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Hemingway: Up in Michigan Perspectives.

Hemingway: Up in Michigan Perspectives. Edited by Frederic J. Svoboda and Joseph J. Waldmeir. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995. 289 pp. Cloth $37.95.

A kingfisher flies upstream, his shadow moving on the water. Wind whips the big basswoods. The dark cedar swamp waits beyond.

With summer comes a boy to troll to the Point, walk the Pere Marquette railway tracks, read in a hammock or with his back to a hemlock tree. He swims at night off the dock, dances by lantern light on the Bean-house floor, savors Peerless, that great chewing tobacco.

Such is the Michigan country immortalized in Hemingway's fiction. Hemingway: Up in Michigan Perspectives, a new collection of essays, offers flesh insights into Hemingway's Michigan work and days--as well as into his writing after he left Michigan in 1921, only rarely to return.

In point of fact, Up in Michigan Perspectives is a cunningly ambiguous book title, a bit of an insiders' joke by editors Frederic J: Svoboda of the University of Michigan at Flint and Joseph J. Waldmeir, Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University in Lansing. Readers expecting an entire volume on Hemingway in Michigan may be disappointed. Only nine of the book's twenty-five essays are on the Michigan fiction.

But editors Svoboda and Waldmeir have not lied to us. Hemingway: Up In Michigan Perspectives really means perspectives on all of Hemingway's work, presented in Michigan at an October 1991 gathering of Hemingway scholars. As the birch leaves turned yellow, the faithful delivered papers at a Petoskey resort hotel built in 1899, the year of Hemingway's birth, toured the locale where Nick Adams parted from Marjorie in "The End of Something," caught a glimpse of Hemingway's sister Sunny at the Walloon Lake cottage, and sought, as usual, a richer understanding of place and imagination in Hemingway's life and art.

Svoboda and Waldmeir have divided the twenty-five conference essays into three illuminating sections. The opening nine essays indeed center on "Hemingway and Michigan." A bridge section, titled "Leaving Michigan Behind" features an exchange between Michael Reynolds and Linda Wagner-Martin on the "Jimmy Breen" manuscript, while the remaining fifteen essays follow Hemingway's post-Michigan career in a concluding section titled "Hemingway in the World."

Readers may be tempted to dip into the volume at random following their personal tastes. However, reading the volume from start to end is advisable, for it yields a sense of Hemingway's unfolding art. Editors Svoboda and Waldmeir employ counterpoint (one of Hemingway's favorite structuring principles) in ordering the essays, providing another reason to read the book in sequence. Readers will delight in the way the essays extend, reinforce, and (in some cases) challenge each other.

The essays on "Hemingway and Michigan" are some of the most valuable in the volume. Svoboda's "False Wilderness: Northern Michigan as Created in the Nick Adams Stories," is a needed corrective to Constance Cappel Montgomery's touchingly conscientious 1966 volume, Hemingway in Michigan, which sought to show that Hemingway was reproducing the actual Michigan landscape in his seventeen Michigan stories and Torrents of Spring. Svoboda reminds us that, strictly speaking, the Michigan frontier or wilderness did not exist when Hemingway fished and hunted there in the first two decades of the twentieth century, and that in his fiction Hemingway omits some elements (roads, train flagstop stations) and exaggerates others (Seney's burning, the distance of the "Indian Camp") to create an enhanced sense of wilderness and frontier.

Drawing on Oak Park First and Third Congregational Church documents, the newspaper Oak Leaves, and William James, Larry E. Grimes then offers a fascinating thesis regarding the historical conflict between "healthy Christianity," (practiced by Hemingway's mother) and "sick" or orthodox Christianity from Saint Paul to Cotton Mather (the religion of Hemingway's father). "Healthy Christianity," with roots in evangelical and mystical theologies, placed great stress on "manly" behavior. Grimes employs this research to offer a new reading of the short story "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" as not only enacting this historical and family tension, but as Hemingway's effort to save his father.

Grimes's stress on Nick Adams's leading his father into nature at this story's end reinforces William Braasch Watson's appealingly personal earlier essay, "The Doctor and the Doctor's son: Immortalities in `Indian Camp.'" Here Watson, a doctor's son himself, argues that the dynamic balance between father and son shifts by the end of "Indian Camp," and that this was Hemingway's subtle way of affirming his career choice to his uncomprehending and unsupportive father--by demonstrating the superiority of writing over medicine. Again the son leads the father.

Hemingway's early love, Lucy Marjorie Bump, is rehabilitated--and the Hemingway biographical and critical traditions castigated--in H.R. Stoneback's "`Nothing Was Ever Lost': Another Look at `That Marge Business.'" Exhibiting Stoneback's characteristically thorough scholarship and lively language and wit, this essay demonstrates, not only that Bump was no lower class itinerant waitress, but rather a clear precursor of Hadley in looks and mentoring function. Stoneback argues that "The End of Something" and "The Three-Day Blow" represent Hemingway's homage to and immortalization of Bump and suggests that Bump may be reflected in works beyond these early stories.

James Nagel in "Narrational Value in The Sun Also Rises and Robert Cohn" and Wolfgang Rudat in "Anti-Semitism in The Sun Also Rises: Traumas, Jealousies, and the Genesis of Cohn" each seek to rehabilitate Robert Cohn. Nagel reveals manuscript deletions which support his view that Jake Barnes is actually harder on himself than he is on Cohn. Rudat strains a bit, to my mind, in making his complex case that Hemingway "sublimates his personal resentment of [Harold] Loeb through a series of linguistic games" which expose and "self-destruct" his racism.

Michael Seefeldt clearly needs an entire book to work out his rehabilitation of Across the River and Into the Trees. In the narrow frame of his essay "Reconsidering the Travesty of Himself," Seefeldt reminds us that the cultural climate of the early 1950s shaped American critics' response to Hemingway's Italian novel and calls for study of the book as a complex rendering of anti-romantic gesture, poetic sensitivity, and spiritual allegory.

It should be clear by this point that the essays in Up in Michigan Perspectives represent a quite advanced level of Hemingway scholarship. The authors are combing the early manuscripts and untapped primary sources. Critics such as Linda Wagner-Martin are reading Hemingway's contemporaries from other cultures, such as Spanish writer and man of action Blasco-Ibanez, and demonstrating that Hemingway carefully said least about writers who influenced him most. Women in Hemingway are garnering greater respect, and (perhaps most exciting) new ways of understanding Hemingway's entire oeuvre are being offered.

Seefeldt suggests that Hemingway's writing can be loosely divided into "The Poetic/Romantic Years" (1920s), "The Realist Years" (1930s and early 1940s), "The Allegorical Years" (1946-1954?), and "The Revisitation Years" (1954-1961). Another approach is shown in three essays which focus on sexuality in Hemingway's art. In "The Fantasies of Omnipotence and Powerlessness: Commemoration in Hemingway's `Fathers and Sons': Erik Nakjavani suggests that Dr. Adams's denial of the creative force of sexuality leads to Nick's sense of powerlessness and thus fuels the resentment which exists alongside Nick's love for his father in this story.

This view resonates with the essays on "Indian Camp" and links with Bickford Sylvester's intriguing but slightly over-generalizing essay on "The Sexual Impasse to Romantic Order in Hemingway's Fiction" and to Robert E. Gajdusek's "The Suspended Woman in the Work of Ernest Hemingway." Gajdusek's rich and suggestive essay urges us to look at states of "arrest" in both men and women in Hemingway's writing as "intricate metaphors that relate to the creative process itself and the role of women as Muse within the imagination." "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" certainly offers glimpses of "sexual impasse" and "arrest" of many kinds, and thus Mark Spilka's painstaking efforts to avoid the pitfalls of "masculine discourse" and keep the conversation lines open in his "Nina Baym's benevolent Reading of the Macomber Story: An Epistolary response" is probing this new vein as well.

Spilka's essay is, hands down, the most stylish in Up in Michigan Perspectives. However, the entire collection is a Hemingway Society performance, and for that reason worth reading. Only a few of the major voices in Hemingway criticism are absent, and the scholars present are in very good form. Like Hemingway's work, Up in Michigan Perspectives makes you wish you had been there in Petoskey, part of that good country, and good company.

--Barbara Lounsberry, University of Northern Iowa
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Author:Lounsberry, Barbara
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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