There are numerous biographies of Ernest Hemingway and his larger-than-life personality. Author Paul Hendrickson approached his from a different angle: the novelist’s beloved 38-foot Wheeler Playmate, Pilar.
Published on the 50th anniversary of his death, “Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961” (2011, Alfred A. Knopf, $30, hardcover, 544 pages) focuses on the period from the pinnacle of his career to his suicide. Amid broken marriages and friendships and waning critical praise, the one constant in Hemingway’s life remained his boat, an escape from his troubles. Pilar, which Hemingway had modified for sportfishing, cost $7,495.
“This boat is a marvel for fishing,” Hemingway wrote in a letter to an old friend near the end of his first season with Pilar. “Takes any sea comfortably and can turn on her tail to chase fish. … Comfortable to live on board, big galley, five big beds, damned roomy and a wonderful fishing machine.”
Hendrickson draws on previously unpublished material and interviews with Hemingway’s sons to reveal a man more compassionate and generous than he is often portrayed. www.knopfdoubleday.com
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.