The Garden of Eden has two picnics; one is unpleasant and the other happy. They are key moments in the novel, but John Irvin’s film with a script by John Scott Linville omits them. Instead there are two outings at the beach neither of which is more than eye candy.
For Hemingway, each picnic describes a new twist in the story of David Bourne, a blocked writer suffering a destructive marriage three weeks old. Contrasting the picnics, you can see how Bourne’s emotional life rocks between suffused love/anger with Catherine Hill and lust for Marita a sybaritic young woman Catherine picks up as sex toy.
David’s first picnic is unhappy undermined by sexual uneasiness because Catherine has requested that David no longer be her “man” but her “girl.” David is perplexed and tries to evade and answer. Catherine gets petulant, but instead of discussing her needs, she complains about the picnic: the wind is too strong, the situation is uncomfortable. She looks for another location: “We could have gone up there,” she says, “But it’s so closed in and picturesque. I hate those hanging villages.” However, the food is good and there is silence (at least) while they eat stuffed eggs, roast chicken, pickles, and a baguette of bread slathered with Savora mustard—and drink a (seemingly) inexhaustible supply of cold rosé. But when they are finished, Catherine’s argumentative conversation resumes until David says, “Let’s clean up and go.” “Where?” she says, “Anywhere” he replies, “The god damn café.”
David’s second picnic is happier. For the moment, David’s irony is reassuring. Beside, the day is perfect, and the beach at Juan-les-Pins is an Impressionist’s dream of bright sunshine, a dark blue sea, red rocks, and yellow sand that turns amber covered by the creamy surf. He’s also separated from Catherine and his passion it ignited by, Marita, who was Catherine’s lover but now his. In a sexual tug-of-war, David has won. And when Marita asks if they are now the Bournes, David replies, “Sure. We are the Bournes.” For emphasis, he says, “I’ll write it in the sand.”
Curiously the food at this beach picnic is leaner and vegetarian: crisp radishes, green artichoke hearts with mustard sauce, and bottles of cool Tavel rosé.
Back in to his writing again, David finds himself unblocked, and when the words and images flow there is “no sign that any of it would ever cease returning to him intact.”
Juan Gris. Woman with a Basket (1927) is the dust jacket for the 1st edition of The Garden of Eden. Gris was among his father’s favorite painters, and Patrick Hemingway thought this work expressed the “somber hedonism” his father’s narrative. The basket is suggestive of a picnic.
*Feature Image: John Irvin. The Garden of Eden (2008). Screenplay by James Scott Linville based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel (1986). Albatross Films. Lionsgate Home Entertainment. David Bourne (Jack Huston) ponders Catherine’s sexuality, and his own. But this is just an outing at the beach and not what Hemingway writes about. No food, no wine, no picnic.
See: Ernest Hemingway. The Garden of Eden. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1986; John Irvin. The Garden of Eden (2008). Screenplay by James Scott Linville based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel (1986). Albatross Films. Lionsgate Home Entertainment; Craig Boreth. The Hemingway Cookbook. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1998, 2012; Tom Jenks. “The Garden of Eden at Twenty-Five,” Huffington Post Books. July 29, 2011.