THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY AUDIOBOOK LIBRARY
MP3 CD; 15 Discs. Simon & Schuster Audio. $399.99.
I just ordered my set. The New York Times review of the audible feast by Paul Hendrickson of the set was very positive. Various actors, many well known, such as Stacy Keach, William Hurt, and Donald Sutherland, are reading all of Hem’s works. Stacy Keach reads “Big Two-Hearted River.” As Mr. Hendrickson writes:
Take that wavery masterpiece, “Big Two-Hearted River,” ostensibly just a long “fish story,” which a barely known 25-year-old sat down and wrote in two parts at a marble table at the Closerie des Lilas in Paris in August 1924 — almost as if he were practicing literary modernism without ever having heard of the term. As read here, the story is wonderful. Keach’s voice takes on a spooky darkness that is somehow simultaneously light and hopeful. The tale is about a damaged young man named Nick, home from the war, alone on a camping trip in the woods of northern Michigan, trying to get his mind back by repeating loved, learned rituals of boyhood: unpacking his tent, smoothing the sandy ground he would sleep on, using an ax to “slit off” the “bright” pine slabs for the tent pegs, hanging the cheesecloth to keep out the mosquitoes, bubbling the beans and spaghetti in the little pan atop the wire grill over his fire. And then, the next morning, after the sun is up, heading for the river with his fly rod and captured hoppers. The word “war” never appears.
But now with Keach, his voice sometimes in a whisper, I seemed to be hearing that word, or the implications of that word, in almost every line. “It could not all be burned,” the author wrote. “He felt all the old feeling.” And, yes, “It was all back of him.” And, yes, “The river was there.” Such an elegant, elemental Hemingway sentence.
The review itself by Henrickson is quite lovely and I enjoyed it immensely. It made me want to order my set immediately which I did. He also notes that some of the readers picked up on Hem’s own intonation when self-consciously called upon to read his own works or give a speech. A few posts back, I included a link to his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize. Listen to that and to his enunciation. Hendrickson describes it well.