any kind of fishing he could get, but he
wouldn’t get all four rods going on the boat
until Pilar had reached the Stream.
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And now Hemingway’s boat sat
beached and grime-coated and time-stunned
in the Cuban sun. There were rips in her
canvas topside; little hair-like pieces of fabric stuck up from the roof. Her brass and
copper fastenings had gone green with corrosion, her bottom a hideous pink. Many
other things were discernibly, puzzlingly off
about Pilar as well. But she was here, intact,
beneath this awning, on this hill, sliced with
midday heat and shadow.
When he got this boat — or, more precisely, when he placed the order for her and
put down $3,000 toward the full purchase
price, courtesy of a hastily arranged loan/
advance from the editor of Esquire magazine
against future articles — on a spring day
in 1934, at a shipyard in Brooklyn, just
back from safari in east Africa, Ernest Miller
Hemingway was not quite 35 years old. And
when he lost Pilar? It was in that moment
when he lost everything, on a summer
Sunday in 1961, in a place where the mountains outside his three picture windows in
the living room were as jagged as the teeth
of a shredding saw. He was 19 days shy of
his 62nd birthday.
Paul Hendrickson is a National Book Critics
Circle Award winner for nonfiction, former staff writer for The Washington Post,
and is on the faculty of the creative writing
program at the University of Pennsylvania.
This story is from his acclaimed new book,
Hemingway’s Boat. (Copyright © 2011 by
Paul Hendrickson; excerpted by permission
of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.;
all rights reserved; no part of this excerpt
may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.)
Above: Ernest with
his sons, Bimini, July