At the funeral, the priest read from Ecclesiastes: "One generation cometh and another passeth away, but the land abideth forever." He stopped short of the words, "The sun also rises." Three men sat in the front pew, listening. Each had come into this old Idaho valley on a light plane, fixing on his own mortality. Afterward these three sons, who now had children of their own, received the news that their father had disinherited them.

The stone the family picked was flat to the ground and wide, as if to accommodate the special bulk beneath it. You can see this stone, between two 30-foot-high pines, in the town cemetery just north of Ketchum, and there is also a rough-made white wooden cross at the head of its smooth gray marble. There is only the name, "Ernest Miller Hemingway," and his dates, 1899-1961, cut carefully in.

Fathers and sons. It is a conflict that haunts literature -- but life far more. And what is it like when your father is a kind of totem for the 20th century, an icon for maleness and grace under pressure, when he owns a terrifying unconscious and, not least, is gnawed on as you grow up, secretly and not so secretly, in ever larger bites, by fame and his own demons, until that Sunday morning in July when he blows away his entire cranial vault with a double-barreled 12-gauge Boss shotgun he had once shot pigeons with?

"Well, I've decided what works for me is not going deep," says the son who has spent most of his life in the Rocky Mountain West, fishing and hunting.

"I have stared ambition in the face and decided I don't wish it," says the son who lit out for East Africa right after Harvard to apprentice himself to a white hunter.

"The 'Papa' cult. Just think what it means to be one of the three of us in this goddam 'Papa' cult," says the son who is a doctor and a manic-depressive and a transvestite.

Each of their lives has been deeply scarred, and they know it, and getting from Papa to here has sometimes seemed a pressure insurmountable, unsurvivable. Yet each Hemingway son has so far survived, and with varying degrees of struggle, and that is its own kind of triumph. Beyond this, what each knows, in a way no biographer could, is how magical it was with Papa, when it was good.

When it was good, nothing on earth was better than being the son of Ernest Hemingway. No one can take that away from Jack and Patrick and Gregory. Past all their father's posing and public brawling, past all the posthumous critical whittling down, what these three sons have is the memory of the man, when the man was good. Being with him was like living with a reigning monarch, a benevolent, magnanimous, breast-bursting monarch. It was as if some immense and wise Plains Indian, the head of a whole nation, were taking time out from warfare and buffalo hunts to instruct in the codes of manhood -- of life itself. The chief taught his braves how to pee high and wide off rickety wooden bridges in the Florida Keys, how to crouch low and whish-whish through the back of their teeth for shore birds, how to enter pebble-clean Montana streams without spooking the cutthroat trout around their shoes. He taught them these things and a lot more besides, but in the end, which came sooner than later, everything changed. Even now, they don't know how, exactly.

What lies like stone in each of their heads is the fact of self-destruction. Their father did it. Their paternal grandfather did it. One of their aunts did it. One of their uncles did it.

So let it start with the son who hurts most, the one who has faced the equivalent -- and more, you are tempted to say -- of his father's darkness. His name is Gregory Hemingway but everyone in the family, no matter that the family has largely disowned him, still thinks of him by the affectionate little-boy name Papa gave a long time ago.

PART 1: COCONUT GROVE, FLA. 'Gigi,' the Son Who Fell Like Lucifer A TV is on in an upstairs room, flickering patches of silver against the stucco walls of the stairwell. A copy of M magazine ("How to Feel GREAT") is on the coffee table in the living room. So is a huge book of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, opened in the middle and propped up like a missal at mass. Spread out on the sofa is an old green flannel blanket -- as if a man had been trying to warm himself in the 95-degree night. On the rug is a picture post card, its pretty face turned upward. Gregory H. Hemingway, MD, doesn't pick the card up, just steps over it.

Hanging down from the ceiling are some carved Haitian masks -- scary as hell, the more so because it's so damned dark in here.

Everything seems seeping toward gloom and depression. And yet there's a good deal of charm. And he is about to stun you with his openness.

"Let's go out back," he says. "Perhaps a breeze will come in tonight."

On the phone the day before, the mood had been extremely upbeat. "Of course you can come, I'd enjoy talking about it, you know, life with Papa and all that, by the way, how are Jack and Pat, you've already seen them, you say, I'll bet the weather's great up there in Idaho, isn't it, you'll find it's hot as Christ down here, are you sure you really want to come?"

He had said all this in about two breaths, finishing up with, "Boy, would I love to do some fishing in the Big Wood River in Ketchum."

That was yesterday. Right now he sees you eyeing those Haitian masks. And he laughs, a big guttural laugh.

"Something, aren't they? They're not mine, of course, they belong to the people who own this house. I'm just staying with them. I stay with a lot of people. By the way, I went to Haiti once. I remember walking into a hospital there, the pediatrics unit, and seeing 20 babies convulsing. It was an awful sight. At birth their mothers had rubbed their cords in cow dung. And no neonatal tetanus. It's a ritual." This is said with a funny kind of tension, as if the doctor in him were repulsed but the symbolist in him, the symbolist's son, were savoring the image.

He is 55 years old. Coarse gray hair falls in clumps over his face. He has on running shorts and a white T-shirt with "Unicorn University" printed in orange on it. His stomach is heavy, the nails of his fingers are long and shiny. He has very muscular legs. He cannot be more than 5 feet 7. His neck seems hammered into his brawny shoulders. He has huge, wide dark eyes in a pouchy face that has seen too many years of insomnia, too many bottles, or something else. Tonight he'll drink Scotch, just pour it in over top of the water and not even stir it with his fingers. Later, he says he bought the Scotch for his guest.

He is wearing stylish red-stem glasses.

This morning he broke off a tooth right at gum level.

His father knew he put on women's clothes.

He is not in the least attracted to other men.

"I've had 98 electroshock treatments," he says within minutes of sitting down.

"I've had seven nervous breakdowns," he tells you a little later.

"I've taken every {expletive} pill there is," he says, still later.

And then, very low, almost as if he were trying to whish-whish it through the back of his mouth: "I've tried so goddam hard my whole life to get free of it." The "it" is not specified, as though he were talking about anything and everything.

This is the Hemingway son who once went to Africa and slaughtered 18 elephants in one month. (He had had a quarrel with Papa.) This is the son who once tied for the World Live Pigeon Shooting Championship. (He was 11 then. The championship was held in Havana that year because of the war in Europe. Papa was so proud.) And this is the son who drank right along with his father, hard liquor, from adolescence onward. Gigi, with a hard "g," used to make the drinks.

And this is the Hemingway son who has spent most of his adult life struggling -- heroically seems not too strong a word -- against the compulsion to dress up in hosiery, brassieres, wigs, makeup, spiked heels, evening gowns, long white gloves, and then go out, with his squat bulky body and deep-chested voice, into public places. Sometimes he has gone into kicker cowboy bars out West -- and survived to tell. Sometimes he calls himself "Vicky." Sometimes, according to friends, he hasn't gone out at all, just purchased the stuff, worn it around a rented room, then stashed it in a dumpster. For a long time it was a secret. In these past several years word has been getting out. There were a couple of incidents in Montana in 1985 and 1986, involving displays of wild temper, which led to brief stints in jail and court records, which led to the loss of his medical license. The incidents made the papers, of course.

"We are all bitched from the start," Ernest Hemingway once said in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald. "But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist."

"Yes, I had the most talent, I was the brightest, I could do so many of the things he loved most," Gregory is saying. There isn't pity in it -- not very much anyway. A little later he says, "I've been a doctor, that's something. I've written a little. That's something. And of course I guess you know that his father was a doctor, so a lot of people have drawn the point that I was only trying to please him." He doesn't deny it, just lets it hang.

This is the son, so seemingly bitched by the gene pool, about whom an iconographic American literary genius wrote down, in various bursts of rage in the '50s, when his talent was drying up and his fame bloating him: Gregory was always strange, an exploded firecracker, worthless, no good, ruined by money, a macabre and mercenary mixture of Charles Addams and the National City Bank, a son he would dearly like to see hanged. (These things, and more, can be found in the unpublished correspondence, in the Hemingway Room of the JFK Library in Boston and elsewhere. A University of Colorado professor named Jeffrey Meyers dug them out and put them in his Hemingway biography of two years ago.)

But Gigi could give it back too, don't worry. He once told his father that "The Old Man and the Sea" was "as sickly a bucket of sentimental slop as was ever scrubbed off the barroom floor." He said he would like to beat up on his father's face the next time they met. You're through, Pop, Gigi said. You're an ailing alcoholic. And Gigi was about right.

The French have an expression: Notre de'mon est la mesure de notre ange. Our devil is the measure of our angel.

"Gigi has the biggest dark side in the family except me," Hemingway once said to Pauline Pfeiffer, Gigi's mother, after he had left her.

In "Islands in the Stream," a mostly broken novelist wrote:

" 'The meanest is Andy.'

" 'He started out mean,' Thomas Hudson said.

" 'And boy, did he continue.'

"There was something about him that you could not trust."

