They say it's a man's world, but Ernest Hemingway wouldn't believe it if he were alive today, according to Marty Beckerman, author of "The Heming Way."
"Anything a Cub Scout could do, the average American guy can't do, like how to hunt, how to fish, how to start a fire," Beckerman said. "If you dropped us in the middle of the woods, we'd be dead within an hour."
Vegetarian restaurants, spa treatments, butt-accentuating underpants, fruity cocktails -- Hemingway would gouge out his eyes if he saw the indulgences consumed by men in 2011, Beckerman says (except for the fruity cocktails, which he drank with gusto.)
The downfall of Beckerman's male cohort originated, he said, with its dependence on computers.
"We can all search Google and update our worthless status messages, but few of us can skin a fish, navigate by starlight, climb to the apex of a mountain, or transform majestic creatures of the Southern Hemisphere into piano keyboards with a double-barreled rifle, a hacksaw, and a little elbow grease," Beckerman wrote.
Men today aren't spared any criticism, especially those who shave their body hair.
When he halts the attack, Beckerman wavers between two takes on Hemingway, the author of classics like "A Farewell To Arms" and "The Sun Also Rises." There's a nostalgic rhapsody for the decisive, courageous, self-reliant image of manhood embodied by Hemingway and his characters and the repudiation of the alcoholic, misogynistic, belligerent image of manhood embodied by Papa Hemingway and his male protagonists.
"The masculinity of the past had a lot of problems," said Beckerman, 28, originally from Alaska, "but what Hemingway symbolized as a cartoon character is something that American men have lost."
The point of the slim volume isn't to yearn for the old days when Abercrombie & Fitch was a sporting-goods store where Hemingway bought rifles or to bemoan its current form as a tourist attraction with velvet ropes and half-naked male models at the flagship Manhattan location.
Beyond the sarcasm, it's the forgotten mentality of Hemingway and his ilk that seems to bother Beckerman the most.
"It goes beyond being able to do the camping stuff," he said. "Do we feel confident when we speak? Do we second guess ourselves? The idea that death is the worst thing that can happen to you, is not what Hemingway thought. Cowardice, second guessing your own actions, not feeling proud of yourself; these are all worse than death."
Fans will appreciate the tidbits that Beckerman throws in to show Hemingway's macho limits, such as his use of a night-light after returning home from World War I.
Don't worry if the dichotomy Beckerman posits of the manly men of yore and the effeminate pansies of 2011 comes across as oversimplified. Sociologists say times haven't changed too much, even if men no longer eat meat they caught with their bare hands.
"In both Hemingway's time and our own there were multiple definitions of masculinity," said State University of New York at Stony Brook sociologist Michael Kimmel. "In the '20s and '30s there were metrosexuals -- think Cole Porter -- they were urban dandies. Hemingway didn't like them.
"Hemingway extolled the earthiness of the worker, the soldier, the hunter," added Kimmel. "That model becomes somewhat intriguing to white-collar workers in cubicles who think they're losing their masculinity -- think 'Fight Club.' Here's the thing that remains constant: the men who become our heroes, they do the right thing and they take responsibility for actions."
There could be another explanation for why men today indulge in things that their forefathers would never have tried, such as bikini waxings.
"Men are just more secure with themselves," said Jasper Kew, the manager of Why Not Men's Spa in Manhattan. "Nowadays, people are more open."
For more info, visit Beckerman's website.