Now that’s where it’s at. Of course I’m referring to that area of the male physique that men primp at, worry over, joke about and occasionally put to good use.
Just ask Steinbeck who thought losing semen every now and then was a bracing tonic preparatory to great art.
Where the hell am I going with this?
Beware of writers especially novelists who are your friends. For they have the power to represent you as caricature or fact. Or exploit the vast wasteland that lies between them.
That’s one of the unavoidable lessons of A Moveable Feast.
In the preface, Hemingway neatly inoculates himself against the charge of historical inaccuracy. “If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.”
Yes, there is always that chance.
I wonder, though, how Fitzgerald or his admirers might regard the strikingly unflattering portrait that emerges of the author of The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald is too pretty to be handsome, a kind of androgynous beauty. He is presented as weak, sickly, nervous, uptight and fragile. Vulnerable beyond propping. He’s hypochondriacal in the extreme. Hemingway sees him as a drama king and wearies of Fitzgerald’s “silly comedy” of fear, worry, doubt.
Annoyingly, too, Fitzgerald is a lightweight. “Anything that he drank seemed to stimulate him too much and then to poison him…”
But even worse than his wimpish handling of booze, Fitzgerald is tortured by self-doubt when it comes to his, well, the shape and size of his Hemingway.
“Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly.”
Hemingway asks Fitzgerald to follow him to a back room. They return.
“You’re perfectly fine,” said Hemingway. “You are O.K. There’s nothing wrong with you. You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.”
Next time you’re at the Louvre, surrounded by all that sturdy manly marble, know that fragile Fitzgeraldian psyches are searching for reassurance.