Whole Lotta Hemingway (Part 1)

Ernest Hemingway is one of the few writers I re-read, which is probably the highest compliment I can give a writer. Lately, I’ve read a few things about and by him all in one go, which has made me both more critical and sympathetic to him as a person and writer.

Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 by Paul Hendrickson. Hendrickson chronicles the life of Ernest Hemingway, centering it around his 38-foot boat Pilar which he purchased in the early 1930s and had until his death in 1961. None of Hemingway’s marriages lasted as long as his ownership of the boat. Unfortunately, this book is a jumbled mess. There is a lot of interesting detail about Hemingway and his exploits on the boat in the 1930s off the coast of Cuba and Bimini. But then the author skips most of the 1940s to resume Hemingway’s story with the publication of Across the River and Into the Trees and the damning reviews of the book, and then spends a lot of time talking about Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory (Gigi) Hemingway, and the many troubles he had coming to terms with his gender identity. Then the story returns to how the boat is sitting on the tennis court of Hemingway’s home in Cuba. As a biography, I wasn’t looking for something exhaustive or complete so much as cohesive.
Recommended Only for Serious Ernest Hemingway Fans.

Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto. Hadley Richardson was Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, and was by all accounts is the one he treated with the most respect. Hemingway seemed to regret busting up his first marriage so that he could marry Pauline Pfeiffer, writing so eloquently an idealized account of his life with Hadley in his memoir A Moveable Feast. Diliberto’s exemplary biography of Hadley is rich and fascinating about a woman born in the Victorian Era who marries a man eight years younger, a man she loves and supports, a man who goes on to change American Literature with his prose style. She was no bumbling wall flower, as she has often been portrayed. She was an avid reader, hiker, fisherwoman, and skier. In fact, she was a better skier than her husband Ernest. She was also an accomplished pianist, but had little confidence in her abilities. After the divorce, Hemingway turned over his rights to the royalties from The Sun Also Rises to her. That’s something, eh?
Recommended for Artists and Muses.

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1907-1922, Volume 1. “The desire to get to the man behind the work can be sometimes overwhelming. I always go back to the letters.” – Patrick Hemingway in Hemingway’s Boat. Luckily for us, it will now be possible for anyone to go back to all of the letters. Ernest Hemingway’s complete letters will be released one volume at a time. This first volume offers us a look at Hemingway before his literary writing career; a young man who canoed on the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers, spent summers up in Michigan with his family at their cottage, worked his butt off for the Kansas City Star, joined the Red Cross and served in Italy where he was wounded (getting hit with over 200 shell fragments), returned to the United States unsure of what to do, met and married Hadley Richardson, and at the urging of Sherwood Anderson moved to France, where he and Hadley met Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Ezra Pound and many others. As they are letters, sometimes the reading can be quite tedious, filled with so many banalities. Also, keep in mind that Hemingway harbored a number of prejudices against Jews and blacks. Hemingway signs off many of his letters as “Stein” or Hemingstein” because he thought it was funny to make his name Jewish. Later he would complain that he was getting “kiked” out of money for expenses incurred for his journalism in Europe by his editor. Ugh.
Recommended Only for Really Serious Ernest Hemingway Fans.

 

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