Books: An American Storyteller

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As the Pilar turns the harbor mouth, Hemingway takes the controls. Ceremonially, Gregorio the mate hands up to him what remains of the tequila and a fresh-cut half of lime. Hemingway does not actually drink the tequila, and the whole thing bears the appearance of a ritual, as if to ward off sea serpents. Only at the dock does he pass around the bottle. "We went out and had a good day and caught plenty fish and got pooped," he says. "Now we can relax for a while and talk and go to sleep." With a tired smile on his tired, grizzled face, he lumbers up the gangway and off to his car and home.

The Several Hemingways. Tired or not, Hemingway is a man who likes to relax with memories. Once, he remembers, there was a battered old prizefighter in Key West who wanted to make a comeback and asked Hemingway to referee. "It was a Negro section," Hemingway recalls, "and they really introduced me in the ring: 'The referee for tonight's bouts, that world-famous millionaire sportsman and playboy, Mr. Ernest Hemingway!' Playboy was the greatest title they thought they could give a man. How can the Nobel Prize move a man who has heard plaudits like that?"

While Hemingway was perhaps never a millionaire,*the playboy title often fitted him. Oak Park, Ill. (pop. 63,529) saw the earliest Hemingway—the versatile, outdoors-loving son of respected Dr. and Mrs. Clarence E. Hemingway. Later Oak Park's people wondered, as one of them put it, "how a boy brought up in Christian and Puritan nurture should know and write so well of the devil and the underworld." (He was born a Congregationalist, became a practicing Roman Catholic, now apparently does not go to church). The city room of the Kansas City Star saw him fresh out of high school and itchy for excitement. He left after only seven months of covering "the short-stop run" —police, railroad station, hospital. He lied about his age (18) to join the Red Cross ambulance service. Soon, postcards came back from the Italian front. "Having a wonderful time," they said.

The Hemingway who first stepped into Gertrude Stein's salon in postwar Paris was 22, "rather foreign looking, with passionately interested, rather than interesting eyes." But the Hemingway she remembered later, after they had parted company, was "yellow . . . just like the flatboat men on the Mississippi River as described by Mark Twain."

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