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Old 04-25-2012, 09:43 AM
Imago Imago is offline
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Hemingway's writing style. Am I being whooshed?

Be forewarned: possible (unintended) literary blasphemy ahead.

Alright. So I've been a Hemingway naysayer for about five years. I don't know or care whether he's as sexist and homophobic as he's generally considered to be, nor do I find his subject matter boring or objectionable. My issue? He's regarded as being able to pack a considerable punch in few words, and his brevity is touted as crucial to his (percieved) genius. Even though once a year or so I decide to give him another chance and dust off A Farewell to Arms or The Old Man and the Sea, I just don't see it.

I won't deny that the works are short (they are) or complete (they are). But when my fellow writers call his style "economical" or "spare" and Wikipedia says it's "terse", I always seem to go in expecting minimal, hard-hitting descriptors, excruciatingly poignant word choice, and an ability to put unseen days or weeks into the subtext of one scene. I'm half-convinced that is, in fact, how other people experience Hemingway and that I'm the literary equivalent of being immune to a chemical.

Inevitably what I find instead is that, while the wording he selects is indeed very straightforward, there really is no notable scarcity of adjectives. And more importantly, I never feel the emotional kick-in-the-guts I'm always bracing for. And while he certainly gets credit for the amount of time he's able to skip while keeping the events comprehensible, I'm at a point where I suspect the only reason his writing is considered compact is how much time he skips. Nothing to do with linguistic power. Is there something I'm missing, or is that really what people mean when they cite Hemingway's sparse prose as a defining feature of brilliance?
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:46 AM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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I also have never understood his "greatness'. I have to admit, I thought Farewell to Arms was a really good book and he has a few good short stories, but For Whom The Bell Tolls and his other novels just don't seem all that great to me.

And yes, his writing style is a big part of why those don't work(and actually, it worked well in Arms).
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:54 AM
Rodgers01 Rodgers01 is offline
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I've only read a couple of his short stories (ones I'm told were highly regarded - they were included in collections and what-not), but none of them did anything for me - at all. I was kind of flummoxed. But I'm trying to withhold final judgment until I read one of his novels.
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:02 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by Imago View Post
I won't deny that the works are short (they are) or complete (they are). But when my fellow writers call his style "economical" or "spare" and Wikipedia says it's "terse", I always seem to go in expecting minimal, hard-hitting descriptors, excruciatingly poignant word choice, and an ability to put unseen days or weeks into the subtext of one scene.
No, "excruciatingly poignant" is not a phrase I'd associate with Hemmingway, and neither is hard-hitting - not in the sense of a flashy word that draws attention to itself. His style is direct and understated.
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:12 AM
Imago Imago is offline
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No, "excruciatingly poignant" is not a phrase I'd associate with Hemmingway, and neither is hard-hitting - not in the sense of a flashy word that draws attention to itself. His style is direct and understated.
Typically when we say something is understated, it does imply that it has considerable power (albeit hidden power). Like a scrawny guy in a suit who can bench press a truck. I always expect his style to be understated but generally don't find that it is.

You know, it just occurred to me that it's like he thought he could get by entirely on subject matter. Maybe that's why it doesn't work for me- I'm a sucker for the "how it's told" aspect.
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:17 AM
Imago Imago is offline
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I also have never understood his "greatness'. I have to admit, I thought Farewell to Arms was a really good book and he has a few good short stories, but For Whom The Bell Tolls and his other novels just don't seem all that great to me.

And yes, his writing style is a big part of why those don't work(and actually, it worked well in Arms).
Haven't touched For Whom the Bell Tolls in a few years. My high school English teacher (whom we all looked up to) had always been on the fence about him 'til he read that one, and it made him a (lukewarm, but nonetheless) convert. When he first explained the concept to me, I thought the subject matter alone would be enough to make it great- it's been a long time since anyone's written a book so centrically focused on the theme of making the most of what little time you've got left, which is the bit my teacher emphasized. Left me severely underwhelmed.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:44 AM
chloes1 chloes1 is offline
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Can't stand the man's writing either.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:52 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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I'm not a fan either. But maybe his style was divergent at the time and seemed new and fresh.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:00 PM
NAF1138 NAF1138 is offline
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To the OP, part of what you are missing is the widespread adoption of Hemingway's style. Compare him to contemporaries and those who came before. Read, to pick another American, Poe and then read Hemingway and you will notice a stark difference. Or go to England and read Dickens and then read Hemingway. Heck, get super contemporary and read Fitzgerald and then read Hemingway and there is still a difference.

