Whining is for women; whiskey is for men. The only shoulder a man cries on is marinated beef chuck, and the only tears he cries are tears of joy. “You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine,” Papa implored in “The Sun Also Rises.” “You lose the taste.”
This Hemingwayesque advice comes from Marty Beckerman’s newest book The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within… Just Like Papa! which was recently excerpted in Salon. What does this have to do with the Jews? Well, Marty, who I first met as one of my charges on the inaugural Jewlicious Birthright Israel trip, is a Jew – at least by Birthright standards. Marty is also an ROI alum and the 6th annual ROI Summit is, as Justin notes in this video, right around the corner!
But what of Hemingway? American Modernism is rife with anti-Semitic depictions of Jews. We have the “damned jews” in Ezra Pound’s Cantos; Edith Wharton in The House of Mirth introduces us to one Simon Rosedale, a wealthy assimilated Jew who has difficulty gaining the acceptance he craves from the social elite; and of course, who can forget Meyer Wolfsheim, the criminal Jewish financier and fixer of the World Series in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Hemingway wrote several Jewish characters, but his quintessential Jew was Robert Cohn in The Sun Also Rises. The former boxing champion is portrayed as a whiny alcoholic lacking the quiet, brooding stoicism that is the hallmark of goyish manliness.
The excerpt from Beckerman’s book is titled “How to drink, the Hemingway way: The self-destructive drinker knew what he liked when it came to alcohol. Here are some of his hard-learned tips.” The satirical treatment certainly raised the ire of Salon’s community of commenters. I won’t repeat the epithets hurled Beckerman’s way but it seems he pissed everyone off – those who despise Hemingway’s overwrought machismo as well as those who wish to preserve whatever is left of Hemingway’s hallowed position in the American literary canon. But here’s the thing, follow these tips and you too can end up like Papa – a sad jaundiced alcoholic, a terrible father, a bad hunter and perhaps, dead by suicide. Anyone who sees Beckerman’s satire as a Maxim-style glorification of hard drinking probably spends too much time watching Jersey Shore and reading, well, Maxim. I mean, look at Beckerman! He’s hardly the hard drinking type. I’ve been to bars with him. I’m pretty sure he confined himself to Bud Light. And last I checked, he lived in a neighborhood in Brooklyn defined by its proximity to Park Slope whose sole charm is its wealth of Broadway actors and lesbian bars. He’s hardly the poster boy for over the top Hemingway style machismo.
I’m not suggesting that the postmodern ideal of the effete, sensitive, politically-correct man is one we ought to emulate. But surely there has to be a solid middle ground – one that doesn’t include either drinking yourself into a stupor on a regular basis or bemoaning the testosterone that courses through your veins while sitting naked in a weepy all men’s drum circle. I could go into the whole Israel Man / Diaspora boy dichotomy so aptly lampooned by our dear friend Eli Valley (another ROI alum and current artist in residence at Der Forverts), but this isn’t about me rubbing my Zionism in anyone’s face. So what if a bunch of goyim in the 20’s and 30’s saw Jewish men as weak, emasculated and conniving?
This is about what it means to be a man. Real men don’t drink like idiots. Real men deal with their Mommy issues and don’t hate on women. Real men pick their battles judiciously. Real men are loyal to their friends and care for their families. Real men don’t produce agunot. Real men think before they speak and don’t sell out those closest to them in order to curry favor with trendy douchebags. Real men respect and love all of God’s creatures. I could go on and on but I’m sure you get my point.