The Old Man and the Sea Change

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    The trouble in paradise is that David is on the threshold of literary fame while the beautiful and rich Catherine is jealous of her husband's reviews. She is also sexually unsettled. In bed with David, she wants to be a boy. She then persuades her husband to join her in getting matching short haircuts and a platinum-blond dye job. (Hemingway fans may recall that the Catherine of A Farewell to Arms also suggests twin coiffures but without the bleach.) Eventually, Catherine comes out of the closet on the arm of the dark, lovely and rich Marita.

    "All things truly wicked start from innocence," Hemingway once wrote. Adam and Eve got the message late, and so do David and Catherine. Her kittenish antics turn savage. She thrusts Marita and her husband together with predictable consequences and then strikes out at both of them. The situation is somewhat similar to the time Hemingway and his first wife Hadley spent a summer living with Pauline Pfeiffer, a Paris Vogue editor who was to become the second Mrs. Hemingway. Yet Catherine shares some of her most unbecoming characteristics with Zelda Fitzgerald, the envious and unbalanced wife of Hemingway's pal F. Scott.

    If Hemingway had completed this romance, perhaps Catherine would have had more than two dimensions. The first is what Edmund Wilson called "the all-too-perfect felicity of a youthful erotic dream." The second hinges on the age-old view of woman as the cause of original sin. Catherine is a spoiler whose taste in forbidden fruit threatens the private Eden of David's art. It is the place where he struggles with his own lost innocence.

    Despite some tender pillow talk and David's willingness to follow Catherine to the hairdresser, The Garden of Eden is not the work of a secret quiche eater. Catherine's urges do not come naturally to David. His women are part of the external world, like the baking Mediterranean sun and the bracing sea. As always in Hemingway, those externals are observed with a meticulous objectivity that conveys loneliness. There are also many self-conscious passages on the writer's solitary struggle. For example: "It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply." Since he did not finish this difficult task, Hemingway cannot be blamed if there is less than meets the eye in The Garden of Eden . What does meet the eye is often enough. There is always magic in discovering a "new" Hemingway. Not many posthumous writers can make that claim.

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