H is for Hemingway


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Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in 1899 in a suburb of Chicago. He cut his writing teeth on articles for his school magazine and on leaving school started his career by working for a local newspaper as a reporter.

He spent time in Italy during WWI and was seriously wounded, spending 6 months in a hospital in Milan. He then moved to Paris and started to mix with writers such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, who became his mentor.

Initially, Hemingway published short stories but when he met and became friends with F Scott Fitzgerald (who had just published The Great Gatsby) he decided that his next book had to be a novel. That novel, The Sun Also Rises took him 8 weeks to write the first draft and was published in 1926. After subsequent publication of such famous works as A Farewell To Arms and For Whom The Bell Tolls, in 1954 he received The Nobel Prize for Literature.

Much has been written over the years on the quality of Hemingway’s work, who’s themes were mainly of war, love and loss. Writers today are still trying to emulate him but the New York Times once said that he was “a writer by a combination of great emotional power and a highly individual style that could be parodied but never successfully imitated.”

Hemingway died at the age of 61, the victim of a tragic accident was the story at the time, but 5 years later his wife admitted that he had actually committed suicide.

My favourite Hemingway quotes:

“All I want to do is write well.”

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”

“The first draft of anything is shit”

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

“Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective”

Hemingway’s Nobel Prize Acceptance speech

So I think it is safe to say that Hemingway is considered to be one of the world greats and that most writers would sell their souls to write like him. But he obviously didn’t find it easy. It sounds to me like he was a bit of a perfectionist. One page, 39 times? WOW! But where do you draw the line? When do you know you’ve edited, rewritten and tinkered enough? Have you, would you, rewrite a page 39 times? Or do you consider that obsessive?

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57 thoughts on “H is for Hemingway

  1. How did I know H would be reserved for Papa? Read Graham Greene in high school and loved him. But it was Hemingway who fueled my youthful passions. It is said that he was so compulsive about editing that when his editor at Scribners gave him an advanced copy of a recent novel, he turned to a page and complained, “Damn I should have cut this line.”

    What is your fav of his novels? MIne is The Sun Also Rises. And of his short stories, find and read Indian Camp. Such talent from the old boy, ex-pat, neurotic to the last and always Papa 🙂

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    • Ha ha ha, thanks Florence, now that IS obsessive 😉

      Oh dear, did you have to ask me that question? I havent read any 😦 Im beginning to feel so uneducated with these posts. The Hubster said to me “you need to stop admitting yu havent read these authors” lol.

      I promise i will…ive had A Moveable Feast on a pile next to my bed for 2 years! 😦

      xx

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  2. I think Hemingway did sell his soul to write like that – he was a major alcoholic – but well worth it I would say for the work he put out there. Such a brilliant man and quite the adventurer

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  3. A Farewell to Arms is one of my favourite books – I cry every time. I love his quote about the first draft of anything being shit – it makes it easier to plough on and get through that first draft, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me (gah! )

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  4. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my readers would appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.

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  5. I honestly – swear to god – had not read this post before I posted my question about how you know when you have edited something for the final time on Twitter!
    Seems like our minds are on similar lines! x

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  6. “All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”
    probably my favorite hemingway quote of all time 🙂

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  7. My favorite! I love Hemingway! Perhaps he is obsessive, but only because he knows how many times he rewrote the ending. After doing Nano, I’ve been slowly but surely revising and reorganizing my memoir. I dont’ know how many times I’ve rewritten parts of it, but by the time I’m finished it will probably be close to 39!

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    • Thanks Cheryl 🙂

      I think i would have turned myself mad by then! lol….. Seriously, I’m on rewrite number 4 and pulling my hair out, but i know i have a long way to go, especially if/when an editor gets their hands on it 😉

      Good luck honey! 🙂

      xx

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  8. Stopping by from the A-Z challenge – thanks for stopping by yourself 🙂 I think I might go insane re-writing 39 times! But I barely have time to edit with a two year old in the house – one day my time will be my own 🙂

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  9. I don’t have a favorite. I studied Hemingway for his style of writing. Need to brush off the dust and take his work in again

    You have a difficult task in finding one great for each letter
    Thanks for the visit Happy A to Zing

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  10. Great choice for H. One of my favorite lines by Hemingway was a full story in a six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” (And which he probably didn’t actually write…but that his legend gets tied to them says something, too).

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  11. So far I can say that I have read and enjoyed something by all your authors, but Eco. However, I did seen the Sean Connery movie and enjoyed it. I will look into it. There have been some wonderful movies by and about Austen, but one should really read her. You might choose Persuasion or Northanger Abbey if you feel you are familiar with S and S or Pride and Prejudice.
    Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

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    • Thanks Katie 🙂

      I really struggle picking up a book after ive seen the film of t, because i feel that its been spoilt. I’ll be picturing the director of the films interpretation of how the story and characters should be, and not the writers….but, i will definitely be giving Ausen a go 🙂

      xx

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  12. I wish I could like Hemingway better. He lived in Idaho a good long time and that’s where I grew up, so there is a bit of ‘home boy’ to him for me. And I love his writing quotes. But the poor man just lacked humor… his stuff is so depressing. It is probably the war theme I really have trouble with–not my thing.

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  13. I don’t think I’ve ever finished reading anything by Hemingway. I’m actually a pretty lazy reader. And if I haven’t ever actually ‘re-written anything 39 times, it sure has felt like I have done it many times.

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  14. Hemingway is such a controversial figure. What a great person to pick for “H”. And I love your last quote of his, “Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective”. It’s so true.

    Elliot
    We Are Adventure

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  15. Love Hemingway, and I always will consider him one of the few naturally gifted writers ever. I don’t think 39 times is obsessive, actually. I feel like most writers could do with that kind of dedication and desire to get the story right.

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  16. I admire Hemingway’s adventurous spirit in his stories, though not his treatment of women. I find that his chauvinism detracts or at least distracts from the story for me, though it may have mirrored the attitude of the times. I have read ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ and short stories such as “The Short Happy Life of Frances Macomber” and “Hills Like White Elephants.” I do like his to-the-point journalistic style; I think he found a voice in that way. However, I do tend also to like the beautifully-spun prose of authors such as Willa Cather as well. I guess if the voice fits the story, that is the test.

    Enjoying your blog, so nice to revisit stories I haven’t read for…too long. 🙂

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  17. I have favorite authors and then there are the authors I appreciate. Hemingway is an author I appreciate. I read his short stories, and he is an author of few words. He could do so much with just a sprinkle of words. He was a genius and then sometimes he missed. I can’t remember what story it was I read, but I remember not getting it. There were other stories I was blown away by his power to portray human nature in such a close up light. ~ Rebecca

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