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Hemingway's Key West

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  • Posted April 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not what I expected

    Referred by author and friend John Dos Passos as just the place for "ole Hem...to dry out his bones" after spending another brutally cold, wet winter in Paris's Left Bank, Ernest Hemingway and pregnant second wife Pauline landed in Key West in the spring of 1928. It was just supposed to be vacation stop before traveling to north to Pauline's ancestral home in Arkansas to give birth to their first child. But a delay in the arrival of the yellow Model A Ford roadster (a wedding gift from Pauline's wealthy uncle Gus) gave the author the time to fall in love with the small town that he dubbed the "St. Tropez of the Poor." For the next decade Ernest Hemingway would write, fish, drink, and end his second marriage in this island town. And Key West would remain his most productive work environment on American soil. Among the palm fronds, bougainvillea, hibiscus, oleander and other tropical foliage outside his studio on the second floor carriage house Hemingway completed such works as A Farewell To Arms, Death in The Afternoon, Winner Take Nothing, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Short Life of Francis Macomber, and his Key West novel To Have And Have Not.

    Florida historian and author Stuart McIver title promises the reader an adventure, but delivers a hodge-podge non cohesive book about Hemingway or of Key West during the time the great author lived there. Why was this decade Ernest Hemingway's most productive? What was the "it" Key West possessed that Ernest found his words flowing at around a 7 pencil day rate? Why Papa got on well and kept his Key West friends (the Mob) as life-long friends but lost many of the "out of town talent" mob members? How his marriage and later his divorce to Pauline changed the townspeople from supporting him to support Pauline, thusly diminishing slightly some important lifelong relationships to his "Key West Mob"? McIver fails to answer these questions adequately or he fails to answer these questions and repeats facts and events from other chapters. Also McIver glosses over two cataclysmic events that had profane effects on the great author: the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and the meeting and subsequent affair with Martha Gellhorn whom eventually became Ernest's third wife.

    I found the chapters on Hemingway's beloved boat Pilar (named for the daughter he desperately wanted but could never have) and his deep sea fishing very enlightening as well as the Walking tour of Papa's Key West, but the chapters on Cuba and the Key West of today didn't really enhance or fulfill the promise the author gives the reader: full answers as to why Hemingway loved Key West and was the most productive in that island city and his relationships he developed there. As a Florida resident many of anecdotal stories told in this short volume are widely known and probably to the Hemingway aficionado.

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