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P. 1
Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961

Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961

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3.82

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Published by Alfred A. Knopf
From a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, a brilliantly conceived and illuminating reconsideration of a key period in the life of Ernest Hemingway that will forever change the way he is perceived and understood.Focusing on the years 1934 to 1961—from Hemingway’s pinnacle as the reigning monarch of American letters until his suicide—Paul Hendrickson traces the writer’s exultations and despair around the one constant in his life during this time: his beloved boat, Pilar.We follow him from Key West to Paris, to New York, Africa, Cuba, and finally Idaho, as he wrestles with his best angels and worst demons. Whenever he could, he returned to his beloved fishing cruiser, to exult in the sea, to fight the biggest fish he could find, to drink, to entertain celebrities and friends and seduce women, to be with his children. But as he began to succumb to the diseases of fame, we see that Pilar was also where he cursed his critics, saw marriages and friendships dissolve, and tried, in vain, to escape his increasingly diminished capacities.Generally thought of as a great writer and an unappealing human being, Hemingway emerges here in a far more benevolent light. Drawing on previously unpublished material, including interviews with Hemingway’s sons, Hendrickson shows that for all the writer’s boorishness, depression, and alcoholism, and despite his choleric anger, he was capable of remarkable generosity—to struggling writers, to lost souls, to the dying son of a friend.We see most poignantly his relationship with his youngest son, Gigi, a doctor who lived his adult life mostly as a cross-dresser, and died squalidly and alone in a Miami women’s jail. He was the son Hemingway forsook the least, yet the one who disappointed him the most, as Gigi acted out for nearly his whole life so many of the tortured, ambiguous tensions his father felt. Hendrickson’s bold and beautiful book strikingly makes the case that both men were braver than we know, struggling all their lives against the complicated, powerful emotions swirling around them. As Hendrickson writes, “Amid so much ruin, still the beauty.”Hemingway’s Boat is both stunningly original and deeply gripping, an invaluable contribution to our understanding of this great American writer, published fifty years after his death.From the Hardcover edition.
From a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, a brilliantly conceived and illuminating reconsideration of a key period in the life of Ernest Hemingway that will forever change the way he is perceived and understood.Focusing on the years 1934 to 1961—from Hemingway’s pinnacle as the reigning monarch of American letters until his suicide—Paul Hendrickson traces the writer’s exultations and despair around the one constant in his life during this time: his beloved boat, Pilar.We follow him from Key West to Paris, to New York, Africa, Cuba, and finally Idaho, as he wrestles with his best angels and worst demons. Whenever he could, he returned to his beloved fishing cruiser, to exult in the sea, to fight the biggest fish he could find, to drink, to entertain celebrities and friends and seduce women, to be with his children. But as he began to succumb to the diseases of fame, we see that Pilar was also where he cursed his critics, saw marriages and friendships dissolve, and tried, in vain, to escape his increasingly diminished capacities.Generally thought of as a great writer and an unappealing human being, Hemingway emerges here in a far more benevolent light. Drawing on previously unpublished material, including interviews with Hemingway’s sons, Hendrickson shows that for all the writer’s boorishness, depression, and alcoholism, and despite his choleric anger, he was capable of remarkable generosity—to struggling writers, to lost souls, to the dying son of a friend.We see most poignantly his relationship with his youngest son, Gigi, a doctor who lived his adult life mostly as a cross-dresser, and died squalidly and alone in a Miami women’s jail. He was the son Hemingway forsook the least, yet the one who disappointed him the most, as Gigi acted out for nearly his whole life so many of the tortured, ambiguous tensions his father felt. Hendrickson’s bold and beautiful book strikingly makes the case that both men were braver than we know, struggling all their lives against the complicated, powerful emotions swirling around them. As Hendrickson writes, “Amid so much ruin, still the beauty.”Hemingway’s Boat is both stunningly original and deeply gripping, an invaluable contribution to our understanding of this great American writer, published fifty years after his death.From the Hardcover edition.

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Publish date: Sep 20, 2011
Added to Scribd: May 03, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780307700537
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jaylehnertz reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Certainly Hemingway has more than his share of biographers, of critical studies of his life and works, of explorations of his creative processes. Is there really a need for yet another book that digests and interprets his personal and public persona and evaluates his creative production?

