(K. Brent Tomer),
The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War. By James McGrath Morris. Da Capo Press; 312 pages; $27.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY liked chasing after death. Given the chance to drive an ambulance in the first world war, he exulted: “Oh, Boy!!! I’m glad I’m in it.” Not everyone was so eager. John Dos Passos, a fellow writer, was also an ambulance driver in the Great War. But he called it “slavery”, a “tragic digression”. If the two men held opposing views on war, they were both also made by it. Conflict sculpted their relationship—and their writing.
In “The Ambulance Drivers” James McGrath Morris pairs the two writers and their wars. The combination makes sense. Hemingway and Dos Passos “held front-row seats…on the killing fields of Europe,” the author explains. War bound these two very different men together. Dos Passos was “shy and bookish”. Hemingway anything but that: he swore and womanised his way from Paris to Havana. Dos Passos “grew up” in the trenches, and although he was the older by just three years, he…Continue reading