Saturday, December 15, 2007

Five best: coming-of-age tales

A.E. Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway (1966), The Boyhood Memoirs of A.E. Hotchner (2007), and the forthcoming The Good Life According to Hemingway, named a five best list of books about "coming of age" for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (Scribner, 1938).

Ernest Hemingway's autobiographically inspired tales of Nick Adams are, for me, the finest evocation of the coming-of-age experience, Tom and Huck included. The interlocking Nick Adams stories carry him from boyhood to an embattled manhood, beginning with a portrayal of his oppressive mother and oppressed father ("The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife"). Nick eventually renounces his Midwestern life ("The Three-Day Blow") and enlists in the Italian army during World War I--his severe wounding and tragic love affair with a nurse are depicted in "A Very Short Story." The odyssey's capstone is "Fathers and Sons," wherein the 38-year-old Nick reflects, during a quail hunt, about his boyhood and his father, whom he adored. Nick's yearning for his father, who committed suicide, is so poignant, so awash with painful nostalgia, that you pause from paragraph to paragraph to settle your emotions.
Read about the other books on Hotchner's list.

--Marshal Zeringue