Paul Hendrickson’s Hemingway’s Boat is the unequivocal “yes.” Hendrickson approaches Hemingway obliquely, if you will, and, in the process, lets us see Hemingway in some different lights. It is not that he tells us something radically new about Hemingway. Rather, he approaches what we might already know from new angles.

Paul Hendrickson tells us from the start that he is not giving us a linear biography a la Michael Reynolds or a literary biography a la Kenneth Lynn:

[The book] isn’t meant to be a Hemingway biography, not in any conventional sense…. …My aim, rather, is to try to lock together the words “Hemingway” and “boat” in the same way that the locked-together and equally American words “DiMaggio” and “bat,” or Satchmo” and “horn,” will quickly mean something in the minds of most people….

So it’s about such ideas as fishing, friendship, and fatherhood, and love of water, and what it means to be masculine in our culture (as that culture is now rapidly changing), and the notion of being “boatstruck” (a malady that seems to affect men more than women), and how the deep good in us is often matched only by the perverse bad in us, and—not least—about the damnable way our demons seem to end up always following us... .

Hendrickson writes around those themes: he organizes his narrative thematically rather than strictly chronologically. He tells us that up front, too: “So there are more than a few purposeful zigzags and loop-arounds and time-bends and flashbacks and flash-forwards and other sort of departures from the main frame... .”

For the date-struck reader, Hemingway’s Boat can be a bit of a challenge. Hendrickson does not always root his reader with exact dates as he zigzags and loops around. But again, the book is not about dates and chronology but about themes and people who ricochet between the good and the perverse.

The focus on Pilar, Hemingway’s boat, is one structural device that Hendrickson uses to move his study forward. For the most part, it holds up as an organizer except for the final section when Hendrickson detours with an extended discussion of Gregory, Hemingway’s youngest child. In that last section Pilar almost disappears.

All of the central cast of characters who appear in Hendrickson’s study do have some connection to Pilar. All spent time with Hemingway fishing in the Gulf Stream. And it is from that cast that Hendrickson selects three figures to write about in detail, tracing their lives from their encounter with Pilar and Hemingway into the present. There is Arnold Samuelson who served as Pilar’s first mate during the first summer of Hemingway’s ownership in 1934; Walter Houk who courted his wife in 1951-52 under Hemingway’s Cuban roof; and Gregory Hemingway who lived his life in emotional symbiosis with his father from his birth until his death in 2001.

From their first encounters with Hemingway and Pilar, all three remained connected in various ways to Hemingway himself. As Hendrickson explores those multiple connections, the reader sees Hemingway in quite variegated lights. Out of it comes a reassessment of Hemingway’s creative life and of his social, personal relationships from primarily 1934 until his suicide in 1961. It is a vision of Hemingway far more complex and strongly human.

In a certain sense, Hendrickson’s approach is innovative and certainly fresh. I do think, however, that it requires some familiarity with both Hemingway’s life and works. Without some background, the reader might find the book’s zigzags and loop-arounds stumbling blocks to an informative read.
etxgardener reviewed this
Rated 4/5
This book is billed as a reconsideration of Ernest Hemingway that, presumably, will make the reader think better of a man who is most often portrayed as a boorish bully and also, perhaps a closeted homosexual. It covers the years 1934 to his death by suicide in 1961 and uses his beloved boat, Pilar as a metaphor for the last half of his life.Paul Hendrickson has done extensive research not only into Hemingway and his family, but also into many of the tangential persons who crossed path with the author during his life. He writes lyrically in a stream of consciousness manner about the demons that haunted not only Hemingway himself, but also his family, particularly his youngest son, Gregory, known in the family as Gigi and the sections about his son and several other people who who the author befriended. These parts of the book are a joy to read.However, if the author's goal was to make the reader think better of Ernest Hemingway, he has not succeeded - at least not with this reader. Hemingway certainly was capable of great kindnesses, but they all seemed to be with people who could be regarded as his social and intellectual unequals. With other writers, his wives and his family, he is still the arrogant & mean-spirited bully of my imagination - always having to put in the hateful & spiteful remark, tearing down other people in order to sustain his own ego. Perhaps that is why he still fascinates 50 years after he ended his own life. It's hard to turn ones eyes away from a train wreck.
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Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961