I don't want to make too much of this, but I don't think I could disagree more with this assessment of Hemingway's literary legacy. It's true; he's always been the writer you love to hate, and I don't think I would have abided him were I a regular at his table at Toots Shor's.
In too many ways, it's difficult to separate the man from his writing, but it's possible. And here lies the source of what I believe is the ambivalence – even a sneering dislike – many hold for his writing: He was the quintessential macho man, but he was one of the first openly "sensitive" American male writers. He was a political idealist, but he took to hunting German submarines during WWII with gusto. He braved many dangers others wouldn't dare, but at times he could be all too reserved when in the company of people he didn't know.
True, his subject matter and the tone of his writing seems as dated today as a John Ford movie, but he depicted his time – at least the parts of it he experienced – all too accurately. He never lurked behind his protagonists; instead, they were often Papa, thinly veiled. When his physical and mental health began to crumble, so did his writing. But this, I think, is the crucial point: he wrote himself, as well as his time, into literary history, and he rarely colored or embellished his literary self-portrait – at least no more than he did his real-life persona.
He was, then, the first great tinkerer with imaginative non-fiction. And, yes, his writing style changed the way American writers think about sentence structure, narrative and dialogue. Unlike most of Faulkner's writing, however, Hemingway's ground-breaking fiction was accessible. That's hardly a tarnished or a diminished legacy.
For much of the 1980s, beginning when I was in college, I used to read a Hemingway book a year. The point was not self-improvement but rather a kind of exploration: What was it, exactly, about his writing that I'd missed? I had read "The Sun Also Rises" in high school and had admired its spare portrayal of 1920s expatriate life. But I'd also thought of it as more than a little stilted, even melodramatic in its way.