WITH HEMINGWAY: A Year in Key West and Cuba by Arnold Samuelson

WITH HEMINGWAY: A Year in Key West and Cuba

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1934, 22-year-old Minnesota farm-boy Arnold Samuelson--would-be writer, sometime journalism student, amateur hobo--hitchhiked to Key West to see Ernest Hemingway, having just read the story ""One Trip Across."" And this short memoir, discovered and edited after Samuelson's 1982 death by his daughter Diane Darby, recounts the year of fishing and talking (mostly fishing) that followed. ""At best I hoped he might spare me a few minutes to talk about writing."" But Hemingway, after an initial advice-session (""never write too much at a time""), invited Samuelson to stick around, sleep on the new Hemingway cabin-cruiser (the 38-foot Pilar), help out, and get some informal writing lessons. Samuelson was naturally thrilled, ""with that damned marvelous feeling you can have only once in a lifetime if you are a young man who wants to become a writer and you have just met the man you admire as the greatest writer alive and you know instinctively he is already your friend."" He kept the boat in shape, joined the Hemingways on a trip to Cuba (glimpses of Havana night-life), went along on numerous fishing trips--including one that ended with E.H. shooting his initials into the head of a shark. He got brief impressions of E.H.'s insecure brother Hank, of wife #2 Pauline, of their calm children--playing with their toys ""as oblivious to spectators as animals caged in a zoo."" He overheard a few literary conversations. (E.H.: ""All Scott ever got out of writing was a few bottles of whiskey and a few hotel rooms."") And he received Hemingway's encouragement and coaching towards a writing career (one that never really materialized), including a basic reading list that still stands up well today. Likable and unpretentious, featuring a wide-eyed, utterly admiring view of E.H.--but thin and shapeless, with little of substance for Hemingway-scholars and steady entertainment for fishing-buffs only.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Random House