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A Travesty: Ernest Hemingway and American Booblishing

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We recently read for the first time Ernest Hemingway's novel The Garden of Eden (Amazon Kindle Edition, Scribner, 2002. Print length 256 pages).

Anything written by Hemingway is usually interesting and readable. This novel, published long after his death, is about the first five months of a marriage between an older writer and a young woman, mostly about the sexual problems that made it impossible for the marriage to last. Hemingway apparently took fifteen years to write the novel, writing and publishing other work in the meantime. The novel was left mostly finished at his death in 1961. After a delay of 21 years, Hemingway's publisher (Scribner) decided to offer the work to the public.

So recently we read the book for the first time. An interesting novel, especially because it involves a theme never approached before by Hemingway. After finishing the book, we decided to find out more about it, and to our dismay we learned that the publisher had done a posthumous hatchet job on the book. Hemingway had left a long book that would have apparently published at about 800 pages. The publisher threw away two-thirds of the manuscript, cut it down to 250 pages, moved passages around in what was left, and so on. All without the author's advice and consent. Imagine an art dealer wiping out two-thirds of Picasso's Guernica or of some other master painting and offering the remnant canvas to the public.

If you want to read the complete book, you are out of luck. The publisher has decided that no matter that the author was a master craftsman obsessed with perfection and a writer of international acclaim, the standards of the gaggle of editors at Scribner decide what is worth publishing and how to chop up posthumous work and if you don't like that, well...

American publishing -- or American booblishing, as it should be called -- is slowly sliding down into the muck of complete obsolescence -- a slide greased by bottom-line feeders and the entrenched mediocrity of agents and editors and publishers. They call themselves gatekeepers -- protectors of quality. Yah. We wonder what Hemingway would say now about his gatekeepers.