Picks and Pans Review: The Garden of Eden
by Ernest Hemingway
This novel, we are told by Scribner's editor Tom Jenks, has been produced from more than 1,000 pages of manuscript left by Hemingway when he died in 1961. His reputation is not going to undergo any great change because of it. Everything in the book seems old-fashioned now, even stale. The hero is an irritatingly passive young writer named David Bourne. His second novel has just been published successfully, and he is on a honeymoon in the South of France with a dopey young woman whose only interests in life are a suntan, her hair and sex. She picks up another woman, sleeps with her, and pretty soon David is being shared. In the time he has left over, he drinks martinis, champagne, Tavel, beer and Haig Pinch and writes a story about a boy on an elephant hunt in Africa. The tale is the very essence of Hemingway-esque fiction just as the sexual games in this novel seem to reflect aspects of Hemingway's real life. There are other curious things in The Garden of Eden. The heroine has some of the same traits as Nicole Diver in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, and the dying elephant scene, with the boy fixed on the animal's eye, carries an echo of Moby Dick. The novel indeed seems to be drawn more from the literary world than from real life. Then too, the self-conscious posing of all the characters and the sometimes precious prose make it impossible for a reader to relax and enjoy the story. Still, the book is a fast, easy read, and for those who admire Hemingway, it isn't going to be disillusioning. (Scribner's, $18.95)
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