Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Hemingway's Boat'


Longtime friends and anybody who's wasted any time here at Pull Up a Chair can you tell you how much I admire the writing of Ernest Miller Hemingway.

You know why. Economy of language. When he was good, he was brilliant. (When he was bad, he was boorish, but that's a different story.)

Anyway, I'm reading a new book, "Hemingway's Boat" by Paul Hendrickson. Saw it at Barnes and Noble and checked it out from the library.

Good stuff. The author is taking a unique approach, using Hemingway's beloved boat The Pilar to frame a narrative around Papa's loves and losses from 1934 until his 1961 suicide.

I awoke with a start about 4:30 a.m. Picked up the book.

Just finished a heartbreaking chapter about Arnold Samuelson, a would-be writer who spent a little more than a year as a caretaker for The Pilar in Key West as a young man. He never quite recovered.

Frustrated as a writer, obviously suffering from bipolar disorder, Samuelson lived out the remaining years of his life as the local eccentric in a small Texas town called Robert Lee. He sold a couple of stories to magazines during his life, but barely talked, even to his family, about his brief friendship with Hemingway again.

Hendrickson includes a quote from Scott Fitzgerald that sent shivers up my spine:

"A writer not writing is practically a maniac within himself."

After his death, Samuelson's daughter discovered a yellowing manuscript that detailed her father's stint on Hemingway's boat. It was published in 1984 as "With Hemingway." It's next on my reading list.

Hendrickson writes with both a fresh approach and a lively voice. I never thought I'd ever again find a nonfiction work about Hemingway that would get me all giddy.

Congratulations, Paul. I'm losing sleep over your fine work. And loving it.

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