A Life Worth Living: The Adventures of a Passionate Sportsman
by Jack Hemingway
The Lyons Press, 224 pages, $24.95
Hemingway writes that he spent the first half of his life "being the son of a famous father" ( Ernest Hemingway) and the second half as "the father of famous children" (actresses Margaux and Mariel Hemingway). Yet the life he describes in this posthumously published memoir (he died in 2000) is heroic and beautiful. Heroic not only because of his service as an intelligence officer in World War II but also because he faced down the family curse: a ferocious depression that drove his father, grandfather and daughter Margaux to suicide.
What saved him, he says, was fishing or, more precisely, the artistry and concentration he brought to the sport. In a typical passage he savors the grayling's "beautifully spotted dorsal fin" and the fish's aroma—"like wild thyme when first taken from the water." In 1977, more than 30 years after he parachuted behind enemy lines to aid the French resistance (he was later wounded and captured), he was feted at a Frenchman's party as the crazy American who dropped out of the air with a fishing rod tied to his leg. That is just how Jack Hemingway wanted, and deserves, to be remembered.
The Everlasting Stream: A True Story of Rabbits, Guns, Friendship and Family
by Walt Harrington
Grove/Atlantic, 192 pages, $23
Harrington, a journalism professor at Illinois, has written a passionate argument that hunting can be a powerful, uplifting force in men's lives, even for him, an unapologetically sensitive 21st-century guy who has emotional rap sessions with his son that end in hugs and I-love-yous. While this sort of What Hunting Means to Me monologue has been attempted many times—often with results that induce sleep or the gag reflex—this one is different.
Harrington married a woman (Keran Elliott) from rural Kentucky, and it was his father-in-law, Alex, who reintroduced him to hunting, which he had given up on his way to a job as a writer at The Washington Post. The author was understandably ill at ease the first time he headed into the woods with Alex and his hunting buddies. He soon becomes more relaxed, yet remains sensitive enough to feel compassion for the critters he shoots, and he wrestles with his conscience even as he twists off a rabbit's head "as if I were opening a stubborn jar of pickles." But Harrington argues convincingly that it's far better for the soul if we kill and dress our meat than if we pluck it from a Safeway freezer and never wonder where it came from.