Friday, August 10, 2007

"I know now that there is no one thing that is true - it is all true." [Ernest Hemingway]

Paul Greenberg is an excellent novelist: his novel, Leaving Katya, received generous and deserved reviews.

Today's New York Times website has an essay (apparently to be in the weekend Books section) by Greenberg. Provocatively the essay asks:
How much of the decline in tuna and marlin fisheries is Hemingway’s fault? Possibly quite a lot.
In Malcolm's opinion, nobody, but nobody is worth calling a reader unless he (or even she) has at least a passing acquaintance with Hemingway. And in this case, of course, with the character and struggle of Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea.

Now Greenberg wrestles with the great self-made myth of Hemingway himself. Wickedly, he compares Hemingway's claims of big game fishing with the reality:
Like many tales that come from the sea, the facts are of a liquid nature. Hemingway was a frequent but inconsistent record keeper. In his archive room at the John F. Kennedy library in Boston, the numbers are there, sort of. During one 180-day stretch in 1933-34, the Pilar logs reveal a catch of 10 marlin, 2 sailfish and 9 sharks. But in an article in Esquire describing the typically slower spring run of that same year, Hemingway said the Pilar’s catch was 51 marlin.

These discrepancies were noted in Hemingway’s time. Joseph Knapp, the publisher of Colliers and a fisherman himself, accused him of overstating his catches. (According to the authors of “Hemingway in Cuba,” “you big fat slob” were the last words Papa endured before laying Knapp out on a Bimini dock.)
For those who enjoy the thrill of good writing, stop here. This nano-second. Do not read on. Go instead to the link. You will not regret it.

And for those who read the last page of the thriller, just to see whodunit: here's the spoiler, the "message":

So can we blame Hemingway for inflicting terminal damage on these species? Not directly. Hemingway lived in a period when estimations of ocean fisheries went from limitless to limited. And it’s doubtful, given the rise of modern industrial fishing, that the animals he killed would have lived to spawn so many heirs. In the 1930s, when Hemingway learned to catch bluefin, the species was barely pursued commercially. Those caught were ground up for pet food. Today industrial long-liners set millions of hooks that catch tens of thousands of tuna and marlin every year. The tuna sell for upward of $100,000 apiece. The marlin, not the tastiest of fish, are mostly dumped overboard dead.

But we can blame Hemingway for some of the damage others are still doing. Despite the havoc wreaked on the big fish by commercial fishermen, sport anglers still want that Hemingway photo: standing next to a giant fish, hanging a casual hand on the animal’s lifeless dorsal fin. Today, every animal strung up for a picture is another animal that can’t contribute to the rebuilding of these species. The fisheries service estimates that in American waters, 23 percent of the total bluefin tuna killed by fishermen are killed for sport.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites