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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Best Friend I Ever Had (a guest review)

Please welcome my guest reviewer for today, Erika Robuck. I met Erika a few months ago at the Maryland Writers Association meeting when I spoke about book blogging.

Erika is a writer and amateur historian. She writes historical fiction, and is publishing her novel, Receive Me Falling, in early 2009. [I'm REALLY looking forward to reading it!] When she's not doing research or writing, she spends her time with her family in Maryland and North Carolina . You can check out her book at, and her blog at

She is also a huge fan of Hemingway, so when I received this book for review I KNEW she'd be the perfect person to read it.

The Best Friend I Ever Had: Revelations About
Ernest Hemingway From Those Who Knew Him
by David Nuffer
167 pages

David Nuffer’s book, The Best Friend I Ever Had, is a compilation of the author’s correspondence and interviews with people who knew Ernest Hemingway. It is 167 pages so it is a quick read, and it is full of photos, copies of letters, and various other artifacts supporting the author’s work.

Nuffer is not an academic, and both directly and indirectly expresses his negative opinion of Hemingway academics. It seems he has adopted the wary and skeptical view toward Hemingway scholars that the people who knew Hemingway did. This is not a scholarly work, and it is openly biased in its opinion of Ernest Hemingway. Though some previously unpublished letters from the Mayo Clinic and personal anecdotes from Hemingway’s son, Patrick, and third wife, Mary, might interest the true Hemingway scholar, the target audience for the book would be limited to serious fans of Hemingway.

The book was interesting and readable. Apart from a few formatting errors, it was clear in its presentation. The best parts of it came from the people who knew Hemingway, firsthand. Their amusing anecdotes and loyalty to the author were well portrayed and touching.

What the book lacked, however, was organization. It felt very much like a list David Nuffer typed up of all the Hemingway “stuff” he knew. At the end of each section, he did truly list points he wanted to convey, but didn’t embed within the prose. It felt as if I were reading notes for a speech. Some of the items in his list needed elaboration, but the way they were presented left the reader feeling like she was on the outside of an inside conversation.

I can identify with Nuffer’s love of Hemingway and his passion to “right” the reputation of him. I think that if Nuffer had organized the text chronologically, and had made more of an attempt to turn his findings into fluent prose it would appeal to a wider audience. As it is, only the true Hemingway lover would find it of interest.

Thanks Erika for this review. I can't believe that you only had this book for two days - I think that's the quickest read and review I've ever seen!

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I think the lack of organization would drive me to distraction.

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