In "Islands in the Stream," Andy is Gigi. It is the only novel in which Hemingway directly used his children.

"He always had this tremendous need to have a son who would do well, please him inordinately," the son is saying. He is shaking his head -- somewhere between regret and disgust. "But how we felt so compelled to do all these things to make him love us. Look, my brother Patrick went off to Africa to be a professional hunter. So did I for a time. That's no way for an adult to spend his life, taking people out with guns to destroy animals. But this was the kind of person I consciously and unconsciously knew he admired. And so did my brother Pat. Pat would have been so much happier being a curator in a museum."

A moment later: "I don't know exactly how it was done, the destruction. You tell me. What is it about a loving, dominating, basically well-intentioned father that ends up making you go nuts? I mean, the anger you feel -- at what, exactly? Because he got so large, did that mean the rest of us had to diminish? None of us have amounted to very much. You can be angry at a man's overpowering unconscious, I guess. But was that unconscious malevolent? Did he wish to hurt us by it? I don't think so, not really. He was trying to do his work. His own insides were a wreck. My brother Pat, who was a brilliant kid, who really could have been something, was absolutely destroyed by my father to do anything in the outside world."

From a letter Hemingway once wrote to Gigi's grandmother: "It is only this last year that I have gotten any sort of understanding or feeling about how anyone can feel about their children or what they can mean to them ... I was never a great child lover but these kids are really good company and are very funny and I think (though may be prejudiced) very smart."

From the same letter: "Gregory has inherited his grandfather's talent for figures and delights to add numbers of any size up to the hundreds in his head and to count by five and by ten -- and he is only four. You will say to him 'What's 240 and 240, Jew?' and he will put his head on one side and say, 'I think it's about 480.' "

It is as if the word "unconscious" a moment ago has tripped something. "Let's face it," he says, and his head is now hung a little to one side, "any kid reaches a certain age where he wants to destroy his father and have his mother sexually. But this was impossible if you were a son of Ernest Hemingway. He was too large. I mean, on a basic psychological level, there was a time when you were just terrified of your old man because he was so much bigger than you were. In one sense, this never leaves you."

He crosses his leg. The running shorts hike up high. The red-stem glasses come off and he plows his hand through his hair. He sighs. "He got into everybody's unconscious with his symbols. That's part of what he's about, you know."

Then, with almost no pause: "I've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying not to be a transvestite. It's a combination of things. The problems are twofold -- no, they're threefold. First, you've got this father who's supermasculine, but who's somehow protesting it all the time, he's worried to death about it, never mind that he actually is very masculine, more masculine than anybody else around, in fact. But worried about it all the same -- and therefore very worried about his sons and their masculinity. Secondly, you start playing around with your mother's stockings one day when you're about 4 years old. Maybe it all starts with something as seemingly innocent as this. And why do you do this? Who knows? But it must have something to do with the fact that your mother doesn't seem to love you enough. Or that's your perception of it. Her maternal instincts just aren't very strong. My mother was Pauline, you know, Papa's second wife. You think she loves your older brother Patrick more. So maybe you're putting on her clothes in the first place because you somehow think you'll be able to win her that way, get close to her. But then, you see, it starts to feel sexy for its own sake, just to have those things on. It's erotic, it arouses you.

"The third thing is your own heightened awareness to everything around you. You're a writer's son, after all. You take in a lot more."

He has said all this slowly, seeming to consider it as he went.

But now his hand moves into a long, wrinkly, narrow white sack of French bread that has been sitting on the table before him. His hand holds inside this white sack, then begins to probe it. The doctor, an old family practitioner, is examining carefully.

The hand rips off a large chunk of the bread, comes out of the sack, and the image is gone. Gigi pops the bread in his mouth. He is smiling, but almost inwardly, as if no one were particularly listening to this.

"You know, he said to me one time, he was trying to help me, I knew it, no matter how it was killing him, he said, 'Listen, Mr. Gig, I can remember a long time ago seeing a girl on a street in Paris and wanting to go over and kiss her just because she had so much damn red lipstick caked on. I wanted to get that lipstick smeared all over my lips, just so I could see what that felt like.'

"The other thing about him -- and, funny, with me too -- is he really needed to be in love with a girl to bring about this unexplainable chemistry that could produce the words in the right combination, you know, the whole artesian outflow. Hell, I'd love to be in love with a woman right now. Maybe I could actually be a doctor again. There's been this one woman, lately. I can make out with her, all right, but the trouble is she's fat and I can't fall in love with her."

Papa could be quite derisive of fat women.

