10 May 2013

Ernest Hemingway on Writing, A Review


Well, dear reader, it's that time of the week again: Craft Book Review Time, of course.  This week I've got a special treat for you, but how about I let Woody Allen introduce him:
All right, now we're ready to talk about one of the most lauded American Writers of the 20th Century: Ernest Hemingway.  Editor Larry W. Phillips notes in his preface that Hemingway thought it bad luck to discuss his process, but by the end of his career, Hemingway had done an awful lot of just that.  Across the decades of Hemingway's career, Phillips has distilled these wonderful quotes and snippets from Hemingway's letters, interviews, books, and short stories which illuminates the enigmatic and boisterous writer's style.

Of these findings, besides the wealth of useful information and lovely encouragement (honestly, who of us isn't at least a bit pleased and encouraged to discover that literary geniuses struggled to meet word counts?), my favorite tidbits are Hemingway's letters to "Scott" Fitzgerald.  The lesson I learned from these letters to Scott is if you see someone wasting their talents seeking approval from one particular person, it's okay to write abuse to them (seeing as Hemingway had few friends, perhaps this is the wrong lesson to take).  Seriously though, it's good to see that literary greats were people, too, and they got just as fed up when someone wasn't achieving their potential as we lowly readers do.

I highly recommend giving Ernest Hemingway on Writing a read.  It might not change your views on how to write (although mine did adjust a bit, when Hemingway said he only kept about 1 in 91 pages), but it will certainly bring this literary great down to a level where you can try to compete with him, and if you're not trying to be a champion at craft, then what is it all for?
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