Not the Man You Thought You Knew
Bloomberg Businessweek|March 22, 2021
A six-hour documentary on Ernest Hemingway measures one of the most famous authors of the 20th century against the standards of the 21st By Brin Jonathan Butler
Brin Jonathan Butler

Truman Capote once described Ernest Hemingway as a “closet everything.” In the first 15 minutes of Hemingway, his first wife, Hadley Richardson, provides a more nuanced take on the dynamic Capote identified: “There were so many sides to him,” she’s quoted as saying, “that he defied geometry.”

Since Hemingway’s death nearly six decades ago, his absence from the world stage has lasted almost as long as the controversial life that he lived. The forthcoming six-hour, three-part reappraisal from the Emmy Award-winning duo Ken Burns and Lynn Novick—who’ve produced acclaimed documentaries together about the Vietnam War, baseball, jazz, and Prohibition— persuasively challenges the stereotypes of toxic masculinity that have evolved around this most divisive of literary figures. It begins airing April 5 on PBS.

“Too often films are an execution of an already-arrived-at end,” Burns says. “That’s not the way we work. We understand that the first thing we do is check our baggage at the door and just go in and be reeducated.”

To separate man from myth, Novick and Burns took advantage of unprecedented access to Hemingway’s original manuscripts, correspondence, and scrapbooks. They also had a well of archival footage shot throughout his adult life from around the world and at the Finca La Vigía, his 20-year home in Cuba.

Most surprisingly, the documentary shows a man who— far from being a relic of the past—is instead an avatar for the 21st century, with the narrative coalescing around themes near and dear to the millennial heart: gender inequity, mental health, and the thirst for fame.

“People who had not read a word he’d written thought they knew him,” Peter Coyote, the film’s narrator, says early on from the script. “Wounded veteran and battlefield correspondent. Big-game hunter and deep-sea fisherman. Bullfight aficionado. Brawler and lover and man about town. But behind the public figure was a troubled and conflicted man who belonged to a troubled and conflicted family. The world saw him as a man’s man, but all his life he would privately be intrigued by the blurred lines between male and female, men and women.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEKView All

Is the Future Of the Internet In This Van?

Tarana takes a $300 million shot at providing wireless internet that can rival fiber-based networks

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

THE DOGESTOCK GENERATION

Get-rich-quick trading is partly about entertainment, but it’s having a very real impact on markets

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

Private Equity Wants You

Managers of buyout funds are looking for more money from individual savers

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

The Chip King Faces The Crunch

TSMC has mastered the business of semiconductors, but staying on top of the politics is only getting trickier

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

Too Cool for School

Making enemies of the wrong parents has been hazardous to Juul’s health

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

For Crypto, The Price of Success May Be Regulation

Governments could finally target the anonymity that makes Bitcoin a haven for hackers

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

Decoding the Price Signals

What’s real, what’s transitory, what’s base-effect distortion? Let’s cut through the noise

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

India thought it had the virus beat. The virus had other ideas

Governments around the world keep repeating the same mistakes. In a country of 1.4 billion, the consequences are on a whole new scale

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

China's Next Export: Inflation

With prices rising at the factory gate, consumers abroad may wind up paying more

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021

Hype Man

Chamath Palihapitiya—tech billionaire, Golden State Warriors co-owner, and all-around meme lord—has a sure-thing, 100%-can’tmiss investment for you that will definitely, absolutely pay off for him

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 17, 2021
RELATED STORIES

Gwen & Now

DAYS’s EMILY O’BRIEN is making the most of her return to daytime

9 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
September 28, 2020

Summer Pastimes

RJD Gallery presents new works by Tor-Arne Moen that evoke memories of yesteryear.

4 mins read
American Art Collector
June 2020

Four top students to be honored at DISHS graduation

The best of the Class of 2020

2 mins read
Island Ad-Vantages
05/21/2020

Mariner girls finish second in Class D North

BANGOR—The girls basketball team beat Katahdin for their semifinal win 48-34 on February 20 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

2 mins read
Island Ad-Vantages
2/27/2020

WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS HUAWEI EQUIPMENT HAS BACKDOOR FOR SPYING

The Chinese company Huawei can secretly tp into communications through the networking equipment it sells globally, a U.S. official charged as the White House stepped up efforts to persuade allies to ban the gear from next-generation cellular networks.

1 min read
Techlife News
February 15, 2020

DI-S girls basketball team in ‘a pretty solid second place'

The girls basketball team beat Bucksport 53-40 on January 21.

1 min read
Island Ad-Vantages
1/30/2020

Mariner Girls Team Stays Strong Through Holiday Break

Deer Isle—The girls basketball team beat Jonesport 57-39 on December 18. We held a comfortable lead throughout, and everyone got to play. We had balanced scoring with Rylee Eaton 15 points, Kaylee Morey and Macey Brown each with 12, and Peyton Rice and Brienna Limeburner each with eight.

1 min read
Island Ad-Vantages
1/2/2020

Experience, depth key as Mariners enter season

DEER ISLE—The girls basketball team returns most of last year’s team that went to the Eastern Maine finals. Though our expectations will be high, Coach Randy Shepard is working to get the best combinations with each position.

1 min read
The Weekly Packet
12/5/2019

V.M. Burns

It’s been said that the act of writing, at its most fundamental level, is a form of wish fulfillment.

7 mins read
Mystery Scene
Holiday #162, 2019

I Fall To Pieces

Ken Burns’s massive Country Music is powerful, beautiful, and somehow still incomplete.

5 mins read
New York magazine
September 16-29, 2019