Another part is that the difference is less noticeable in his novels than it is in his short stories (IMO his greatness as an author is really in his short story writing). But the biggest thing is really that his style was widely adopted and has become the mainstream writing style, and while the popular style of the time seems old fashioned now Hemingway's style no longer seems as radical as it was at the time.

Last edited by NAF1138; 04-25-2012 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:15 PM
Robb Robb is offline
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Hemingway tried to edit out of his work the parts of the story that he thought the readers already knew. It is similar to Elmore Leonard's idea of leaving out the parts that readers skip. But, you should also consider that people sometimes run contests to write bad Hemingway. If you read some of his posthumously published work, you will see that no one does bad Hemingway like Hemingway.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:19 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
No, "excruciatingly poignant" is not a phrase I'd associate with Hemmingway, and neither is hard-hitting - not in the sense of a flashy word that draws attention to itself. His style is direct and understated.
Yeah, I would describe it as reportorial, as in taking a journalistic style and setting it in a literary context. Personally, I like it.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:29 PM
Imago Imago is offline
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That makes some sense, NAF. Then again, both Dickens and Hemingway seem nearly ancient to me, while Poe feels like just yesterday. Maybe my sense of time is scrambled.

If that's mainstream writing style now, then it sure goes a long way to explaining why a current, bestselling, critically acclaimed novel hasn't grabbed my interest in a while. Here I was thinking I must just be turning into one of those drooling fools who can't stand anything popular. And come to think of it, my complaint about Tom Clancy, J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz and the recent rash of memoir-writers is that their styles are blandly functional at best.

I'm pretty happy to see the number of people chiming in to say they don't like him either. For a while I swear I thought I was the only decently literate person who didn't "get" Hemingway.

Last edited by Imago; 04-25-2012 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:32 PM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
I'm not a fan either. But maybe his style was divergent at the time and seemed new and fresh.
That might be the case. I read his stuff in school but was not impressed. Perhaps he was revolutionary when compared to the more florid styles of writers who've totally passed out of favor.

Myself, I like a bit of style. In fact, sometimes I like a lot of style. Lately, I've become enamored of Ford Madox Ford....
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:37 PM
Imago Imago is offline
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Yeah, I would describe it as reportorial, as in taking a journalistic style and setting it in a literary context. Personally, I like it.
Yeah, maybe that's a lot more accurate than "terse" and "compact". I'm not sure whether I actually think he's bad, it could just be that I was expecting something mindblowing every time and my mind was never blown.

On some level I probably assumed that when he actually was a journalist all his material made people spontaneously weep/laugh/fly into a rage over everyday events, as opposed to his fictional voice feeling like it came from a reporter.

Last edited by Imago; 04-25-2012 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:31 PM
Sam A. Robrin Sam A. Robrin is offline
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Hemingway and Picasso are similar in that both found a way to develop a style that allowed them to get the thing done in a hurry, so they could get out and get on with the real part of the job, which was publicizing the stuff.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:54 PM
shiftless shiftless is offline
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I don't believe it is his writing style that is supposed to be so good, it's that he is such a manly man and he can write OK too, so he has readable stories about manly stuff, much of which he really experienced in one form or another. Kind of a high-end Boy's Life writer.

I had a book of some of Hemingway's short work, can't remember the title. News dispatches or short non-fiction pieces from post WWI Europe or something. I really enjoyed that book until it disappeared. The rest of Hemingway I could do without.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:58 PM
Wakinyan Wakinyan is offline
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Twenty years ago I thought I should read Hemingway and picked up The Sun Also Rises, but I didn't get through the first chapter because I was so struck by his writing style that I went what the fuck and read several biographies, I was so fascinated by how he wrote. Then I read The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms, which all was very good, and later got back to The Sun Also Rises. Once again, I couldn't read much more than the first chapter. It was something about the tension, I can't explain it. I have never before or later quit on a great novel because it is too much, but it is something in this text that grips me and I start studying the sentences and paragraphs instead of just following along with the story. To me, it is just something about Hemingway. It is not "macho", quite the opposite, it is suppressed feeling. He is simply one hell of a writer -- fascinating stuff.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:58 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by shiftless View Post
I don't believe it is his writing style that is supposed to be so good, it's that he is such a manly man and he can write OK too, so he has readable stories about manly stuff, much of which he really experienced in one form or another. Kind of a high-end Boy's Life writer.
Yeah, that's definitely not true. I'm not the biggest Hemingway fan and scholar (as evidenced by the fact that I mispelled his name earlier) and it's certainly true that he promoted himself successfully, but it's the writing, not just the image. I have strong memories of reading some of his short stories in college and as we analyzed them, being impressed by the directness of his writing and by the amount of feeling that was buried undernear the plainspoken language. [Wakinyan just ninjaed me on this point and it's too bad but I'm glad we agree and maybe it's not so bad being ninjaed.] I think maybe that's the part the OP is not getting.

