Ben Mezrich on His Hemingway Obsession
As a writer, OCD is a real occupational plus; the same neurosis that forces you to wash your hands twenty times a day and obsess about the most minute, pathetic detail of your life, gives you the ability to sit at a computer for twenty straight hours contemplating the placement of an article or the proper usage of a gerund. But just as being an obsessive writer has its benefits, being an obsessive reader has its dangers. I found that out last summer in Paris, of all places and I say that because if anyone's read my books, you know I'm not one of those Paris writers, unless of course you're talking about the Paris hotel in Vegas, and my god, I hope for your sake you're not. I was in Paris, it was late on a Friday night, and I had my trusty copy of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises in my hand.
I carry the book with me every time I go to Europe; worse, I actually reread the book every second month, like clockwork, and I have most of the book memorized. Well this particular Friday night, I made a foolish challenge with myself; I decided that I was going to attempt to drink at every bar that Jake drinks at in the book worse still, match him drink for drink. And being the obsessive reader that I am, I made a list of every bar in the book, found a map, and set off to conquer Paris, Hemingway style. The Crillon, The Ritz, tiny little places that now barely exist, sidewalk caf?s, everything in between.
In the beginning, it was a fascinating experience, an attempt at communion with my favorite author and my favorite book. By the end, it was an ugly display of an Ugly American; maybe more true to my idol, but certainly nothing Paris needed to see. I don't remember making it back to my hotel, and I missed my flight to New York the next morning. Along the way, I learned a valuable lesson. Never try and match neurosis with the truly destructive personality disorder of your idol; you're sure to come out a long way behind.
About Ben Mezrich
Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. Since then he has published seven books with a combined printing of more than a million copies in nine languages. He is the author of the blockbuster New York Times bestseller Bringing Down the House: The True Story of Six MIT Kids Who Took Vegas for Millions, which is being made into a major motion picture produced by Kevin Spacey and MGM. Ugly Americans is Mezrich's eighth book and his second foray into nonfiction.