...if The Paris Wife is an accurate historical portrayal of his early literary life, then I feel like I can forgive some of his macho, sexist writing.
I've managed to read one and a half Hemingway novels, and a few of his short stories. The one I remember best is Hills Like White Elephants, about a woman who wants to have a baby with her husband but he wants her to have an abortion so he doesn't have to change his rather selfish lifestyle. Not exactly endearing. I've always been put off by his very violent ideas about manhood, and his rather apparent disrespect for women. Having read The Paris Wife, however, I am better able to put his ideas in not just a historical context, but a more personal, emotional one.
What I didn't know about him before reading this book was that he was injured in the first World War, and that he spent most of the rest of his life trying to stare down death, terrified by his own morality. Constantly afraid of being seen as cowardly or weak, he actively sought out experiences, like the bullfights in Pamplona, to convince himself of his own strength. His war experiences, coupled with his depressive nature and the history of mental illness in his family, suddenly I see his overly-macho definition of what it means to be a man in a new light. And while I still don't like his fiction, and I still think that he was a philandering sexist, at least now I have a context to put it in. I now have compassion where before was only contempt.