But was he mean? "Mmm. That really mean side. I hadn't seen that side so much as I grew up. What I knew, of course, were the wild rages, the fighting with my mother, the slamming of doors from time to time, and a lot of this when he'd had too much to drink. But in truth I didn't see this really tremendously aggressive side very often. In fact, you'd be surprised at how gentle he could be. It's a fact, you know, he couldn't spank us. Our mother had to do it."

Pauline once said of her husband, "When he's going well, he's awfully easy to get along with. But just before he gets going, he's frightful. His temper has to go bad before he can write. When he talks about never writing again, I know he's about to get started."

Gregory Hemingway, the cross-dresser, the manic-depressive, the reforming alcoholic, has three ex-wives and eight children. (One of his children is adopted; the latest divorce, from Valery Danby-Smith, came through just weeks ago. She lives in Montana.) A month or so ago there was a wedding in south Florida. Much of the extended Hemingway family was present, second and third cousins and so forth. Gigi didn't get invited -- not that anyone knew where he was, exactly. He was within a causeway or so.

He has been spending his days in a Miami park, that or sitting in a local library reading fiction, biography, magazines, newspapers -- about anything that comes into his line of vision. "I was down in the Keys the other day. I went bone-fishing out in the flats. I used a crab. You put a pole in a holder and then you doze off and then the line jerks you awake."

The last time he seriously practiced medicine was 1983. He was a country doctor then, in Jordan, Mont. (pop. 600), and he had served that community faithfully for five years. When you call up people there and ask what kind of physician Dr. Hemingway was to the citizenry, the answer is universally this: He wasn't good, he was a lot better than good. "I'll tell you what, you never saw a guy work like this," says John Fitzgerald, the town pharmacist. "Everything from headaches to delivering babies. Hell, the next nearest town from here is Miles City, and that's 83 miles away. He was a little rusty when he first came here -- I don't think he'd practiced in a while -- but, boy, did he work. He rode in the ambulance, he stayed up all night with sick old women. He never once tried to dine out on his name."

But in the end it all got bitched. It is a long story. It is an old pattern, and part of it has to do with obsessions. The obsession this time fixed on winning the Boston Marathon. The country doc from Montana began telling anyone who would listen that he was going to make history by winning the Boston Marathon. "He'd run 20 miles in the wind around here," says Fitzgerald. "He sent away and got every map there was of the course layout. He'd sit with me for hours and go over the route. I think he had the whole course memorized -- a 31 percent grade here, a wide turn there. He had to win that damn race -- or else place very high. I think he was trying to beat his father."

Gigi competed -- and didn't win. He showed up back in Jordan late, beyond when he said he would return, beyond the leave he had arranged for. He drove into town in his old car and then out of town on the same day and never came back. (The cross-dressing had revealed itself publicly on at least two occasions, but when you ask people about it, they are extremely compassionate. They say it had nothing to do with why he left. "We were doing all we could to try and understand Dr. Hemingway," says Jana Olson, the county nurse. "He had a lot invested here.")

He was down in Missoula for a while, a college town. He was sleeping in his car, he was living in somebody's basement, he was taking rooms in low-rent motels. He was fighting with his wife, he was fighting with his friends. Early this year he showed up in Florida. He was going to try to get his medical license reinstated, he said. He told almost anybody who would listen that he was going to reapply himself and work doubly hard and get back into life. But it all got bitched and one day he didn't show up at Jackson Memorial Hospital anymore. It is a long story, it is an old pattern, and in this instance it seems not all his fault.

"None of my mistakes were in medicine," he is saying quietly now. "All my mistakes were social."

Eleven years ago Gregory Hemingway, the child Papa believed in most, published a slim, elegant book, the only one he's ever written. He called it "Papa." Hemingway had been dead for a decade and a half. The memoir (with a preface by Norman Mailer) continues to stand on nearly the top rung of all Hemingway biographies and memoirs and critical studies, which keep coming out, year after year, threatening to deforest America. (The latest biography, "Hemingway," by Kenneth S. Lynn of Johns Hopkins University, appeared this month, seeking to revise in its nearly 700 pages all the revisionists and integrate, in the work and the man, the deep sexual tensions. There are pictures of Ernest the toddler, kept by his mother in pink gingham gowns, black patent Mary Janes and hats with flowers on them.)

This is the opening sentence of Gregory's book, which like the best of openings conveys so much more than it tells: "I never got over a sense of responsibility for my father's death and the recollection of it sometimes made me act in strange ways." And this is on its second-to-last page: "Then it was finally time for what we had come for. I confess I felt profound relief when they lowered my father's body into the ground and I realized that he was really dead, that I couldn't disappoint him, couldn't hurt him anymore."

