There are books read and reviewed by this writer that ought to come under a heading like, “Not for Everyone.” Who does the reviewer address when along comes a book so filled with parody, satire, sarcasm, insight, raunchiness, and just plain silliness that it’s bound to offend and disgust as many readers as it enchants? If you can say Hemingway with a straight face after reading the book’s subtitle, How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within . . . Just Like Papa! you’re either still in diapers or you’ve swapped your sense of humor for political correctness.
Marty Beckerman is a very funny guy, but he’s done some very serious homework in putting this book together. For those of us old enough to have read Hemingway just to read and not as a class assignment, The Heming Way is a romp both back and forward in time. Beckerman’s premise is that men are “torn between masculinity and modernity.” And where does this modernity leave today’s males? “We’re too busy posting online about our lives to actually live them.” Modern man has lost the ability to “skin a fish, navigate by starlight, climb to the apex of a mountain, or transform majestic creatures of the Southern Hemisphere into piano keyboards.” What to do? Beckerman has the answer: “All we need is a teacher, a savior . . . All we need…is Ernest Hemingway.”
Good parody does more than mock and ridicule. Beckerman’s comedic take on Hemingway is a straight pathway into poking at modern man. He covers almost every topic surrounding Hemingway, from hunting for food and sport, to misogyny and its own perverted pleasures. Is the hunt for that perfect steak in the supermarket more humane than Papa’s barbequed bounty on the African plains? And if Hemingway’s propensity for alcohol, so irreverently and masterfully described by Beckerman with direct quotes from Papa himself, is cause for such derision, what’s with our modern dependency on the pharmaceutical business?
That Hemingway lived a bold, robust and often debauched life is both beside the point and exactly the point. Beckerman believes that “Safety is avoidance of risk,” and nothing is gained without risk. “In this age of social networking, ostracism–disapproval– has become the most effective threat, but you can’t make friends without making enemies.” How many of us today are willing to risk what Hemingway did? As much as some of Beckerman’s quotes from Hemingway and his own commentary are over the top, laugh-out-loud funny, the laughs only last until you stop and think about them.