The fifth selection in my 100-novel reading project is The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway. Periodically over the past few years I’ve been reading Hemingway’s collected works. (Hemingway and Camus are big influences to me when I first started taking literature seriously and writing seriously.) Until Scribner’s released True at First Light, on the anniversary of what would have been Hemingway’s 100th birthday, in 1999, The Garden of Eden was the last of Hemingway’s posthumously published books. It was published in 1986, the year I graduated high school, and was very much ignored by me then (science fiction and the great pulp novels of Robert E. Howard–a fellow Texan–were the books fascinating me then.) The book was edited by Tom Jenks, a professional editor, with whom I had a very superficial editorial relationship with when I submitted a short story manuscript for a free reading. He provides editorial services for writers. He had a lot of positive things to say about my manuscript when we talked over the phone. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to afford his prices, but someday I hope to be able to afford them, and see if I get a quality line-by-line edit of my fiction. I suspect I would. His online magazine can be found here.
The novel itself isn’t necessarily one of Hemingway’s strongest. My favorite is his first The Sun Also Rises, but Eden is in some parts beautifully written, as only Hemingway could have written. It’s also one of his stranger books, a tale of two newlyweds, David and Catherine Bourne, on their honeymoon on the coast of France. It explores sexual identity and pits the couple in a menage a trois. Strange territory for tough-guy Hemingway to explore.