David Nuffer,
The Best Friend I Ever Had
(Xlibris, 2008)

There are those writers who have become icons. And few have gained that status to match Ernest Hemingway.

Probably more words have been written about Hemingway than about any other author, with the possible exception of Shakespeare. David Nuffer estimates in the preface of this book that roughly 2,000 words per hour have been written about Hemingway for every hour of his life.

That amounts to a lot of words, and one wonders what more could be found to say about him now nearly 48 years after his death. This slim little volume offers comments and memories from people who intimately knew the writer and shared them with Nuffer, an ardent fan since 1958. The commentators include Hemingway's wife, Mary; his son, Patrick; and Dr. Ed Rynearson, with whom the writer stayed during one of his visits to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Others are lesser-known figures such as friends from Cuba, Key West and Idaho, as well as soldiers who met him during World War II.

The book includes a number of photographs and documents never before published, which may be of interest to admirers.

There was a time in my youth when I was a great Hemingway fan. I now limit my admiration to his finest work, including In Our Time, The Old Man & the Sea and A Farewell to Arms and the autobiographical tales like Green Hills of Africa and A Moveable Feast.

Despite the bombastic caricature painted by numerous biographies, I think Hem would share as I do the opinion expressed in this book by his son, Patrick: It's what's finally published that counts. A lot of collectors don't care at all about the writing, the literature, just the game of collecting and selling.

review by
John R. Lindermuth

31 January 2009

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