05 November 2014

How do you like it now, gentlemen?

This excerpt is from a brilliant, 1950 New Yorker piece on Hemingway:
“What I want to be when I am old is a wise old man who won’t bore,” he said... “I’d like to see all the new fighters, horses, ballets, bike riders, dames, bullfighters, painters, airplanes, sons of bitches, café characters, big international whores, restaurants, years of wine, newsreels, and never have to write a line about any of it,” he said. “I’d like to write lots of letters to my friends and get back letters. Would like to be able to make love good until I was eighty-five, the way Clemenceau could. And what I would like to be is not Bernie Baruch. I wouldn’t sit on park benches, although I might go around the park once in a while to feed the pigeons, and also I wouldn’t have any long beard, so there could be an old man didn’t look like Shaw.” He stopped and ran the back of his hand along his beard, and looked around the room reflectively. “Have never met Mr. Shaw,” he said. “Never been to Niagara Falls, either. Anyway, I would take up harness racing. You aren’t up near the top at that until you’re over seventy-five. Then I could get me a good young ball club, maybe, like Mr. Mack. Only I wouldn’t signal with a program—so as to break the pattern. Haven’t figured out yet what I would signal with. And when that’s over, I’ll make the prettiest corpse since Pretty Boy Floyd. Only suckers worry about saving their souls. Who the hell should care about saving his soul when it is a man’s duty to lose it intelligently, the way you would sell a position you were defending, if you could not hold it, as expensively as possible, trying to make it the most expensive position that was ever sold. It isn’t hard to die.” He opened his mouth and laughed, at first soundlessly and then loudly.
The book he describes as "his best" in the story was a dud. He wrote Old Man and the Sea a year later. He committed suicide, after winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1961 under stress, FBI monitoring, alcoholism and a genetic "propensity" for depression. He lived well, at least in his cussed genius.

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