David Brooks frets mightily about the horrors "that can afflict a successful person"

Brooks seems very, very worried that undeserved success can leave writers floundering in their own filth

By Scott Eric Kaufman
Published April 26, 2016 3:34PM (UTC)
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David Brooks (AP/Nam Y. Huh)

David Brooks is still tooling around Cuba on the president's behalf, and his travels recently took him to the house of Ernest Hemingway.

"It is light, welcoming and beautifully situated," he wrote. "There are hundreds of his books lining the shelves, testimony to all the reading he did there." From that description, one would assume Brooks was impressed by his surroundings -- however, he merely needed something against which to juxtapose his judgments.


"Hemingway was not a healthy man during the latter phases in his life," Brooks continued. "He was drunk much of the time; he often began drinking at breakfast and his brother counted 17 Scotch-and-sodas in a day. His wives complained that he was sporadic about bathing."

After detailing the many ways in which Hemingway was talented, Brooks finally arrived at his point -- and not surprisingly, it was as much about him as it was Hemingway. His concern is that when writers don't believe they deserve the success they achieve, they risk falling into the patterns of behavior that defined the last half of Hemingway's life:

Hemingway was a man who embraced every self-indulgence that can afflict a successful person. But at moments he shed all that he had earned and received, and rediscovered the hard-working, clear-seeing and unadorned man he used to be...

Read the rest at the New York Times...

Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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Cuba David Brooks Ernest Hemingway Literature Success The New York Times