Hemingway made fun of Fitzgerald’s boxing abilities in a newly-uncovered short story.

Corinne Segal

September 21, 2022, 3:36pm

How far have you gone to roast a friend? How about writing a passive-aggressive story that portrays them as a scrappy boxer who thinks they’re stronger than they are and gets beaten up for it?

Welcome to literary payback, Hemingway-style: a newly-opened archive of letters, stories, and photos from the author also includes an undated short story about “Kid Fitz,” an upstart based on F. Scott Fitzgerald who wins a fight—but not without some serious bruises.

Robert K. Elder, who reported on the archive for The New York Times, described the story as “playful and affectionate, though still biting”—a description that encapsulates the complicated relationship between the two authors. It focuses on Kid Fitz, whose fight leaves him in rough shape: Hemingway writes, sardonically, that he “appeared in good condition after his grueling battle,” as “His only marks were a strangulated hernia, a missing nose and two black eyes.”

Kirk Curnutt, chair of the English department at Troy University, told Elder that the story is “making fun of Fitzgerald’s ineptitude in physical matters.” Elder reports:

“Hemingway clearly felt he’d surpassed Fitzgerald both in literary and physical virility,” [Curnutt] added. “But in a way, it’s an odd admission of delusion. Later in life, Hemingway would claim he could take world-renowned writers in the ring with the same sort of obliviousness he’s attributing to Kid Fitz here as he gets his nose knocked off.”

The story also includes some frankly incredible names for the other “boxers” that Kid Fitz “deserves to rank” with: Battling Milton for John Milton, K.O. Keats for John Keats, Spike Shelley for Percy Shelley (clearly the best one), and Wild Cat Wordsworth for, you guessed it, William Wordsworth.

In an archive full of other treasures—and newly opened for scholarly research—this exercise in male ego and projection is, by far, the funniest piece of it.

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