” This meant nothing to him, though, because “I fish for fun, not for records.” (Exactly what a man says when he’s fishing solely for records.)

And if you’re judging Hemingway as a heartless sadist, just remember: if you aren’t willing to kill animals, you have no right to eat them. The only person worse than a vegetarian is a hypocrite, especially a hypocrite without cojones.

As a Boy, He Was a Girl

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Not biologically, of course, but his unhinged momma dressed him in pink gowns with flowered lace bonnets, forced him to grow his hair as long as his sister’s—at nearly four years old, Hemingway wasn’t sure that people knew he was a boy—and encouraged him to play with teacups, sewing kits, and dolls. (This might, just might, have something to do with his lifelong quest to prove his manhood to everybody on earth.)

He Was Never a Soldier (But Still Kicked Ass in Plenty of War Zones)


After high school graduation, Hemingway applied for the military, not some effete liberal arts college. (Ultimate proof that an English degree is worthless.) But his poor eyesight disqualified him. Eager to partake in WWI, he became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. This noncombatant role embarrassed and depressed Papa—it was a piss-poor consolation prize—but his battlefield fantasies came true when a trench mortar shell detonated near him. Despite hundreds of shrapnel fragments in his foot, knee and scalp, Hemingway carried a hurt comrade to safety, for which he won the Silver Medal of Valor. And a lifetime supply of badass points, redeemable wherever vaginas are stocked.

Upon returning home a war hero, Hemingway—unlike most grown men—slept with a nightlight, but strutted around town in his uniform every day, boasting of his gallant exploits to anyone who would listen. (Also: boasting of how awesome it was to never do laundry, because he wore the same putrid uniform every day.) Most of these gallant exploits never happened, in a purely historical sense, but Papa had the scars to kinda-sorta prove them.

In WWII, Hemingway once again contributed without officially enlisting. Astonished U.S. troops believed that he was a four-star general, despite his complete lack of military record. He miraculously convinced starstruck Navy officers to stock his boat with bazookas, grenades, and machine guns to hunt Nazi submarines. And he sneaked behind German lines all by himself, carrying “more munitions and alcohol than a division,” on unauthorized reconnaissance missions, for which he earned a Bronze Medal to complement his Silver from two decades prior. (And he would’ve earned a Gold, if butchering Nazis had been an Olympic competition.)

His Suicide Was Almost 1,000 Times More Awesome


If you’re going to take yourself out, you don’t want to scratch your wrists with Bic safety razors like teenagers do across America, which is absolutely tragic. Not tragic because young people want to die; tragic because they want to die so pathetically.

You want a dignified departure; you want to go out in style. “It is very important to discover graceful exits,” Hemingway wrote in The Sun Also Rises.

Ultimately Hemingway munched a bullet sandwich, but he nearly offed himself in vastly more spectacular fashion. According to his friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner, Papa tried to walk into an airplane propeller (like that dude in the first Indiana Jones movie), and then—once airborne—tried to jump out without a parachute. Other passengers restrained him, but this would’ve been an incredibly graceful exit from thirty thousand feet in the sky.



We have so many distractions these days—Xbox, Facebook, IMAX 3-D, crystal meth, etc.—that it’s difficult to sit down and read a book. But give it a try, because Hemingway can teach you more about masculinity than Wikipedia ever will. In our age of disposable blog posts and even more disposable tweets, it takes a special effort to focus on hundreds of pages, but you’ll thank yourself afterward. (The best way to thank yourself? A long, indulgent chug directly from the bottle.)

Check out Marty Beckerman’s book The Heming Way, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook!