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Goshen Public Library and Historical Society

Across the Reference Desk

by Janet Hamill

August 4, 1999


Whether or not the unfinished work of a deceased writer should be published is a hard call to make, even when the writer is Ernest Hemingway. One could claim that literary scholarship would he enhanced by the publication of the unfinished work. Or, on the occasion the one-hundredth anniversary of the writer's birth, one could create a publishing event and sell lots of books. Whatever his motives, Patrick Hemingway, with the aide of the editorial staff at Scribners, decided to edit, "complete," and publish True at First Light, the last unpublished work of his father. Written in 1953, True at First Light is a revealing self-portrait of Hemingway's marriage to his fourth wife Mary. It's also a chronicle of his last African safari. The mariage, as described, is based on sincere affection, sparked by competition, and fueled by enormous quantities of gin and Campari. At times it is a microcosm of the hostile Mau Mau insurrection that threatened to attack the safari camp throughout the first half of the book. There are glimpses of Hemingway's genius in his spare descriptions of the unparalleled beauty of the East African sava'~ But it's difficult to appreciate his insights into the tracking of a "black-maned" lion, or the slaughter of elephants and countless wildebeest. The exploits of the Great White Hunter, elaborated upon at great length here, were Hemingway's least honorable attempt to pursue the confrontation of courage and death. There will always be enduring interest in the work of this great writer, and perhaps that's justification alone for the publication of True at First Light. It's certainly less of an affront to Papa's literary legacy than the new line of Ernest Hemingway furniture debuted by his heirs this year.

This reviewer has no reservations about recommending Waking Ned Devine. The Issest in the new wave of Irish films to reach the library's shelves, Waking Ned Devine is an example of comedic stoytelling at its best. Set in a small coastal town south of Dublin, the film is about two longtime friends who agree that the old man in the village who died of shock after he won lottery would have wanted them to benefit from his luck. With great hilarity, they eventually convince all the townsfolk to deceive the authorities and go along with their outrageous scheme. Written and directed by Kirk Jones, Waking Ned Devine features an exhilarating soundtrack and a marvelous cast of character actors, including Ian Bannen of PBS's Tinker, Tailor and Smiley's People.



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