Last edited by Marley23; 04-25-2012 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:59 PM
secretsmile36 secretsmile36 is offline
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I still remember a quote from the old man and the sea:

"He didn't beat you. Not the fish."

I've never been fond of Hemingway.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:19 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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It is not surprising that those raised on nearly 100 years of tough, terse, post-Hemingway writing don't see what's so new.

I had read The Old Man and the Sea in school, but I finally picked up The Sun Also Rises and liked it. Had not trouble at all getting through the first chapter. Then I really studied the style in order to write a short parody, and found it interesting. Not how I'd want to write, but a lot more to my taste than Henry James and the Russians.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:19 PM
Maggie the Ocelot Maggie the Ocelot is offline
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Meh. I like a beautifully turned phrase better than a terse one.


Quote:
Originally posted by Ray Bradbury

THE OCTOBER COUNTRY … that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coalbins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:23 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Hemingway managed, with very few pages, to say what could be said in no pages at all.
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Old 04-25-2012, 06:13 PM
Imago Imago is offline
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It is not surprising that those raised on nearly 100 years of tough, terse, post-Hemingway writing don't see what's so new.
Seeing, hearing words like "tough" and "terse" makes me very badly want to read a thing- perhaps I'd like Hemingway's literary successors more than himself. Drop me a few names, and I'll check them out if I haven't already read them.

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Originally Posted by Wakinyan View Post
It is not "macho", quite the opposite, it is suppressed feeling. He is simply one hell of a writer -- fascinating stuff.
Hmm. You know, maybe part of my problem is also that I totally expected an awful lot of something or other that could be construed as macho- the closest word I can pull out my backside right now is "unflinching". And maybe a shitload of people before me read it, missed the bits where he (expertly, and no doubt intentionally) flinches, liked it, recommended it and that's why I keep feeling like there's a gulf between Hemingway's rep and his actual body of work.

Maybe I'll never know exactly why I'm not drawn to Hemingway. In which case I'm probably doomed to keep picking him up every once in a while and scratching my head.
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Old 04-25-2012, 07:21 PM
NAF1138 NAF1138 is offline
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Seeing, hearing words like "tough" and "terse" makes me very badly want to read a thing- perhaps I'd like Hemingway's literary successors more than himself. Drop me a few names, and I'll check them out if I haven't already read them.
Sure. Everyone writing after about 1940 in any vaguely literary way who isn't consciously trying to ape James Joyce instead.

Ok, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit of one. Maggie the Ocelot quoted Bradbury as a contradiction to the style of Hemingway, but I think it serves better as an example of his influence. Contrast that quote with,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Dunsanay
And at that moment a wind came out of the northwest, and entered the woods and bared the golden branches, and danced over the downs, and led a company of scarlet and golden leaves, that had dreaded this day but danced now it had come; and away with a riot of dancing and glory of colour, high in the light of the sun that had set from the sight of the fields, went wind and leaves together
or

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovecraft
What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed the laws that are not of our cosmos. This was no fruit of such worlds and suns as shine on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observatories. This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure or deem too vast to measure. It was just a colour out of space — a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.
and you can see that even Science Fiction started getting to the point rather quickly.
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Old 04-25-2012, 07:29 PM
NAF1138 NAF1138 is offline
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Maybe I'll never know exactly why I'm not drawn to Hemingway. In which case I'm probably doomed to keep picking him up every once in a while and scratching my head.
Out of curiosity what have you read? I am not saying you will like him if you try something else, but you might get a better feel for the style reading something other that those two longer works you mentioned.

The Sun Also Rises is more on the extreme side, but his early short stories are really where it is at if you just want to see the style.

"The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro"
"A Very Short Story"
"Big Two Hearted River" Parts I and II
"Hills Like White Elephants"
"The Killers"
and
"A Clean, Well Lighted Place"

are good ones to try.

