Tuesday, December 5, 2023

True At First Light - Hemingway

 True At First Light by Ernest Hemingway: Summary and reviews (bookbrowse.com)

Having not read any of Earnest recently except re-reads of "Old Man and The Sea" every couple of years, and a pretty good biography. First Light was recommended to me, and I jumped in. 

This covers the "what is it about" fairly well. 

Both a revealing self-portrait and dramatic fictional chronicle of his final African safari, Ernest Hemingway's last unpublished work was written when he returned from Kenya in 1953. Edited by his son Patrick, who accompanied his father on the safari, True at First Light offers rare insights into the legendary American writer in the year of the hundredth anniversary of his birth.

I'm not fiction guy, but continue to dabble in the "classics" (Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Melville, Cervantes, etc.) Truth may be stranger than fiction but given our condition of living within the confines of our own worldview/model, which is really a "story" from the view of our left brain, "fiction" that engages the right as well as the left brain can be more "real" in that it forces us into a contextualized universe rather than a flat "just the facts madam" Dragnet universe. 

The linked review is good, the book captures a lot of what it means to observe the world though radically different lenses based on varied worldviews --.the granularity of the tribal totems/rituals, the Muslims, the British "somewhat Christian, the Kenyan authorities, and the Heminway safari. 

In this part of Kenya. all the parties have some recognition of how critical the sacred animals (especially the lions) are to them. In the conditions of the times, the safari hunters can cull problematic lions killing the natives’ stock, as a bonus it is usually the older, craftier males that have more trouble killing wild prey, so resort to the cattle which along with wives are the measure of wealth for the tribesman. Those old male lions are the trophies for the white hunters.

Hemingway captures the characters, the animals, the beauty of Kilimanjaro, and much else with enough drama to keep the reader interested. He comes through as the hard drinking complex "man's man" of legend, yet with insights to his humanity. 

Heminway killed himself shortly after a visit to the Mayo Cinic in Rochester MN, one of the people I worked with ran into him at a liquor store. While drinking no doubt contributed to his depression at the end of his life, that diagnosis is too simplistic. He had many serious injuries in his life ... from war, boxing, horses and especially plane crashes. Electroshock Therapy was brutal in those days, (think “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"), in his case, it killed him, though not immediately. 

As an aside, "Miss Mary", his 4th wife, was born in Walker MN, a town I am somewhat familiar with having fished on Leech Lake. 

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