Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Hemingway’s Masterpiece the Sun Also Rises by entertainment journalist Lesley M.M. Blume is as it says on the cover, the story about the actual fiesta of San Fermin Hemingway and his entourage attended. The book purports to be about this, but the material related to this now-fictionalized event takes up only part of its over three hundred pages. It also explores the impact of The Sun Also Rises on the literary landscape of the 1920s.
Blume’s biography starts with the writer’s early days in Paris. While a good introduction, it’s familiar territory to anyone who has read Michael Reynold’s stellar biography, Hemingway: The Paris Years. Blume’s voice kept me entertained, and her research brings in some realism to the often romanticized “literary Paris” of the 1920s. For every serious Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Archibald MacLeash, and the other greats from the period, there was the “scum of Greenwich village”–as Papa put it–playacting at being artists and writers. Paris was essentially a proto-hipster town, complete with trust-funded layabouts.
The chapter on the fiesta gives a blow by blow account of the party: Ernest Hemingway, Harold Loeb, Lady “Duff” Twysden, and the others. The chapter provides some new information Reynolds hadn’t included in his book. The book’s driving chapter leaves something to be desired, at least as someone who’s read the aforementioned book. It clears up what is fact and fiction in Sun Also Rises (most of it is true). Blume also explores the group’s reaction to Hemingway’s novel. The author was also able to find information on what happened to the others in the group.
Overall, Everyone Behaves Badly is a good introduction to the Lost Generation and Ernest Hemingway’s early years. It accomplishes what it sets out to do by shedding light on the famed 1925 fiesta. It is not recommended for anyone who has read other Hemingway biographies.