In 1934, a young man named Arnold Samuelson traveled to Key West to meet Ernest Hemingway, an author he revered. Gruff and off-putting, Hemingway asked Samuelson to come back later. Maybe he’d have time then.
When he returned, Hemingway offered the budding writer this list:
- “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
But this must have been Samuelson’s lucky day, since Hemingway added:
“I’ve got a boat being shipped from New York. I’ll have to go up to Miami Tuesday and run her down and then I’ll have to have someone on board. There wouldn’t be much work. If you want the job, you could keep her cleaned up in the mornings and still have time for your writing.”
Samuelson became Hemingway’s assistant for one year, resulting in Samuelson’s memoir With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba (you can find it on Amazon).
In the course of their year together, the two talked about writing and the writer’s life, conversations Hemingway published in Esquire as, “Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter.”
Let this be a lesson to you. Don’t be shy, bother writers! You never know. Maybe they’ll hire you to watch their boat for the summer and teach you all about writing. Or call the police. There’s always that.
Don’t tell them I sent you.