Hey, they are short. And you should really get a good sample of the man's work before you toss it aside.
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Old 04-25-2012, 07:38 PM
NAF1138 NAF1138 is offline
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Triple post!

After writing that last post I decided to see if I could find "A Very Short Story" online. It is, after all, very short.

Here it is. It should take about 5 minutes to read and is an extreme example of his style.
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Old 04-25-2012, 07:57 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Poor Luz!

That was interesting. I will have to read more of his stuff.
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Old 04-25-2012, 08:25 PM
NAF1138 NAF1138 is offline
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Poor Luz!

That was interesting. I will have to read more of his stuff.
I agree. It is generally viewed as misogynistic but I never saw it that way. But that's one of the things I do like about Hemingway, it is very open to interpretation. You can easily find many 10-15 page critical essays on that very short story.
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Hey, signatures seem to be on by default now.
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:35 PM
Southern Yankee Southern Yankee is offline
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I'm a big fan. Like it or not, his style was a major change in literature at the time. That's not why I'm a fan, btw. I'm no scholar, but I always felt he was very good at writing about a specific set of traits (honor, fear, loyalty among them) from the male perspective. He wrote very personally. His style was certainly deliberate, and came from his journalism background. The Old Man and the Sea is about as perfect a short story (novella) as was ever written, IMO.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:32 PM
WordMan WordMan is offline
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Read A Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. You will remember where you were when you read it.

Look, he innovated in his style vs what came before - that matters. But read stories like this and you see that he gets it right every now and then...
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:40 AM
Tarwater Tarwater is offline
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Originally Posted by Maggie the Ocelot View Post
Meh. I like a beautifully turned phrase better than a terse one.
I prefer both:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemingway
In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers. It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains.



EDIT:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Southern Yankee View Post
I'm a big fan. Like it or not, his style was a major change in literature at the time. That's not why I'm a fan, btw. I'm no scholar, but I always felt he was very good at writing about a specific set of traits (honor, fear, loyalty among them) from the male perspective. He wrote very personally. His style was certainly deliberate, and came from his journalism background. The Old Man and the Sea is about as perfect a short story (novella) as was ever written, IMO.
Hemingway arrived at his style after Ezra Pound told him off for writing self-indulgent and flowery prose. His style, as most people would recognize it, came into existence once he started consciouslty lifting it from Gertrude Stein.

Last edited by Tarwater; 04-26-2012 at 12:41 AM. Reason: Addressing another person, didn't want to post again
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Old 04-26-2012, 02:18 AM
Hazle Weatherfield Hazle Weatherfield is offline
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Hemingway managed, with very few pages, to say what could be said in no pages at all.
Effing brilliant! And I even like Hemingway.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by NAF1138 View Post
Triple post!

After writing that last post I decided to see if I could find "A Very Short Story" online. It is, after all, very short.

Here it is. It should take about 5 minutes to read and is an extreme example of his style.
Yeah, that's an interesting project, but a short story? I'm sorry, but I can't call it that. It's a bunch of disjointed segments, some of which depending on you haven't already read it to make sense. For example, "After he got on crutches he used to take the temperatures so Luz would not have to get up from the bed. There were only a few patients, and they all knew about it. They all liked Luz."--that reads to me like Luz has an illness of some kind that makes her have to stay in bed, and that everyone, not just the main character has a crush on Luz.

The only other Hemmingway piece I've read is "The Old Man and the Sea", and my impression there was actually that he goes on and on about nothing. What I remember is entirely an internal monolog without any importance. It read like someone trying to give meaning to the mundane, like trying to catch a fish. Again, interesting for what it was, but nothing I would seek out.

Then again, my requirement for any piece of literature is that the story is interesting even without any symbolism, without anything but a surface understanding of what's going on. Hemmingway seems to go about it the entirely opposite direction: taking what on the surface should be uninteresting and trying to make it so. But I can't get past that surface because it's so flimsy.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:59 AM
Imago Imago is offline
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Aie! No! Getting to the point and one's writing being terse or tough are different things.

To be terse is to be impolite in the interest of being efficient, so in writing I would think there'd be a certain tension with the reader born of the writer's earnestness. I've yet to find that anywhere, let alone in Hemingway.

