Image: Ernest Hemingway via Ida Woodward Barron Collection. Courtesy of Florida Keys Public Libraries,Flickr.
By Florida Verve Staff
In the spring of 1934, an aspiring writer named Arnold Samuelson left the cold of Minnesota for Key West to meet his literary hero — Ernest Hemingway. After a 2,000-plus mile journey, which included hitchhiking, train-hopping, and a couple nights in a mosquito-plagued jail, he did just that. In fact, not only did Samuelson meet Hemingway, he became the author’s literary protege and deckhand aboard “Pilar” (Hemingway’s famous boat). The arrangement, however, was short-lived (lasting about a year) — and Samuelson, on his own accord, left Key West for the mainland.
The rest of Samuelson’s life was defined by his odd behavior, which he carried out in his adopted hometown of Robert Lee, Texas. Without a doubt, Samuelson’s best days were in Key West.
From Arnold Samuelson’s With Hemingway: A year in Key West and Cuba:
[Hemingway] left me with that…marvelous feeling you can have only once in a lifetime if you are a young man who wants to become a writer and you have just met the man you admire as the greatest writer alive and you know instinctively he is already your friend.
Hemingway also left Samuelson with one of the greatest all-time reading lists:
“The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Dubliners by James Joyce
The Red and the Black by Stendhal
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
Hail and Farewell by George Moore
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Oxford Book of English Verse
The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson
The American by Henry James
Sources: Open Culture, Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961, by Paul Hendrickson; With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba, by Arnold Samuelson
Note: This Florida Verve blog post was first published in October 2013.