Many of us are curious about the lives that great writers led when they were young, but some are curious for different reasons than others. There are those who are genuinely interested in the personal circumstances that give rise to great art, who are captivated by the spectacle of a young person discovering his talent, deciding what use he will make of it, and developing a mature and triumphant creative vision. Then there are those who, being indifferent to the germination of genius, are diverted by the inside gossip, by the sexy tidbits, by the miraculous metamorphosis of a nobody from Dublin, Dorset, St. Louis, or St. Paul into an immortal—and the closer it all comes to a Judith Krantz novel, the better. Alas, the biographers and memoirists who have chronicled Ernest Hemingway’s fitful and flaming youth in the wake of Charles A. Fenton’s pioneering study, The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway: The...


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