Nor does one have to get to the point for their prose to be tough- my definition of "tough" would simply be effective writing, something that kicks you hard in the guts emotionally without shying away from the harsh bits.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WordMan View Post
Read A Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. You will remember where you were when you read it.
I read it before. I don't remember where I was when I read it.

Here's what I've read besides it, in no order:
A Farewell to Arms
The Sun Also Rises
The Old Man and the Sea
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Snows of Kilimanjaro

I really don't think, regardless of how little time it takes, I can be persuaded to read more. I did just read "A Very Short Story" and regret to say it left me untouched. Poor Luz? More like poor shop girl (gonorrhea isn't fun for anything anatomically female). Think I'll just go back to David Sedaris now.
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Old 04-26-2012, 09:37 AM
NAF1138 NAF1138 is offline
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Aie! No! Getting to the point and one's writing being terse or tough are different things.

To be terse is to be impolite in the interest of being efficient, so in writing I would think there'd be a certain tension with the reader born of the writer's earnestness. I've yet to find that anywhere, let alone in Hemingway.

Nor does one have to get to the point for their prose to be tough- my definition of "tough" would simply be effective writing, something that kicks you hard in the guts emotionally without shying away from the harsh bits.
Raymond Chandler is what you are looking for. Elmore Leonard too, though not all of his work is created equal, so tread lightly. James Cain and Dashiell Hammet to a lesser extent.

When people talk about terseness in Hemingway they mean passages like this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by a very short story
Luz stayed on night duty for three months. They were glad to let her. When they operated on him she prepared him for the operating table; and they had a joke about friend or enema. He went under the anaesthetic holding tight on to himself so he would not blab about anything during the silly, talky time. After he got on crutches he used to take the temperatures so Luz would not have to get up from the bed. There were only a few patients, and they all knew about it. They all liked Luz. As he walked back along the halls he thought of Luz in his bed.
Where he describes fully everything he thinks you need to know about a 3 month long, blazing hot love affair in 8 sentences. You learn about who he is, what he is afraid of, how their relationship worked, how people view Luz, and a lot about both of their personalities in those 8 sentences. Three months of intense, white hot passion, boiled down to just the most important bits. Like I said, it's an extreme example which is why I suggested it. Maybe, as BigT suggests, she stays in bed because she is sick. Maybe she is tired because it's the night shift? Maybe she is pregnant? Maybe she is just exhausted from the fucking they were doing? Maybe some of all of the above? The only thing that is certain is that they are sharing his bed every night, and it's the only thing that is certain because it's the only thing that is important. The rest is all extra, fill it in yourself.


Quote:
I really don't think, regardless of how little time it takes, I can be persuaded to read more. I did just read "A Very Short Story" and regret to say it left me untouched. Poor Luz? More like poor shop girl (gonorrhea isn't fun for anything anatomically female). Think I'll just go back to David Sedaris now.
Regret nothing. I think I have figured out what you are looking for, and I agree, you won't find it in Hemingway, it's not what he did. The descriptions that people give to his writing mean a different thing to them than they do to you.

"A Very Short Story" isn't his best work, but it is a very good example of the far extreme of his style. He leaves a lot out. He doesn't describe anything that isn't 100% essential, and then leaves the reader to figure out and fill in the rest. (This isn't what people mean either, and it isn't what was most influential about his writing, but it is the most important thing about his writing.) You get impressions that you then fill in with your own experiences. Hemingway subscribed to what my 7th grade English teacher pounded into our heads as the iceberg theory of writing. 10% is on the surface, everything else is below the surface. It's exactly what BigT described, but he viewed it as a feature not a bug.

I say poor Luz because I read that story and see a picture of a woman who was infatuated with her hospital lover, and who was romantically in love with the idea of being in love. While he is away they are still bonded by the immediacy of the war and what was, but once the war is over they drift apart (physically and emotionally) and she once again falls in love with another soldier, is likely impregnated by that soldier, and the cycle starts again. It's sad. His story is sad too, but differently sad. No joke, you can read a 20 page critique of the story as misogynistic autobiography on google books right now that will give you a totally different take and it doesn't feel like there critic is over analyzing anything. There is a lot of "there" there. Here (if the link works, google books links don't always)

All that said, if you don't like it that's fine. Not everything is to everyone's taste. Based on what you said you have read I think you have a representative sample, so put it away. It's not your thing and there is nothing wrong with that.

