Friday, July 18, 2014

Hemingway's Boat

I may as well round off one memoir review with a complementary one. I went through a very serious Gilded Age Authors phase, like any English major out there, and devoured many biographies and essays about my favorite racist, ridiculous, asshole ex-pats. But Invented Lives and Hemingway's Boat were the two quintessential biographies that stuck out to me.

An exquisitely written, far-reaching biography that dips into the lives of almost everyone Hemingway encountered during his tumultuous, controversial life. Hendrickson clearly did his research for this novel; it is extensively quoted and cited throughout, with a well-crafted essay on sources at the back. Interestingly, there is little quotation from Hemingway himself in the book, but it actually isn't sorely missed. In fact, it's refreshing to hear about his life from the mouths of others, when so many other biographies tend to hone on in Hemingway's famous, egotistical ranting.

What really made this book a joy to read, though, was the focus on Pilar and Hemingway's sea adventures. There was enough content about his career and his writing that it wasn't overwhelming, but using Hemingway's relationship with his boat as a guide through his life made the chronology interesting and, frankly, beautiful.

The writing was great, almost too poetic for a biography- but it never became purple prose and, as far as I remember, didn't detract at all from the facts of the author's life. In fact, each anecdote centered around that famous boat was both candid and a joy to read. Although Hendricks is much less critical than Mellow in his biography, he similarly refuses to shy away from some of Hemingway's less likeable qualities. (He shoots himself in both legs by accident.)

Admittedly, the organization of the book was a bit of a mystery; it jumped through the years with impunity, leaving me a little lost at points but never seriously confused. That issue cost a little bit of praise, for Hemingway's life was much more ordered than Fitzgerald's. However, Hendricks does warn the reader about this in his introduction, saying:

"[It] isn’t meant to be a Hemingway biography, not in any conventional sense…. …My aim, rather, is to try to lock together the words “Hemingway” and “boat” in the same way that the locked-together and equally American words “DiMaggio” and “bat,” or Satchmo” and “horn,” will quickly mean something in the minds of most people…."

which explains quite a lot about the lack of narrative structure. For this reason, it definitely helps to have a basic knowledge of the chronology of Hemingway's life, which can be pretty easily tracked by whom he is married to at the time, or at least Wikipedia handy in case you get confused. It is not the best biography to start off with for facts on Hemingway.

Alternatively, you can just let go and go with the tide. Without being tethered by a linear chronology, the book flows wonderfully from one passage to another, even as it skips years or decades of his life. Whether you take a strictly scholarly or a pleasure-seeking approach to it, Hemingway's Boat is a great read.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

I apologize. I apologize for my absence and to myself for letting yet another project slip out of my grasp. I'm going to blame it on a poor attention span, because that's a pretty catch-all excuse for members of my generation.

Anyway, since the only books I have been reading lately have been the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I'm only halfway through the last one, I figured I would just post an older review from my Goodreads account. When I am done with the last book I may do a LotR post, but probably not a review. I don't know what it would take to qualify me to critique one of the most iconic series in the history of fantasy, but being eighteen and a bookworm isn't quite it.

I found this biography of the infamous Jazz Age couple comprehensive, well-researched, engaging and, ultimately, heartbreaking. Mellow's biography utilizes perfect selections of letters, diary entries, and wild anecdotes to explore the star couple's relationship from its beginning through its rocky decline. It is personal and gritty, without glamorizing the couple's bad habits and appalling behavior. It can be rough to read for any starry-eyed Fitzgerald enthusiast, but ultimately, I think, necessary.

Like any Fitzgerald biography, it can get fuzzy and skips around as parties and alcoholic binges blur together, but that is possibly more of a commentary on Fitzgerald rather than Mellow. In fact, if you let yourself be carried away by the story and forget about keeping things in order, it offers almost a glimpse into the way the Fitzgeralds' might have documented their own lives-- out of order, chaotic, and with hints of glamour and poise.

Even when it was difficult to tell when events occurred in relation to the stages of F. Scott and Zelda's relationship, Invented Lives was thoroughly entertaining and novel.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Journal Giveaway!

I am doing a giveaway on my Tumblr, and here is some more information on each of the journals you can pick from!


This is a brown leather Markings by C.R Gibson journal.

It has lined pages without margins and a ribbon placeholder. 

This is a silver, orange and teal journal without a brand name. The outside is slightly metallic.

The pages are unlined and made of textured cardstock.

This is a black and gold hardcover Anything Book journal. The pages are edged in gold.

The inside pages are unlined and regular quality paper. 

This is a Write Plan Doodle 5'x7' journal. It is compact and soft cover with a ribbon placeholder.

The inside pages, while hard to see here, are lightly lined with blank margins. The bottom half of the page is lined with a grid pattern. 

This is a brandless recycled journal made of newspaper clippings (I got it at a museum). It has a fabric binding and has hard covers, as well as a purple ribbon placeholder.

It has lightly lined pages without margins. 

This is a Beatles hardcover journal featuring the Revolver artwork. 

It has lined pages without margins and a strip of black paper with Revolver running along the edges.