``True gen'' was military slang that Hemingway picked up during WW II. It pertained to genuine, thus useful, information regarding situations that were often life or death. The term provides a fitting title for Brian's (Tallulah, Darling) marvelous oral biography compiled from interviews with more than 100 people who knew Hemingway from his earliest years until his suicide in 196l. Included are wives, sons and other family members; writers, critics and artists; pals and drinking buddies from the wars, the fishing ports of the Caribbean and the hunting grounds of Africa and the American West. Psychiatrists address Hemingway's psychological disturbances, and biographers, who in recent years have created a less than flattering portrait of the man, justify their views. The book is organized to give readers the sense of an ongoing group discussion on Hemingway's creative and personal life, presented chronologically. The exchanges are lively, informative and often disputatious. Those who have been dismayed by what interviewee Archibald MacLeish refers to as ``the current vogue of denigration'' will be well pleased with the portrait that emerges here. Photos not seen by PW. (February)
To get at the ``true gen'' (accurate information) about Hemingway, Brian interviewed about a hundred ``living credible witnesses''Hemingway's younger brother, his wives, children, biographers, critics, writers, friendsand two psychiatrists on topics ranging from his war experiences and the stories or myths surrounding them to his drinking, sexuality, self-destructiveness, and paranoia. When possible, he checked one account against others. The long book that results is predictably gossipy, sometimes interesting, and often superficial, as is Brian's final conclusion that Hemingway was a manic depressive who succeeded in turning his sufferings into fiction and creating the ``superman alter ego'' he needed to survive. Richard Kuczkowski, Dominican Coll., Blauvelt, N.Y.