Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hemingway's Boat: Ernest Hemingway, Paul Hendrickson & WBUR's Scott Simon at the JFK Library

Paul Hendrickson, Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 Knopf Doubleday, 2011

Last night, at Boston's JFK Presidential Library and Museum, talking on stage with WBUR's Scott Simon,  Paul Hendrickson discussed his new book, Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961.  In this biography, Ernest Hemingway’s long relationship with his beloved boat, Pilar, becomes the vehicle through which Hendrickson tells the story of Hemingway's life. But Scott Simon, after asking Hendrickson about his boat Pilar (Hemingway's fifth 'wife'), asked about Hemingway's relationship with his sons.  From there on in, the discussion focused on Hemingway's youngest son, Gigi.

Last night we learned a lot, but as Hendrickson said about his reading of Hemingway's fishing logs, we felt more than we learned, and what Marash Girl felt was that the presenter was unable to face the facts that he presented.  (Can't believe that Marash Girl is challenging such a distinguished authority!)  Hendrickson was obsessed with not only the tragedy of Ernest Hemingway's life (as evidenced in the title of this recently published biography), but the tragedy of Hemingway's youngest son Gregory (nicknamed by Papa Hemingway Gigi with a hard 'g'), the tragedy of Gigi's life.  Spending more than half of his lecture on the minute details of Gigi's struggle with  sexual identity and eventual sex reassignment surgery,  Hendrickson suggested that Gigi was acting out what Gigi's father (Ernest Hemingway) really wanted to be.  The facts that Hendrickson presented told another story.

"It's so obvious that Gigi wanted to be loved by his father, and chose to be what his father loved.  And what did his father love?  Women," Marash Girl commented to her neighbor.

"Go up to the mike and tell the author that," encouraged her neighbor, but Marash Girl, not having the courage to go up to the microphone and challenge the esteemed author before an audience of hundreds, chose to challenge the author on this blog.

Walking to the parking lot, Marash Girl overheard one gentleman commenting, "I do wish Hendrickson had told us something about Hemingway's other two sons."  I guess that gentleman will have to read the book!
Paul Hendrickson (left) and Scott Simon discuss Hendrickson's book, HEMINGWAY'S BOAT at the JFK Library, October 14, 2011  Photo Credit:  Marash Girl                

N.B.  The Ernest Hemingway Collection of papers, including Hemingway's fishing logs, are housed at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.


  1. Hello. This is Paul Hendrickson. I don't usually respond to blogs--simply because I am too busy--but I respectfully would like to correct a misimpression that it seems yo took from last night's presentation at the JFK Forum. I wish you would have come to the microphone. I would have said forthrightly what I say in the book: that Gregory Hemingway, for all his tortured sexual identity issues, was most definitely NOT a gay man; that I have never seen one speck or shred of evidence to indicate that; and similarly I have never seen one speck or shred of evidence to suggest that his father, Ernest Hemingway, was ever a gay man or had any kind of gay tendency or inclination. (It would have been quite fine if he had; I am making not the least moral/emotional/psychologial judgment.) I go out of my way in the book to say what I have just told you. Gregory was a cross-dresser, who became a transgendered person with sexual surgery--but through it all he was attracted to women. He married four times. His father, who may have had many ambiguous sexual tensions in him--a close reading of the life and work seem to argue hugely for this, but we will never know for sure--was likewise a virile man who was deeply attracted to women. This is why the story is all so complicated and easily misconstrued. If I left you or anyone else in the audience with a mistaken impression other than what I have said here, it is my failing, my lapse as a communicator, which is why I take up this blog space now. And, by the way, you are so right: what each son desperately wanted, as with almost any son, was the approval of his father, who was as large and charismatic a father figure as is possible to imagine. That each son sometimes felt denied that approval is only one of the swirl of tragedies connected with this tragic but somehow simultaneous generational saga. I title one chapter, "Braver than We Knew," and I am talking about both father and son. The next chapter, on p. 391, has this sentence: "I've come to think of both of them, the one who exploded himself into infinity, the one too long regarded as the genetic blunder of the Hemingway family, as far braver human beings than anyone ever knew. Which is why, in spite of everything, there is uplift in their separate and bound stories."

    I hope this gives some further insight to your blog readers/followers. Again, thank you for attending.

    Paul Hendrickson

  2. hendrickson's response is a straw man argument. disappointing at the very least. When did marashgirl suggest that Gigi was gay? But, then what can be said of an author who thinks that lecturing on the struggle of Hemingway's son's sexual identity has any significance at all in the world. and what kind of people would be interested in such slop solipsism anyway? yes, unlike the author, I dare to make a value judgment.
    oh, and by the way, Mr. Hendrickson, no one has the ability to explode themselves into infinity, not even the mighty Hemingway, because there is no such thing as infinity. was that a value judgment, Mr. Hendrickson? after all, to accomplish something that is not quantifiable, borders on a qualified expression of material value.

  3. Obviously Marash Girl has not the slightest clue about crossdressing or transgenderism, or she wouldn't have made as trite or shallow a comment on what Gig Hemingway's impetus was for living the life he/she did. Why don't you do some background research on transgenderism before you draw fatuous conclusions based on your semi-psychological intimations.

  4. Tim Krieder, in his essay "Chutes & Candyland", an essay written on this very issue, (the essy was published in his book of essays, WE LEARN NOTHING: Essays and Cartoons), notes that there is a "high correlation between gender identity disorder" (his words) "in males and prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen that was given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage from the 1940s through the '70s . . ."