Summertime: Kanye West, Hemingway, and Daiquiris

“As a writer you should not judge, you should understand.” — Ernest Hemingway


Kanye West is performing tonight at the closing ceremonies for the Pan Am games in Toronto. There’s been a lot of Canadian-style outrage over his appearance here. Some people are angry an American artist is headlining the event, and some just think that Kanye West is, well, not a very nice person. There are so many problems with the debate around this that I don’t know where to start. You could read this column in Now, or Shad’s comments at the CBC for some thoughtful comments.

Sure, West is arrogant and has a tendency to upset sensibilities by being a jerk at big social events. (Taylor Swift seems to be doing fine, by the way.) But no one’s accused him of being a serial rapist, or a pedophile. As far as we know he’s  never locked a teenage girl in a hotel room so he could have sex with her without the press knowing about it. He didn’t get behind the wheel of a car drunk and drive off a bridge causing the death of an innocent passenger, or been accused of tying his wife to a chair and assaulting her for hours.

When an artist isn’t a paragon of virtue, does that devalue his artistic achievements? Or does art exist on its own, the measure of whether it’s good or bad established only against other works? And who gets to judge? Does it make a difference if the artist is dead or alive? I can’t watch a movie by Woody Allen anymore, not just because his creepiness now seems obvious, but because I don’t want to support him financially. But I still read Patricia Highsmith’s books with pleasure, even though I don’t agree with all of her views. There’s a great doc on Netflix right now about Stephen Fry and his love of the music of Richard Wagner, Hitler’s favourite composer.

For some, Ernest Hemingway’s glorification of manly pursuits such as boxing and bullfighting, makes reading his books a bit of a guilty pleasure now. Not for me, mind you. I still love the guy, and his spare, granite prose, like a Mies van der Rohe building, cold and warm at the same time.

DaiquiriHemingway knew a thing or two about guilty pleasures, and his favorite liquid pleasure at  El Floridita in Havana was the daiquiri.

The daiquiri is the perfect summer cocktail to sip while you’re indulging your taste for imperfect artists and flawed heroes, maybe on a dock with a book, feeling the sun beat down on the blood-spattered sand of a Spanish bullring, or chilling on a rooftop with friends watching Kanye perform with his irresistible blend of seduction and provocation at the closing ceremony of the Pan Am games.

Here’s how you make one:

  • 1 1/2 oz white rum
  • juice of one lime (or 1 1/2 if they’re the withholding kind)
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar

Shake ingredients in chilled shaker with ice.  Pour into chilled glass. Summer’s brief. Enjoy.

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