Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson

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

This book was a Christmas gift from Matt who knows I make at least annual forays into Hemingway’s novels and stories. I read Hemingway on vacation for some reason. There is a sense of loss of orienting homeland in Hemingway. All the boating and searching around Europe, the war, and the hunting. I believe that hunting is an archaic way of trying to connect ourselves with a certain parcel of land we want to know and be part of.

Now (as in Hemingway’s day) most hunting is to some degree staged and managed. Funny that one should believe that there would be any real wild land or wild animals left. It’s an American fantasy of the frontier and of the wilderness to think that way. It’s a dream of youth and of a young world.

In an essay for Esquire Hemingway wrote about a time when, as a boy, he poached a pheasant on the edge of a game farm on the bank of the Des Plaines river.

you can feel the bulk of him still inside your shirt with his long tail up your armpit, walking in to town in the dark along the dirt road that is now North Avenue where the gypsy wagons used to camp when there was prairie out to the Des Plaines river where Wallace Evans had a game farm and the big woods ran along the river where the Indian mounds were. p. 265

I didn’t poach my first pheasant. I shot it legally before school on the first weekday of the season, the year I became a legal hunter. I still remember the heft of the big rooster pheasant in my hand.

The last time Hemingway saw that field where he shot the pheasant and the road where he walked was at his father’s funeral.

I came by there five years ago and where  I shot that pheasant there was a hot dog place and filling station and the north prairie…was all a subdivision of mean houses and in the town, the house where I was born was gone and they had cut down the oak trees…So I was glad I went away from there as soon as I did.  p. 292

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