HEMINGWAY by Michael Reynolds


The 1930s
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 The author of a multivolume biography of Hemingway (which began with The Young Hemingway, 1986) continues his fact-packed, engaging exploration of the talent Lionel Trilling called perhaps the most ``publicly developed'' in America's history. As in his previous volumes (Hemingway: The Paris Years, 1989; Hemingway: The American Homecoming, 1992), this one focuses on both Hemingway's life and American cultural history, in this case during the 1930s. The approach not only suits a subject so prominent in his time, but lifts the view of Hemingway beyond the familiar outline: the friendships, the mood swings, the writing schedule, the aggressively masculine lifestyle, and the oft- repeated premonitions of death (though all are here, in moderation). Also well presented are Hemingway's two women: his prim, devoted wife, Pauline, who made ``her husband her life's work,'' and his lover Martha Gellhorn, whose beauty, political activism, and ``footloose idealism'' drew him away. Reynolds's careful explanations of the genesis and meanings of such landmark stories as ``The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,'' and his careful examination of Hemingway's ambivalence about Catholicism, are all fresh, impressive, and useful. Concerned about the apparent divide between his beliefs and his fiction, Hemingway told Pauline that he was constantly struggling to separate ``Hemingway the writer from Hemingway the private man''--the former a man with ``no politics nor any religion,'' the latter a parishioner, almsgiver, and penitent. Deftly woven into the narrative are striking words and images from the decade, reminding one of the turbulent context in which Hemingway worked. Aside from occasional slips into floridity, this is a steady, dramatically satisfying, even enlightening look at a major talent and his times. (photos, maps, not seen) (Book-of- the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selection)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04093-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997


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