Cara Cannella in Signature:
Sometimes when I learn about a book about a book, as in Lesley M. M. Blume’s new release Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, I hesitate to pick up the bigger (i.e., more recent) of the two matryoshkadolls. If I have yet to read – or have read but can’t remember details of – the one it contains, there’s a FOMO factor: Will I spend time with Mama Book wishing I was better acquainted with Baby Book?
Since schlepping around a combined 1,800 pages of Ulysses and Ulysses Annotated as an undergrad, I don’t think I’ve read two related books in such tandem. For anyone else who might be in this boat, I’m here to assure you that Blume’s Everybody Behaves Badly can live squarely on its own as a commentary on Hemingway’s post-war, expatriate psychology of creativity and its cost to his personal relationships. Standing on a recent reading of his square-shouldered breakthrough 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, it could only be emboldened.
Like The Paris Wife, Paula McLain’s bestselling 2011 novel narrated by the first of Hemingway’s four wives, Hadley Richardson, Badly focuses on the period of their 1920-1927 union. Its hook lies in the Hemingways’ 1925 trip with friends (or, more accurately, frenemies) from Paris to Pamplona to catch the running of the bulls, and the novel it inspired. Written within six weeks immediately following their adventure in Spain, the novel about “youth, sex, love, and excess,” as Blume describes it, is as much a work of reportage as it is “fiction.”