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

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

ISBN13: 9781400041626
ISBN10: 1400041627
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

I recently started the unique biography Hemingway's Boat, which explores the mind and passions of the legendary author. Beautifully written, it reads with great promise.
Recommended by Michal D., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 Drawing on previously unpublished material, including interviews with Hemingway’s sons, Hendrickson shows that for all the writer’s boorishness, depression, and alcoholism, and despite his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.

Review:

"NBCC — award winner Hendrickson (Sons of Mississippi) offers an admirably absorbing, important, and moving interpretation of Hemingway's ambitions, passions, and tragedies during the last 27 years of his life. When Hemingway purchased the sleek fishing boat Pilar in 1934, he was on the cusp of literary celebrity, flush with good health, and ebullient about pursuing deep sea adventures. The release from his desk was a reward for productive writing and the change replenished his creative energy. But eventually Hemingway's health and work declined. When he committed suicide in 1961, he hadn't been aboard the Pilar in many months. Acutely sensitive to his subject's volatile, 'gratuitously mean' personality, Hendrickson offers fascinating details and sheds new light on Hemingway's kinder, more generous side from interviews with people befriended by Hemingway in his prime. Most importantly, Hendrickson interviewed each of Hemingway's sons. He suggests, not for the first time but with poignant detail, the probability that Papa's youngest son, Gregory (Gigi), a compulsive cross-dresser who eventually had gender-altering surgery, was acting out impulses that his father yearned for yet denied. Hendrickson makes new connections between ex-wife Pauline's sudden death after Hemingway's cruel accusations against Gigi, and Gigi's lifelong guilt over her death. In the end, Hendrickson writes of the tormented Gigi and his conflicted father, 'I consider them far braver than we ever knew.' 23 illus. (Sept. 23)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book News Annotation:

Hendrickson (creative writing, U. of Pennsylvania) reconstructs a pivotal period in author Ernest Hemingway's life, from the peak of his career to his suicide. The psychological narrative revolves around Hemingway's boat, Pilar, and the Hemingway family's journeys in the US and abroad. Delving deeply into the reasons behind the family's emotional and mental problems across several generations, the author draws on previously unpublished material, including interviews with family members, to reveal Hemingway the family man. There is special focus on Hemingway's relationship with his youngest son, Gregory, who at age 10 was a gifted marksman like his father, but who later became a cross-dresser and died in a women's detention center. The book includes b&w photos from personal collections. The author won a National Book Critics Circle Award for his book, Sons of Mississippi, in 2003. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

The author of the award-winning Sons of Mississippi now reveals Ernest Hemingway in a wholly new light.

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 highs and lows around the one constant in his life during this time: his beloved boat, Pilar. We follow him from Key West to Paris, New York, and Cuba, returning whenever he could to Pilar to exult in the sea, to fish, to drink, to entertain celebrities and friends and seduce women, to be with his children. But as his demons grew in power, 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. Drawing on previously unpublished material, including interviews with Hemingway’s sons, Hendrickson reveals a man of choleric anger nonetheless capable of remarkable generosity, who, even at the very height of his success, was sowing the seeds of his tragic death.

Written with sensitivity and keen perception, Hemingway’s Boat is a highly original and invaluable contribution to our understanding of this great American writer, published 50 years after his death.

