HEMINGWAY ON FISHING

26 Jul
BOOK REVIEW: Hemingway On Fishing, Lyons, Nick (Editor), (Nick Lyons Pres, New York, NY, 2000).
New rating system:  This book rates a
 karate-belt-black    Black Belt, a must-have!!
 Old rating system:
TORII RATING: (Please see the description of my Torii Ratings System on the prior page of this category) 
 
 
 5 Torii – A MUST HAVE
 
 
  
But if you land a big (fish) . . . Fight him man against fish when your muscles are nauseated with the unceasing strain, and you finally bring him (in), you will be purified and able to enter unabashed into the presence of the very elder gods and they will make you welcome. . . . For the cheerful, brown-faced gods that judge over the happy hunting grounds live up in the old crumbly mountains that wall the bright blue bay of Vigo. They live there wondering why the good, dead fisherman don’t come down to Vigo where the happy hunting grounds are waiting. (See Endnote # 1).
Ernest Hemingway. The name invokes thoughts of an iconoclastic writer. Invariably when one is asked to name one of Hemingway’s works, perhaps because of the memorable movie adaptation starring Spencer Tracy, one would name The Old Man And The Sea. Maybe one would recall A Moveable Feast or perhaps The Sun Also Rises. Few; however, would recall the plethora of articles, letters and notes Hemingway wrote on the topic of fishing. He wrote profusely on fishing in all its varied forms, including fly-fishing. There was a time when Hemingway‘s tales of fishing adventure were cast to the literary winds. That has been remedied.
  This product review discusses a wonderful hardcover compilation of Hemingway’s fishing stories entitled Hemingway On Fishing. It is edited by Nick Lyons with a foreword by Jack Hemingway. This tome, it is far too wonderful to merely be called a “book” was first published in 2000 by The Lyons Press, New York, NY.

I was given this book from my youngest daughter, and one of my Black Belts, Sensei Kimberly Szmitkowski, as a Christmas gift in 2000. It has never left my coffee table. Unlike the many other books I have read and stored on a shelf of my library, perhaps to re-read again and again, this marvelous compellation is always at hand. Like a fishing Bible, it is one of the few books that you can refer to a passage or two, or even a full story, daily.

Hemingway is the personification of the phrase “Soul-fisherman”. He looks at fishing as not simply a pursuit, by a way of life. From his earliest days fly-fishing to his later years spent hunting the mighty salt water game fish off the coast of Cuba, and his final return to his fly-fishing roots late in life, Hemingway’s tales recount the simple act of casting an anticipatory lure, attached to a fisherman through a hair-like line as if telling a mythological tale or a heroic battle, or a Shakespearean play. In some of his tales Hemingway analyzes fishing and more importantly the act of preparing to fish with scientific precision. Take for example the following excerpt from the short story, Marlin Off The Morro: A Cuban Letter, containing Hemmingway’s recommendation of a preferred breakfast to be eaten before fishing.

There are two opposing schools about breakfast. If you knew you were not going to be into fish for two or three hours, a good, big breakfast would be the thing. Maybe it is a good thing anyway but I do not want to trust it, so drink a glass of vichy, a glass of cold milk and eat a piece of Cuban bread, read the papers and walk down to the boat. I have hooked them on a full stomach in that sun and I do not want to hook any more of them that way.(See Endnote # 2)

In addition to such analysis, Hemingway’s tales are filled with human emotion, sarcasm, wit, humor, introspection and reflection. The following is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in 1923 in the Toronto Star Weekly, where Hemingway uses his acerbic sense of humor to mock those that transformed the purity of fly-fishing into nothing more than an ostentatious show of materialism.

Bill Jones went to visit a French financier who lives near Deauville and has a private trout stream. The financier was very fat. His stream was very thin. . . If undressed and put back on the shelf piece by piece the financier would have stocked a sporting goods store. Placed end to end his collection of flies would have reached from Keokuk, Illinois to Paris, Ontario. The price of his rod would have made a substantial dent in the interallied debt or served to foment a central American revolution. . . The financier flung a pretty poisonous fly. (See Endnote # 3).

Hemingway also used his keen sense of observation to admonish those that were then and still are ambivalent to the magnificent quarry pursued by our beloved art of fly-fishing. Here is one example from Big Two Hearted River, Part II which is excerpted in Hemingway On Fishing.

He had wet his hands before he touched the trout, so he would not disturb the delicate mucus that covered him. If a trout was touched with a dry hand, a white fungus attacked the unprotected spot. Years before when he had fished crowded streams, with fly fisherman ahead of him and behind him, Nick had again and again come upon dead trout, furry with white fungus, drifted against a rock, or floating belly up in some pool. Nick did not like to fish with other men on the river. Unless they were of your party they spoiled it. (See Endnote # 3)

This treasured Hemingway compilation also contains 32 black and white photographs of Hemmingway fishing throughout the years starting with a picture of Hemingway, at age 3, from fishing off a dock along Walloon Lake through many years of fly-fishing, the years fishing off the coast of Cuba from his boat the Pilar, to a last photograph with a great Marlin taken in 1948.

For reasons often speculated at, but known only to him, Hemingway ended his life on July 2, 1963 in Idaho. This wonderful, perhaps miraculous, compilation, will allow the spirit of Hemingway, The Fisherman to live on forever. Whether you be a fly-fisherman, a saltwater game fisherman, weekend angler, or simply walk the same Earth as such fisherman, this is a MUST read. 

SENSEI JOHN

ENDNOTES:

1. Id. P. 90 (Edited for review purposes).

2. Id. P. 102.

3. Id. P. 95.

4. Id. P.17.

 

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