- Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry by Joseph Fruscione
Joseph Fruscione has written the most thorough study to date of the relationship between Faulkner and Hemingway, America's two supreme modernist novelists, and he makes a compelling case in this book that their intense rivalry was a strong influence on both writers and on their works. Scholars of both Faulkner and Hemingway are likely to find new and useful information here and will probably be surprised at how much each author seemed to have his rival in mind throughout their respective careers. Early in his book Fruscione compares Faulkner and Hemingway to both rival bullfighters and jazz musicians, succinctly capturing the competitiveness and the complementary nature and intertextuality of the writers’ relationship,.
The strength of the book is Fruscione’s ability to marshal copious amounts of information from a wide variety of sources (letters, fiction, biographies, criticism), present it cogently, and make a strong argument through reading their works, letters, speeches, and public and private remarks as evidence of their psychological influence on one another: “This shared motivation and desire to be America’s definitive modernist, I argue throughout, engendered a mutual psychological influence. Oftentimes, each wanted to outshine his rival; in turn, bringing their mutually referential texts under review will reveal how they were locked in a competition throughout their writing lives, a competition in which—in their minds, and possibly in the academy’s—Faulkner seems to have prevailed” (3).
Hemingway, in particular, comes across in letters and conversations as determined to be more manly than other writers, to defeat [End Page 872] them in the public arena, and Fruscione argues that he may have felt feminized by Faulkner’s artistic dominance. Faulkner, on the other hand, comes off as more secure in his masculinity, not as inclined to equate his writing with his manhood: “Although both writers were aware of and somewhat unsettled by this psychocompetitive influence, Hemingway felt an attendant anxiety more acutely than Faulkner did” (8).
The first chapter investigates the 1920s as the era in which both writers matured artistically and examines the shared influences that shaped their similar versions of modernism. Pound, Eliot, Joyce, and Lewis are not only influential in Faulkner’s and Hemingway’s individual brands of modernism; the competitive literary rivalries and intertextual responses of the “Men of 1914” also create a model of competitive artists pushing each other to respond anew in their work. We see also in this chapter how both men almost comically exaggerated their wartime heroics, creating more valorous and masculine versions of themselves. Although the relationships of the two writers with Sherwood Anderson have been documented in various biographies, Fruscione does a nice job of putting Faulkner’s and Hemingway’s tutelage and subsequent rejection of Anderson in conversation with one another, demonstrating the anxiety-riddled competitiveness that would characterize their own literary feud in the years to come. The connections with Anderson are the dominant focus of this chapter, and perhaps more could have been said about the authors’ time in Paris, the influences of modernist painting, or the effects of World War I on their respective artistic visions.
Chapter 2 focuses on the 1930s when the writers’ awareness of one another’s work becomes evident and the responses begin, and Fruscione makes a strong case for Hemingway seeing Faulkner as his principal rival, not just one among many inferiors he could dismiss. The chapter includes an interesting comparison of Faulkner’s and Hemingway’s novels of civil war, The Unvanquished (1938) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), although at times Fruscione’s approach leads to some dubious claims of influence: “Faulkner’s families— Compsons, Sartorises, even Sutpens—bond through storytelling and a collective past, though of course not without tension or conflict. He seems to have guided Hemingway in this direction, since little of Hemingway’s prior work depicted such a strong familial element” (75). These sorts of claims are not frequent, however, and Fruscione has more solid claims for often striking parallels and similarities between the authors...