Hemingway was not a political man. He did not care for movements, but dealt in his fiction with the stresses and strains on individuals in a world that seemed far less complex, prior to World War II, than it has since. Rightly or wrongly, his taste ran to large and simple (but not easy) concepts -- to blacks and whites, as it were, and he was not comfortable with the multitude of gray shadings that seem to be the wave of the future.
It was not Hemingway's wave, and in the end he came back to Ketchum, never ceasing to wonder, says Mason, why he hadn't been killed years earlier in the midst of violent action on some other part of the globe. . . . He could sit in the Tram or the Alpine or the Sawtooth Club and talk with men who felt the same way he did about life, even if they were not so articulate. In this congenial atmosphere he felt he could get away from the pressures of a world gone mad, and "write truly" about life as he had in the past.
Ketchum was Hemingway's Big Two Hearted River, and he wrote his own epitaph in the story of the same name, just as Scott Fitzgerald had written his epitaph in a book called The Great Gatsby. Neither man understood the vibrations of a world that had shaken them off their thrones, but of the two, Fitzgerald showed more resilience. His half-finished Last Tycoon was a sincere effort to catch up and come to grips with reality, no matter how distasteful it might have seemed to him.
Hemingway never made such an effort. The strength of his youth became rigidity as he grew older, and his last book was about Paris in the Twenties.
. . .
From such a vantage point a man tends to feel it is not so difficult, after all, to see the world clear and as a whole. Like many another writer, Hemingway did his best work when he felt he was standing on something solid -- like an Idaho mountainside, or a sense of conviction.
Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn't. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him -- not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.
Tags: Hunter S. Thompson, Hemingway