Sub­texts

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

Wres­tled any ba­boons lately? Who would have thought there was a con­nec­tion be­tween writer Ernest Hem­ing­way and 1950s pinup pet Bet­tie Page? In his book All Man! Hem­ing­way, 1950s Men’s Mag­a­zines, and the Mas­cu­line Per­sona (The Kent State Uni­ver­sity Press), David M. Earle ar­gues that the pulp mag­a­zines and sto­ries of the 1950s re­flected the cul­tural mind-set of that time and thus should not be ig­nored. Fur­ther, he as­serts that Hem­ing­way was the ideal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mas­culin­ity in that wa­ter­shed decade for Play­boy and other men’s mag­a­zines. Hem­ing­way does pop up in a lot of th­ese pub­li­ca­tions, ei­ther as an in­ter­view sub­ject (his in­ter­viewer hav­ing con­ve­niently tracked the hard-drink­ing writer down in a Cuban bar), or a writer (many of Hem­ing­way’s short sto­ries were reprinted, some­times un­der other ti­tles, in th­ese mags), or in sen­sa­tion­al­is­tic per­sonal sagas of du­bi­ous merit ( Hem­ing­way’s Pri­vate War With Adolf Hitler!).

“This book is not about Hem­ing­way’s fic­tion, but Hem­ing­way him­self as fic­tion,” writes Earle, who makes a good case that the traits of the real Hem­ing­way and his fic­tional char­ac­ters of­ten got mixed up in th­ese mag­a­zines. The re­prints of ex­cerpts on mas­culin­ity and im­ages of he-men fight­ing scor­pi­ons or woo­ing curvy women from th­ese pub­li­ca­tions are a hoot to re­view. “If we were to judge the 1950s sim­ply by the cov­ers of th­ese mag­a­zines,” Earle notes, “then men were at­tacked by wild an­i­mals (ev­ery­thing from pi­ra­nhas and mon­keys to spi­ders and Nazi-trained ba­boons), im­pris­oned by ama­zons and sadis­tic fe­male SS guards, and spent all their leisure time ei­ther on sa­faris and deep-sea fish­ing or se­duc­ing semi-nude co­eds.” And we all thought that Fa­ther Knows Best.

Cour­tesy The Kent State Uni­ver­sity Press © Lit­er­ary En­ter­prises, 1956

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