When Twitter increased its character count to 280, Donald Trump wasn’t sure what to think, Bob Woodward reports in his new book Fear: Trump in the White House.
“It’s a good thing,” the US president is quoted as saying, “but it’s a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.”
Trump’s estimation of himself, despite the recent splashy headlines, isn’t new: As far back as 2015, Trump boasted about his purported similarity to the legendary Pulitzer Prize novelist. He’s in illustrious company, to cite just a few wordsmiths and others who put themselves in Papa’s league—or above:
- 1955 American writer and Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner, in his list of 20th-century greats: “Wolfe, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Caldwell and myself. I rated Wolfe first, myself second. I put Hemingway last. I said we were all failures.”
- 1959 Writer Norman Mailer, who believed himself to be better than Hemingway and worse than Tolstoy
- 1960 Novelist Jack Kerouac, in a letter to a friend. If you read Hemingway, he wrote, “you’ll recognize old Jack sitting there at yr. right.”
- 1960 Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who later worried about “being identified with him”
- 1961 United States President John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy
- 2006 A Million Little Pieces author James Frey, in an interview with CNN (along with “Fitzgerald and Kerouac and Charles Bukowski”)
- 2010 Professional wrestler Dutch Mantell, in his autobiography The World According to Dutch
- 2010 Romance novelist Nicholas Sparks, repeatedly and unabashedly
- 2016 Kim Kardashian-West, on learning that Hemingway also weighed himself daily
Hemingway himself claimed to be in the ring with literary greats Turgenev and Tolstoy—who compared themselves to a banana and a rower. It’s baffling stuff, but still not as baffling as picking an anti-semitic, homophobic, woman-hating “literary cave man” as your go-to personal hero.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Twitter had reduced its character count to 280. It was the number it was increased to from 140.