About the Author

Paul Hendrickson, a prizewinning feature writer for The Washington Post for more than twenty years, now teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Seminary, Looking for the Light (a National Books Critics Circle finalist), The Living and the Dead (a National Book Award finalist), and Sons of Mississippi (a National Books Critics Circle winner). He lives near Philadelphia.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Marge Mount, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Marge Mount)
Want to get under the skin of this very famous macho dude? Never a better way than to read this book. It takes away the machismo and paints a picture of a very real human being with all his foibles and weak links to the outside world. Takes your breathe away with his undercurrent reasons for being and basically walks you through the transformation to big fat heavy weight with a fragile demeanor. I loved getting a picture of the under-belly and came away with a more rounded sense of "the man". I had a suspicion of the top layer bravado but didn't really know what was underneath. A hint of the madness of what drove Hem crazy comes near the end with a larger than life depiction of Gregory, his third son. Wouldn't want to kill the suspense but the heaviness of the burden of knowing certainly attributed to Hem's final downfall. Not that he didn't know already which way he was going to go. I found it interesting and helpful to bring to life minor characters in his life who played a big part in framing who he was. Doubly helpful to wade through the hype and cut to the chase of which wife played which role in the search for a soul mate. Apparently he had it right the first time. The second time he cut to the chase and went for the moola. The third time he got bite. And the fourth time he gave it all away. I love Paul Hendrickson's sleuth approach and page turner technique. Never has such an object (the Boat) played such an important role in undercovering a human's multi-tendencies to reveal himself. A good read. And I"m looking forward to reading it again, and again, and..................
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Marge Mount, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Marge Mount)
Want to get under the skin of this very famous macho dude? Never a better way than to read this book. It takes away the machismo and paints a picture of a very real human being with all his foibles and weak links to the outside world. Takes your breathe away with his undercurrent reasons for being and basically walks you through the transformation to big fat heavy weight with a fragile demeanor. I loved getting a picture of the under-belly and came away with a more rounded sense of "the man". I had a suspicion of the top layer bravado but didn't really know what was underneath. A hint of the madness of what drove Hem crazy comes near the end with a larger than life depiction of Gregory, his third son. Wouldn't want to kill the suspense but the heaviness of the burden of knowing certainly attributed to Hem's final downfall. Not that he didn't know already which way he was going to go. I found it interesting and helpful to bring to life minor characters in his life who played a big part in framing who he was. Doubly helpful to wade through the hype and cut to the chase of which wife played which role in the search for a soul mate. Apparently he had it right the first time. The second time he cut to the chase and went for the moola. The third time he got bite. And the fourth time he gave it all away. I love Paul Hendrickson's sleuth approach and page turner technique. Never has such an object (the Boat) played such an important role in undercovering a human's multi-tendencies to reveal himself. A good read. And I"m looking forward to reading it again, and again, and..................
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
mmount, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by mmount)
One of the most original approaches and perhaps best researched books on Hem's life to date. Not that it was ever a contest. I chewed it up and found it very digestable. Hendrickson keeps you interested and gives the reader a full bodied picture of the character behind the man. Perhaps going off on a tangent or two a bit too much, as in the case of Gregory. But certainly, in my eyes, a more full bodied picture of exactly who Gregory was. A modern Greek tragedy. I liked seeing Hemingway through the life and times of his boat.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 5 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400041626
Author:
Hendrickson, Paul
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Biography-Literary
Publication Date:
20110931
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
23 ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9.53 x 6.55 x 1.68 in 2 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Literary
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 Used Hardcover
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$14.95 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9781400041626 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I recently started the unique biography Hemingway's Boat, which explores the mind and passions of the legendary author. Beautifully written, it reads with great promise.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "NBCC — award winner Hendrickson (Sons of Mississippi) offers an admirably absorbing, important, and moving interpretation of Hemingway's ambitions, passions, and tragedies during the last 27 years of his life. When Hemingway purchased the sleek fishing boat Pilar in 1934, he was on the cusp of literary celebrity, flush with good health, and ebullient about pursuing deep sea adventures. The release from his desk was a reward for productive writing and the change replenished his creative energy. But eventually Hemingway's health and work declined. When he committed suicide in 1961, he hadn't been aboard the Pilar in many months. Acutely sensitive to his subject's volatile, 'gratuitously mean' personality, Hendrickson offers fascinating details and sheds new light on Hemingway's kinder, more generous side from interviews with people befriended by Hemingway in his prime. Most importantly, Hendrickson interviewed each of Hemingway's sons. He suggests, not for the first time but with poignant detail, the probability that Papa's youngest son, Gregory (Gigi), a compulsive cross-dresser who eventually had gender-altering surgery, was acting out impulses that his father yearned for yet denied. Hendrickson makes new connections between ex-wife Pauline's sudden death after Hemingway's cruel accusations against Gigi, and Gigi's lifelong guilt over her death. In the end, Hendrickson writes of the tormented Gigi and his conflicted father, 'I consider them far braver than we ever knew.' 23 illus. (Sept. 23)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , The author of the award-winning Sons of Mississippi now reveals Ernest Hemingway in a wholly new light.

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 highs and lows around the one constant in his life during this time: his beloved boat, Pilar. We follow him from Key West to Paris, New York, and Cuba, returning whenever he could to Pilar to exult in the sea, to fish, to drink, to entertain celebrities and friends and seduce women, to be with his children. But as his demons grew in power, 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. Drawing on previously unpublished material, including interviews with Hemingway’s sons, Hendrickson reveals a man of choleric anger nonetheless capable of remarkable generosity, who, even at the very height of his success, was sowing the seeds of his tragic death.

Written with sensitivity and keen perception, Hemingway’s Boat is a highly original and invaluable contribution to our understanding of this great American writer, published 50 years after his death.

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