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Hemingway's Guns: The Sporting Arms of Ernest Hemingway Hardcover – November 16, 2010
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This intriguing book is effectively a biography of Ernest Hemingway, told through his extensive collection of shotguns, rifles and pistols. Unsurprisingly for a man who served in the First World War and was an embedded reporter during the Second World War, Hemingway's life was one of excitement and action. The tree authors reveal Hemingway owned many guns, which in many ways defined his life and death. For example, an early anecdote informs the reader Hemingway was taught to shoot when he was just two-and-a-half years old, and was able to shot a pistol by the time he was four. Though written for the American market, those with an interest in firearms of all types and the man himself will find much of interest within these 184 pages. There are over 100 0photographs of Hemingway, his family and his collection from various archives, including some particularly hair-raising photographs of the great author shooting cigarettes from his associates' mouths and hands with rifles. (Shooting Gazette)
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Many of the pictures remind me so much of the golden days our family spent out hunting and shooting together.
Back in the day it was an activity that brought us all together for a little while.
My dad grew up during the depression when hunting was a serious endeavor which meant the difference between something on the dinner table or not.
Later in life when he taught me it wasn't that hard but it was what made very fond memories that I still cherish very much.
This book brought them all back.
The authors devoted an entire chapter to the Colt Woodsman pistols. While the specific model, Colt Woodsman, is not given, they surely missed the boat when they could have at least alluded to the Nick Adams short story, Big Two Hearted River. In it, Nick recalls a .22 caliber Colt automatic pistol, given to him by his friend Hop. I would bet that Hemingway had the Colt Woodsman model pistol in mind when Nick recalls his friend Hop.
Just as Nick did, Hemingway took to the Michigan northwoods, with some of his young friends following his return from WW I. He may not have been alone, in that instance, but as Nick did, perhaps he journeyed alone, at some other time.
Lastly, since they took great pains to point out Hemingway's lifelong love of bird hunting and pigeon shooting competition, and his mastery of the Winchester Model 12, it would have been insightful to include a quote from the Nick Adams short story, Fathers and Sons, "When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying. They are all different and they fly in different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first." This about sums it up for all of us who love bird hunting and wingshooting, as I think Hemingway meant it to, for himself.
First, the authors include John Steinbeck in the Lost Generation gathered in Paris in the twenties. He wasn't there. Steinbeck himself, in his landmark work, "Travels with Charley (in Search of America)" discusses what he was up to "when others were being a Lost Generation in Paris." It seems Steinbeck was in California attempting to learn the writing trade, and he did, as evidenced by the publication of "Cannery Row." This is something that any sophomore English major would know and certainly should exist in the knowledge base of some one holding themselves out as knowing anything much about Hemingway.
Later on, the writers state that Hemingway's Idaho "gang"...folks he hunted and partied with in Sun Vally...included Clark Gable. It didn't. Though the "gang" numbered some pretty tony company - folks like Gary Cooper, Anna Roosevelt, Ingrid Bergman, etc. - Gable was never a part of it. There is a Lloyd Arnold photo in "High on the Wild with Hemingway" of son Jack on the slopes at Sun Valley with Gable and others. But at the time it was taken, in 1944, Papa was off covering the allies' landing in Europe when he wasn't a clandestine participant in it.
As the authors note, tracing and documenting Hemingway's firearms had to be daunting and difficult in that he generously gave away guns to friends, "liberated" others from their former owners and bought, sold, and traded firearms litterally throughout his life. Also, in his words, he had the habit of making the truth "more true" in retelling it, never letting the facts stand in the way of a good story and especially one in which he played the hero.
Finally, it disappointed me that a minority of the information in this volume actually deals with Hemingway. In discussing any firearm which Hemingway owned, the authors dive deeply into the general history of the model and its manufacturer. It works out to maybe two-thirds guns and one-third Hemingway.
It's too bad. This is a history, and if nothing else, it should be accurate, and one would hope it might also stick to the subject. Also, the known errors of fact cause the alert reader to invariably view the balance of the information in the book with at least some degree of doubt. It may have happend the way it's portrayed, but then again...well, you get the idea.
Even with its flaws, this is a book worth reading, just for entertainment, for anyone who is both a Hemingway and firearm devotee. Just don't take it to the bank.