Blume’s book is a slightly different animal. It’s a deeply, almost obsessively researched biography of a book, supported by a set of superb endnotes worth reading in their own right. And if that sounds a little dull or esoteric, you clearly haven’t read the novel she’s writing about...In recounting this tale of creative struggle and breakthrough, Blume can sometimes devote more attention to the horse race of competitive genius than to the artistic merits of the works and authors she describes. But with her emphasis on gossip and celebrity, she is arguably just following Hemingway’s lead.
Lesley M.M. Blume’s look at Ernest Hemingway’s rise to literary prominence...is an essential book, not because it covers Hemingway’s seminal years in Paris and the writing of his breakthrough novel, but because it is so very well done. Blume, a reporter and cultural historian, combines the best aspects of critic, biographer and storyteller in this book, which should be on every serious Hemingway fan’s bookshelf...It’s a complicated story, told masterfully.
Rather than tackle the whole man, Blume sets a manageable goal, an examination of the few critical years in which Hemingway transformed himself from a journalist and writer of promise into a public phenomenon, author of a novel, The Sun Also Rises, that set a new direction for American prose and defined a whole generation...Blume writes that the outline alone for her book ran to 1,400 pages. And every page of that labor is visible. Not that this is a long or ponderous book, though footnotes take up one-fourth of the 300-odd pages. But it is thick with juicy details.
The origin story of The Sun Also Rises, as masterfully told by journalist Lesley M. M. Blume, reveals the complicated sides of the young Hemingway: brilliant and vicious, arrogant and ambitious, an obsequious charmer and a jerk of the highest order...[T]his tale never crackles with the excitement and tragedy of Amanda Vaill’s masterful 2014 look at Hemingway & Co. in Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War. Even so, Everybody Behaves Badly is deeply evocative and perceptive, and every page has a Hemingway-like ring of unvarnished truth.
Blume shows how ruthlessly Hemingway betrayed his mentors, skewered his friends in his fiction, and sought to advance his own career at all costs. A more apt title might have been Hemingway Behaves Badly ... The 1925 visit to Spain became, in Blume’s words, 'a Bacchanalian morass of sexual jealousy and gory spectacle.' Untangling the episode’s transformation into The Sun Also Rises forms the core of Blume’s engrossing narrative ... Blume describes Hemingway as the Picasso of literature, a dubious claim that suggests the quality of The Sun Also Rises excuses such behavior. But after learning the sordid back story of the book, it will be tempting for some to see it as a bitter memoir masquerading as fiction.
...meticulously document[ed] ... For Everybody Behaves Badly, Ms. Blume has drawn deeply upon many sources, particularly Hemingway’s own correspondence, to deftly portray the cast of lost characters, their thin-skinned vanities and their quarrelsome insecurities.
In Everybody Behaves Badly, American writer Lesley Blume’s impeccably researched and resonant account of the true story behind The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway emerges as a masterful opportunist with a determination to succeed bordering on sociopathic ... Almost inevitably, when tackling such a literary heavyweight, there is a lot of familiar stuff in Blume’s book...Where Everybody Behaves Badly breaks ground is by stressing how important The Sun Also Rises was in bringing modernist literature to a commercial audience and, especially, the part Fitzgerald played in helping to encourage Hemingway and shape his manuscript.
Blume, a Los Angeles writer and journalist, has tracked down old letters, interviews, essays and long-out-of-print memoirs to write a fascinating, up-close look at how Hemingway kicked off his spectacular career. She also found and interviewed descendants of the Hemingway friends who became characters in The Sun Also Rises...compulsively readable...The eight pages of photos alone are worth the price of the book.
In retreading this well-worn turf, Blume presents a sharp portrait of a young nobody desperately, sometimes maliciously, trying to become a great — if not the great — writer of his time ... The result is a spirited account of a spirited age ... Blume provides an epilogue that details the lives of all who were depicted in The Sun Also Rises, and in doing so she encapsulates the novel’s unhappier legacy.
As problematic as Hemingway's unapologetic ambition and strained loyalties may be, Blume's purpose is not to vilify him but to demonstrate his mastery of the roman a clef. Hemingway's response to Loeb's pained query — why be so literal — may sound vindictive, but it explains his belief that a writer should write only about what he truly knows, the art of the personal he perfected as no writer before or after him ... Blume shows us how the author's careful process of selection and placement makes his debut novel an exemplum of autobiographical fiction ... Blume's achievement is doubly remarkable. As an award-winning journalist and cultural historian, she revisits the intense nightlife of Parisian bars and cafes and the explosive, rivalrous drama of Pamplona in a chiseled, precise style that would please the master himself. By filling in Hemingway's purposeful silences and omissions with the story's real-life people and actual events, she accentuates the author's artistic genius and enlarges our understanding of the novel's complex characters and themes. This is a book for novice Hemingway readers as well as veterans of his work.