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IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST

A nonexhaustive list of people who have compared themselves to Hemingway

Michael Vadon/CC BY-SA 4.0
Guilty as charged?
By Natasha Frost
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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.”
  • 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”
  • 2006 A Million Little Pieces author James Frey, in an interview with CNN (along with “Fitzgerald and Kerouac and Charles Bukowski”)

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.

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