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