What the Editors Are Reading

The Hemingway Log: A Chronology of His Life and Times, by Brewster Chamberlain, just out from the University Press of Kansas, is one of those books that appears designed to turn a major literary career into a mere cottage industry.  Nearly everything and anyone that could be related to Hemingway’s life and work, however distantly, is jotted here in daily chronological sequence.  The result, though it makes one wonder whether any mere human being is really worth such a lavish outlay of time and attention, is nevertheless not without interest.  It is a book to be grazed through, like an elk snatching more or less aimlessly among forbs.

I have just begun to look through Boswell’s Enlightenment, by Robert Zaretsky and published by the Belknap Press imprint of Harvard University Press.  The book turns on Boswell’s time in Europe between 1763 and 1765, when he met Voltaire and Rousseau.  Boswell’s was an unsettled and unfinished personality; he was terrified all his life of death and what lay beyond, but unable to agree with himself on what his religious beliefs really were.  “That creature was its own tormentor,” said Dr. Johnson, “and I believe its name was BOSWELL.”  The glimpses of the great man are well rendered, but the book suffers somewhat from self-consciously pretty writing.  Still, it seems a worthy effort.


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