70 Days With Hemingway And Me

Every Novel, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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The Impossibility of Scripps’ Journey

June 10th, 2009 · No Comments · The Torrents of Spring

I finished Part One (“Red and Black Laughter”) of the four parts that comprise The Torrents of Spring.

Now I will return to page one to re-read it.


Mancelona1. The main character in Part One (“Scripps O’Neil”) starts out in Mancelona (“Scripps left Mancelona. He was through with that place. What had a town like that to give him?…He started to Chicago to get a job”), heading south. At least, that’s the assumption. One can get to Chicago from Mancelona only by heading south.
Petoskey2, But he winds up in Petoskey (“Where was Scripps now? Walking in the night in the storm, he had become confused. He had started for Chicago…He was standing knee-deep in snow in front of a railway station. On the railway station was written in big letters: PETOSKEY”), which is north of Mancelona.
Mapquest3. Petoskey is, according to Mapquest, 37.83 miles north of Mancelona.

4. According to the entry in Wikipedia about Walking, “An average walking speed is about 6 to 7 km/h (3 to 4 mph), although this depends heavily on factors such as height, weight, age, terrain, surface, load, culture, and fitness.”

5. Assuming Scripps is in top condition (unlikely given the fact that he’s a heavy drinker) and conditions are ideal (which they aren’t because the start to Scripps’ journey is described this way: “Alone, bareheaded, the snow blowing in his hair, he walked down the G. R. & I. railway tracks. It was the coldest night he had ever known”), it would have taken him over nine hours to walk from Mancelona to Petoseky.

6. So, how could someone, not properly dressed, on the coldest night he had ever known, in a blizzard, make it from Mancelona to Petoskey? Not just in nine hours – but at all?

The content of Part One of The Torrents of Spring reads like something from Kafka. It has an allegorical, slightly out-of-phase quality to it. Surreal, even. So maybe we’re not meant to believe Scripps’ literally walked an impossible distance in the dead of “the coldest night he had ever known.”

Doesn’t matter. I’m hooked. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Scripps and his dead/alive bird that he found on his journey and stuck under his coat.


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