The hairy chests and the steely gazes, the short sentences and the bulging crotches and the calm, almost brotherly invitations to war. The snarling lionhead and the gaping fishmaw, the smirking dolphin and the crab most muscular. Literate arm-wrestling challenge The Old Man Club is Hemingway’s very particular interpretation/incarnation of masculinity twinned with body-horror absurdism. And a touch of Tyler Durden too, of course.
Click on a muscled merman, engage in conflict, click-click-click to win, if you wish. The finger-straining, button-hammering discomfort of Daley Thompson’s Olympic Challenge, twinned with the battle against nature and steely self-belief/egomania of The Old Man And The Sea. This means you must win. You must defeat that lionman in an arm-wrestling contest and you must prove yourself man enough to take on the swordfish. Swordfish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.
The Old Man Club works even if its tongue-so-far-in-cheek-it’s-indecent literary references fly over your head. A beautifully drawn, if grotesque, pricking of macho pomp and the shallowness of such posturing, but it achieves its hold nonetheless. My finger is cramping, and I fear my poor mouse will fracture, but I must endure. I hate a cramp. It is a treachery of one’s own body. I must endure. I must defeat these animal-men or they will not know me to be the strongest one there is.
When the last opponent is respectfully defeated, I will exit the game and forget, and it will not matter. Every day is a new day.
Happy birthday Hemingway, you ridiculous man.