"Papa" has only 107 pages, but between the poetic opening and the haunting end is contained a story so awful in its implications and reach that perhaps even Ernest Hemingway himself could not have dreamed it up as fiction. But it's real.

On the evening of Sept. 30, 1951, the telephone rang at the Finca Vigia outside Havana. The voice on the other end of the line belonged to Gregory's mother, and she was calling from Los Angeles to tell her ex-husband that a very unfortunate incident, and involving drugs, had occurred on the West Coast. Gregory had been arrested, Pauline told Ernest, and you aren't going to like the circumstances. Gregory was 19 then and working as an aircraft mechanic.

Hemingway was shocked, or at least outraged, and a terrible fight ensued between the divorced parents, the gist of which, from Hemingway's side, was: See how you've brought him up, you bitch. According to Pauline's sister, Jinny Pfeiffer, who was in the room in L.A. that evening (and who hated Hemingway), Pauline was soon "shouting into the phone and sobbing uncontrollably." She was trying to defend herself, saying that Gigi's problems were hardly all her fault, and besides, what was really so bad about what he'd done anyway? The conversation broke off. It was about 9 p.m.

At 1 a.m. Pauline awoke with a terrible abdominal pain. It got worse. They tried to get her to the hospital. She died of shock on the operating table three hours later. A wire was sent to Hemingway before noon that day.

What happened was this: Pauline had a rare and undiagnosed disease called pheochromocytoma, which is a tumor of the adrenal gland. What such a sleeping tumor can do is explode in times of emotional stress. As Gregory, who got an autopsy report some years later, wrote in his memoir after he had become a doctor: "The tumor had become necrotic or rotten, and when it fired off that night, it sent her blood pressure skyrocketing; a medium-sized blood vessel, within or adjacent to the rotten area, had ruptured. Then the tumor stopped discharging adrenaline, her blood pressure dropped from about 300 to 0, and she died of shock on the operating table."

A few months later Gregory visited his father. He wanted him to meet his first wife Jane and baby daughter. There was a wary distance between father and son -- they were both trying to heal their pain -- but it was a pretty good visit anyway, until the end. Until Gregory, letting his guard down, mentioned the trouble on the West Coast.

"It wasn't so bad, really, Papa," he said.

"No?" Hemingway said. "Well, it killed mother."

Gregory never saw his father again until his body was being lowered into the earth of Idaho.

But a year before Hemingway died, his son wrote him a letter, confronting him with the facts of the autopsy, as he interpreted them. It was not his trouble on the West Coast that killed his mother, he said. Far more likely, it was the brutal telephone conversation earlier that evening that resulted in her death.

Gregory Hemingway himself still prefers to be a little vague about the incident. (In his memoir he refers to it only as the "trouble.") But he has described it to some people who know him well, or so they testify. Some of those sources say that Gregory has told them, in various states of melancholy and rage, that the trouble was this: He had gone into the women's restroom of a movie theater in Los Angeles in drag and had been caught -- for the first time.

There are Freudians afoot -- especially in light of so much of the recent Hemingway scholarship, and the publication last year of his novel "The Garden of Eden," which is awash in transsexual fantasies -- who would raise this question: Was the son merely acting out what the father felt? Well, maybe. And maybe not. "It may be that all we really have and know is our consciousness, that the alternative is something we know nothing about," the venerable literary critic Alfred Kazin once wrote about Ernest Hemingway, trying to dispense with the latter-day bone pickers.

"These horrible mixed-up feelings you have, the love and the hate," the son is saying on a very still night in Florida. He has been talking close to three hours and there is a weariness in him now that seems something more than a man needing sleep. "And you know, I still miss him so much. Isn't it crazy? The damn guy disinherited us, he helped make my life a mess, and I miss him. We got the money thing straightened out, by the way. We get a lot of money now, actually. You might be surprised by how much."

According to several sources, the money, shared by the Hemingway children, is almost never less than $120,000 annually for each. Gregory's cut is being controlled by a court-appointed conservator.

"If I could only sleep well," he says.

The heavy laugh again, stuttering out: "Course I need a 'fixed address.' If only I had the goddam 'fixed address.' "

Then he says, his voice back down, "I just can't concentrate like I used to."

And then he says, "Everything finally comes home to roost, doesn't it?"

Gregory Hemingway, the bitched baby son who is not afraid of what he is, says one thing more, repeats it, making sure you have it: "Not much malevolence, you see. But an absolute destruction."

Tomorrow: Patrick and Jack.