Paul Di Filippo
I can easily picture, with my own share of his glee, the enormous smile that must have brightened the face of Paul Hendrickson when he first crystallized his brilliant conceit for organizing his new account of the last thirty years of Ernest Hemingway’s life: to use Hemingway’s beloved and intimately essential cabin cruiser Pilar as the polestar of the narrative. No wan symbol or factitious theory to serve as blinkered Virgil, but instead a tactile, intensely documented, sensual, action-crammed vessel (the boat hosted some five hundred visitors, famous and otherwise, in its lifetime) that would carry a rich cargo of story.
And Hendrickson’s faith was not misplaced. To switch metaphors, the utilitarian yet graceful lines of Pilar form a sturdy armature for the sculpture of Hemingway that Hendrickson hews from the marble of history in Hemingway’s Boat. Thanks to Hendrickson’s insights, his laborious research (often conducted out in the present-day world, visiting surviving relatives of the main and bit players from Hemingway’s epic), and his sturdy, cannily wrought, often lyrical prose, the famed novelist comes alive again in uncluttered, fresh dimensions, vividly at the helm of his boat once more. Hendrickson’s attitude and approach are neither idolatrous nor defamatory, but journalistically impeccable while registering heartfelt subjective assessments of Hemingway’s self-destructive yet undeniably heroic life.
Hemingway’s Boat (Hardcover)
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