19 June 2023

The Short Happy Ad Career of Ernest Hemingway.

From Slate Magazine:  “Hemingway had no problem letting (his) familiar visage appear in ads, for which he also wrote the copy. In one he promotes Ballantine Ale: "You have to work hard to deserve to drink it. When something has been taken out of you by strenuous exercise, Ballantine puts it back in." There's one for Pan American Airlines: “We started flying commercially about the same time. They did the flying. I was the passenger." and another for Parker 51, "The World's Most Wanted Pen," to whose ad Hemingway lent his face and a paragraph (presumably in his handwriting) on the horrors of war.”

The man looks at the blank page.  It is the first page of a short story.  But there is nothing on it.  The man doesn’t know what to write.  He wishes he did not have to write anything at all.  But he is a writer.  He is paid to write stories.  And he needs the money.

He needs the money to buy food and Pernod.  That gives him an idea.  He can go to his favorite Parisian café and drink Pernod.  This idea makes him happy. 

At the café he drinks Pernod.  He only drinks two Pernods because he does not have money for a third.  His happiness begins to fade.  He thinks about the short story he cannot write and that makes him even less happy and want to drink more Pernod.  But he has no more money to buy Pernod.

The man looks across the street from the café and sees a poster on the wall.  It is a poster of a beautiful woman telling people to drink Pernod.  He reads the words on the poster.  The words say that Pernod is a drink for women.  Does that mean that the drink is for men who are soft and weak like women?  But the man drinks Pernod and he knows he is a strong man.  He is a brave man.  A genius of a man even after a dozen Pernods. 

Now he is no longer just unhappy.  His happiness has turned into sadness.  It has turned into wretched desolation.  The man knows that the only reason to live is to seek the one true thing.  The thing that tells him he is a man who can flatten Ezra Pound with a single punch, who can knock down Wallace Stevens, even though the Hartford insurance man is much bigger than Ezra Pound.  Wallace Stevens is a much bigger man, but he knows how to make enough money to have a big house in Hartford, Connecticut. 

The man stares into his empty Pernod and realizes he is a genius of a man who now knows how to make money like Wallace Stevens while the short story waits for the one true thing to reveal itself.  The man will write new words for the poster.  He will write better words than Scott Fitzgerald, who tried to write for advertising, but failed.  Fitzgerald is a weak man who falls down after five Pernods and swims in fountains with his wife, who can drink Pernods until the sun rips open the weary, perilous night.

He knows he will write the words that tell the world and the Nobel judges why Pernod is a drink for strong brave genius men.

Now when the man looks at the poster he is happy.     





  1. If there's an Ernest Hemingway (satirical) Fiction Contest - this will win it! Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Eve. That makes me happy. Existentially.

  2. Elizabeth Dearborn19 June, 2023 12:04

    Very funny! I saw a TV commercial a few days ago for the Ernest Hemingway mattress! Unfortunately I was out of the room for the first half of the commercial, but I did recognize the store that was doing the ad, so I know it was for real.

  3. Eve, there used to be a "Bad Hemingway Contest," and I THINK first prize was an expense-paid trip to Harry's Bar and Grill. Many of the entries (which were brilliant) were actually collected into a paperback. There was a "Faux Faulkner Contest," too, with equally fun results and a book. I used to assign "Bad Hemingway" stories in my honors American Lit class, and some of their efforst were worthy of the book.

    And a wink to Chris for his take on The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.

    1. I've been to Harry's in Venice. Not a bad joint. Crammed with Americans and Brits. Mary had a few Bellinis. We sat at the bar next to an American movie star, who's name escapes me. Not that famous, I guess. And you might note that in the illustration I grabbed for the blog the stack of saucers on the table. That's how they used to charge the patrons, by the number of saucers.

  4. I just looked on Amazon. Sure enough, both books, Hemingway and Faulkner, are available.


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