Last edited by NAF1138; 04-26-2012 at 09:40 AM.
  #36  
Old 04-26-2012, 11:38 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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He dropped the book on the table, the well worn cover taking in the droplets of condensation from the iced tea and the crumbs from the fried chicken effortlessly. "Hemingway," he muttered, unheard by others in the restaurant, "is not very good."
  #37  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:40 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Originally Posted by NAF1138 View Post
Sure. Everyone writing after about 1940 in any vaguely literary way who isn't consciously trying to ape James Joyce instead.

and you can see that even Science Fiction started getting to the point rather quickly.
I was thinking of hard boiled detective story writers, but your examples are excellent.
  #38  
Old 04-26-2012, 10:07 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Originally Posted by NAF1138 View Post
Triple post!

After writing that last post I decided to see if I could find "A Very Short Story" online. It is, after all, very short.

Here it is. It should take about 5 minutes to read and is an extreme example of his style.
Ok, that's the first work of Hemingway's that I've actually been able to finish. And I'm left with a feeling of "So what?" There's a difference between telling me about what happened and showing me what happened, and I don't have any feeling of having experienced anything. Instead of being a short story, it seems more like someone telling me about a short story.

I've enjoyed films based on Hemingway's works, but have never been able to read him. His style just bores the hell out of me.
  #39  
Old 04-26-2012, 11:21 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Twenty years ago I thought I should read Hemingway and picked up The Sun Also Rises, but I didn't get through the first chapter because I was so struck by his writing style that I went what the fuck and read several biographies, I was so fascinated by how he wrote. Then I read The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms, which all was very good, and later got back to The Sun Also Rises. Once again, I couldn't read much more than the first chapter. It was something about the tension, I can't explain it. I have never before or later quit on a great novel because it is too much, but it is something in this text that grips me and I start studying the sentences and paragraphs instead of just following along with the story. To me, it is just something about Hemingway. It is not "macho", quite the opposite, it is suppressed feeling. He is simply one hell of a writer -- fascinating stuff.
Thank you for trying to explain what you like about the guy. I tried hard as a (young) adult in grad school and just didn't warm to him.

ETA (but really just after thought and ten minutes)- perhaps I should try again, after reading about Luz. It was a bit of a cheap trick, but there was that gut punch. And maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, because recently I read a letter or something that Hemingway wrote about having to shoot one of his cats after it had been run over by a car, and some asshole's comments about it. And after that I have more kindness in my heart for the old man.
  #40  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:05 AM
Kenm Kenm is offline
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FYI, a 1923 Hemingway news story in the Toronto Star about a prison break.
Quote:
McMullen was at the wheel of the Chevrolet — that is, he was hunched over what was left of the wheel. One of Forsythe’s shots had cut the wheel clean in two and smashed McMullen’s left hand. He drove on with his right hand, hunched low, his face paling from the amount of blood he was losing. The other two big men were in the back of the car with “Young” Brown, the wild kid. On the front seat with McMullen sat “Runty” Bryans. One of Forsythe’s bullets ripped through the back of the car and out the front above “Runty’s” head. It would have hit a full sized man in the skull.
  #41  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:14 PM
Imago Imago is offline
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Thanks a bunch NAF. My internet is being stone-age slow right now, I'll post a better reply when there isn't a chance of losing it.
  #42  
Old 04-27-2012, 12:19 PM
gwendee gwendee is offline
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FYI, a 1923 Hemingway news story in the Toronto Star about a prison break.
Thanks for this. I consider myself something of a fan, preferring the short stories to Hemingway's novels and somehow until now it never crossed my mind to seek out his news stories.
  #43  
Old 04-27-2012, 06:36 PM
Arabella Flynn Arabella Flynn is offline
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I'm not a fan. I tried reading Hemingway several times, and could never get anywhere with it. The last straw was reading Hills Like White Elephants in a fiction writing class in college. The writing somehow managed to be terse and completely fail to come to any kind of a point at the same time. I had absolutely no idea what was going on at any point in the story, other than Spain and beer, and had to read the class discussion questions we'd been given before I figured out he was taking her to get an abortion. All I got was "operation" and "let the air in" and by the end of the story, I was seriously rooting for a lobotomy.

So no. I don't think you're being whooshed. I think it's just more a matter of personal taste than a lot of critics would like you to believe.
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Old 04-27-2012, 10:20 PM
Tapiotar Tapiotar is offline
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Also not a Hemingway fan. For a while, I considered Hemingway as being like the Three Stooges. That is, one of those acts that men tend to like and women tend not to. (Yes, this is broadly based stereotyping -- I know it, and know there are many exceptions, so you needn't call me on it.)

