The Old Man and the Tweet

WIRED has a post about what Hemingway would think of the Internet. The author is a little young to be writing about Hemingway. He’s not even 30, but if you read his bio you’ll see that it’s really just tongue in cheek (or rather some other body cavity) humor he’s after.

It’s unfortunate though. With a little effort, the author could have taken a fluff plug for his new book and turned it into something poignant. He could have sliced off about half of his monologue intro, dropped into the fairly predictable jokes quickly and then discussed what an older Papa would have been like on the Internet. He could have done that, but he’s really not that sort of writer.

You might think I’m being a little harsh here, but let’s consider that the author just published a sensationalist book lampooning a man on the 50th anniversary of his suicide. That’s just a wee bit crass, don’t you think?

So rather than complain about this piece further, let’s really examine what might Hemingway do on the Internet. Of course, we must select a Hemingway and there are so many from which to choose…

Are we talking about a young Hemingway on the battlefield? Say, a medic in Iraq or Afghanistan? A couch-surfing Hemingway learning his writing trade in the virtual expat community of Gawker and HuffPo stringers? An adventure junkie Hemingway flinging himself off mountains in wingsuits or war reporting in Africa?

“Those the world will not break it kills. The good, the gentle, and the brave. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too.”

Or maybe we have a Hemingway who’s best days are far, far behind him. A Hemingway bypassed by the world, whose last novel was a disaster. This Hemingway, the author of Across the River and Into the Trees (1950), would have a very different approach to the Internet.

“Sure they can say nothing happens in Across the River, all that happens is the taking of Paris …plus a man who loves a girl and dies.”

The author who finished The Old Man and the Sea would have something very different to say. That Hemingway called in favors from every corner of the literary world to get his name pushed to the top of the Nobel ballot. One can only imagine the endless flow of tweets and Facebook posts pushing for acceptance and visibility culminating in his inevitable acceptance speech.

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. A writer does his work alone and if good enough he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

But then, at the end of his life, we are left with a very different sort of Hemingway. This Hemingway could no longer bring his mind to craft particularly good sentences, let alone the great ones he demanded from himself. This Hemingway was slipping into mental illness, dementia, and paranoia (which may have had roots in fact as well). What sort of Internet presence would the author at the end of his life have? Would he be the Charlie Sheen of his day? Ranting like a madman, setting up town hall shows to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the torpedo of truth?

“It’s the worst hell. The goddamnedest hell. They’ve bugged everything. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted.”

Then we come to the very end and perhaps in a moment of lucid realization he would dash off one final thought…

“He simply woke, looked out the open door at the moon and unrolled his trousers and put them on.”


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