The Best Friend I Ever Had Review
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Who would guess that by reading the novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, a PR man would develop a “casual obsession” with its author? David Nuffer has claimed just that, acquiring a massive collection of Ernest Hemingway’s works, visiting about 165 sites related to the writer (including Cuba and Europe), attending numerous conferences, and seeking out those who knew him. And this was all in a quest to better understand this complex man. Nuffer has published these experiences in the book, The Best Friend I Ever Had: Revelations About Ernest Hemingway from Those Who Knew Him.

The book’s title most likely refers to how Hemingway’s friends regarded him. Nuffer has provided eight chapters of observations and recollections by those who knew him, along with a final chapter of never-before-published documents and photos. He describes the personalities of those he interviewed, along with how the meetings came about.

Based on his interviews and research, Nuffer disagrees with most of the opinions about what led to Hemingway’s suicide, such as schizophrenia, manic-depression, heredity, or an inability to live up to the image that was created for him. Of particular interest to me were letters from psychiatric consultant Dr. Howard Rome to Hemingway right before his suicide, as well as a letter to his wife, Mary, after his death. Dr. Rome prescribed shock treatment therapy to Hemingway during his stay at the Mayo Clinic.

Though I’m familiar with Ernest Hemingway and his work, I would have preferred a more comprehensive analysis of the writer. However, that was not Nuffer’s intention. This is not “Hemingway 101,” so if you’re looking for either an overview or even an in-depth study of the man and his works, this book is not for you. This is for a niche audience, and it will supplement the countless books already written on Hemingway. That said, though, The Best Friend I Ever Had kept me engaged and enticed me to learn more about the life and writings of Hemingway. Now I, like everyone else, will try to get into this writer’s psyche.

But a “casual obsession”? I do take issue with Nuffer on that point. I would categorize Nuffer’s obsession as neither casual nor mild. However, what’s wrong with processing a fascination with such a literary giant? Nothing at all.

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