In a language class in a country somewhere in Europe, we were practicing translating from English into the target language, and the teacher chose Hemingway because his sentences were simple. Analyzing them, all the Americans in the class felt ashamed of how awful Hemingway's prose was (and oh, the Brits and other Europeans in the class made us feel it even more.)

But that was a long time ago, and maybe I should give him a try again, see what my older and more mature self thinks.
  #45  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:24 PM
Kamino Neko Kamino Neko is offline
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Originally Posted by NAF1138 View Post
Where he describes fully everything he thinks you need to know about a 3 month long, blazing hot love affair in 8 sentences.
That's what it was supposed to be? I only barely got the idea that they were sleeping together, and hell if 'blazing hot' is how it reads, I'm Hemingway himself!

I'm a fan of not letting the words get in the way of the story, and skimming over unnecessary details, but...there's a limit on how much you can do of either of those before you get... That.

That's just terrible.

Last edited by Kamino Neko; 04-27-2012 at 11:25 PM.
  #46  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:26 PM
NAF1138 NAF1138 is offline
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That's what it was supposed to be? I only barely got the idea that they were sleeping together, and hell if 'blazing hot' is how it reads.

I'm a fan of not letting the words get in the way of the story, and skimming over unnecessary details, but...there's a limit on how much you can do of either of those before you get... That.

That's just terrible.
Well, I did say it wasn't his best effort, just the most extreme. His other stories are a bit longer and now quite so spare.

I think if you go back and look you can find where blazing hot is indicated. I would point out examples but it is late and other people have written more and better on the subject.
__________________
Hey, signatures seem to be on by default now.

Last edited by NAF1138; 04-27-2012 at 11:28 PM.
  #47  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:44 PM
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Surprised there's not more appreciation for Hemingway on here. I'm a big fan, not because of his style but because of the way he makes you really feel the emotions of the protagonist. I read "for whom the bell tolls" and felt that I was inside the guerilla fighters head as he made every last second of his life count.
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Old 04-28-2012, 01:35 AM
Shamozzle Shamozzle is offline
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Surprised there's not more appreciation for Hemingway on here. I'm a big fan, not because of his style but because of the way he makes you really feel the emotions of the protagonist. I read "for whom the bell tolls" and felt that I was inside the guerilla fighters head as he made every last second of his life count.
Agreed. "For Whom The Bell Tolls" was my first Hemingway and I bought it on impulse because he was supposed to be good. The story and writing totally blew my mind, it was so amazing. To this day, I rave and rave about it to anyone who will listen.
  #49  
Old 04-28-2012, 04:34 PM
Imago Imago is offline
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I say poor Luz because I read that story and see a picture of a woman who was infatuated with her hospital lover, and who was romantically in love with the idea of being in love. While he is away they are still bonded by the immediacy of the war and what was, but once the war is over they drift apart (physically and emotionally) and she once again falls in love with another soldier, is likely impregnated by that soldier, and the cycle starts again. It's sad. His story is sad too, but differently sad.
I feel as if he got so caught up in his style here that he neglected to show Luz' actions as cyclical. So I got that the POV character's story was sad, and I might've felt for him if I'd been given a reason to (we don't get to know the characters), but Luz doesn't seem too bad off.

In any case, I'll check out the writers you named (thanks a bunch!) and now that I can see my not liking him isn't due to a brain deficiency (I kid, I kid) I'll finally be able to put Hemingway to rest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenm View Post
FYI, a 1923 Hemingway news story in the Toronto Star about a prison break.
Silly mofo should have stayed a journalist! I'd read newspaper articles written like that day in and day out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
Surprised there's not more appreciation for Hemingway on here. I'm a big fan, not because of his style but because of the way he makes you really feel the emotions of the protagonist. I read "for whom the bell tolls" and felt that I was inside the guerilla fighters head as he made every last second of his life count.
The issue there being that... he doesn't, at least to some folks. nd in some cases specifically because of his style.
  #50  
Old 04-28-2012, 06:07 PM
Kenm Kenm is offline
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Silly mofo should have stayed a journalist! I'd read newspaper articles written like that day in and day out.
Yeah, now. Not so much then.

It's much better than the usual written by a 24-year-old.

His spare style was honed at newspapers.
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