Monday, October 25, 2010

The Long Decline

Hemingway: The Final Years, is the final book in Reynold's five part biography of Hemingway; this volume chronicles the writer's decline. Along the way, there is another war which he both fights and covers as a correspondent, long periods where he does not write fiction, yet another failed marriage, large writing projects that would only be published posthumously, a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize, and the fall into chronic poor health, two plane crashes, depression, and alcohol.

Reynolds is careful to show how Hemingway's decisions, laid down since he was a young man in the early twenties, eventually came to haunt him as he aged (and he aged fast).

Reynolds' series of books is interesting, well-paced, meticulously researched. The lesson of the books, if we can say there is a lesson to a book, is an old one: enjoy what you have.

Hemingway was never able to enjoy the fruits of his labor or the accolades he received. Part of it was a genetic inheritance of depression improperly treated. Another part was a lack of self-examination, critical to most writing, and largely absent from Hemingway's psychological makeup. Like many of us, he just kept making the same mistakes again and again. Eventually he couldn't live with them.

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