Cindy Knoke’s Review
“Hemingway’s Fetishism” is a thoughtful, detailed, thorough and fascinating exploration of Hemingway’s complex and often dark psyche. It is most interesting to read this book followed by several other books that expand and explore similar themes from other family member’s perspectives. Several that I would recommend include:
“Strange Tribe,” by John Hemingway. This book is by Hemingway’s grandson and explores the gender bending proclivities and transvestic behaviors of both his father and grandfather, and their struggles with bi-polarity, alcohol, and suicidal depressions.
“The Hemingway Women,” by Bernice Kent, examines Hemingway’s troubled relationships with his four wives.
“Hemingway and Gelhorn,” by Jerome Lucille chronicles their wartime relationship.
If you follow this up with a re-read of “Moveable Feast,” you will have some new and interesting insights into the psyche and writing of Ernest Hemingway.
All of these books tend to corroborate and expand upon the themes addressed in Eby’s book which explores the relationship between Hemingway’s hyper-masculine personality and his gender confusion, fetishism, transvestitism and depression. The book is not reductive. The author is not dogmatic. He constantly points out potential weaknesses in his analysis. His respect for Hemingway, the author and person shines through, but he doesn’t, like so many others before him, shy away from addressing “the elephant on the dining room table,” namely the artificial construct of Hemingway’s uber-masculine personae and the sexual conflicts this was attempting to conceal.
The book is comprehensive and fascinating. It begins with Hemingway’s early childhood. It explores some of the roots of his challenges, with a dominant mother who dressed her son in dresses long past the age it was fashionable to do so. It explores his distant relationship with a cold and disapproving father who committed suicide. It looks at his odd relationship with his first wife, where his obsession with emulating her hair fully presents itself, to the deteriorating relationships with all his subsequent wives where his fetishism is played out in remarkably similar ways in each relationship.
For anyone interested in Hemingway, in better understanding the themes and imagery in his books, and the familial origins of paraphilias, this book is a fascinating read.