ALONG WITH YOUTH: Hemingway, the Early Years by Peter Griffin

ALONG WITH YOUTH: Hemingway, the Early Years

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A radically different View of the young Hemingway from that offered by Jeffrey Meyers (p. 939). Whereas Meyers questions the myth of an ever-macho Hemingway, Griffin to some extent supports this myth by assuming the literal ""truth"" of the early stories, letters, and poems liberally reprinted here. Meyers describes young Ernest as shy and awkward with women, a virgin until well after his hero's return from WW I. Griffin, by contrast, takes Ernest's word that he was sexually initiated early on by Prudence, a young Indian girl at Walloon Lake in Michigan (his family's summer home), and that he was subsequently involved in serious affairs both with Kate Smith (no, not that Kate Smith) and with Agnes Kurowsky, the nurse to whom Ernest became engaged in Italy, and who subsequently jilted him for an Italian aristocrat. (Meyers says that Agnes was saving herself for marriage.) Griffin even assumes that Hemingway's joke ""engagement"" to actress Mae Marsh (on his way overseas, Ernest wired a telegram home to that effect, getting a good rise out of his horrified and overprotective parents) stemmed from an actual meeting during his brief stay in New York. Whether truth or partial truth colored by his acceptance of Ernest's braggadocio, Griffin's account reads like a Hemingway novel. He writes an absorbing story of an impossibly soupy and demanding mother (she was gifted, though; Grace Hall Hemingway sang professionally in New York before her marriage) and an inarticulate but adoring father. (Meyers' portrait of ""Papa's"" Papa is far less sympathetic.) This volume, to which sequels are planned, breaks off soon after Ernest's marriage to Hadley Richardson but before another definitive event of his youth--the suicide of his father. It is valuable for its wealth of quotation from early stories and letters, some of which, however (such as the 2,000-page correspondence between Hadley and Ernest during their long-distance courtship), might have been better condensed. Hemingway admirers will approve of Griffin's decidedly generous approach to his subject. Scholars are likely to get more use out of Meyers' more skeptical but probably more objective account.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1985
ISBN: 0195050665
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press