Saturday, March 25, 2006


Reading Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises makes me just want to put down the pen, pull myself back from the keyboard, and go to bed, groggy. What he did eighty years ago seems so simple and clean and perceptive in comparison to a lot of modern writing, which goes on and on and on without having much of a point, let alone precision. (Kind of like my blog entries, come to think of it.)

Hemingway leaves so much out that I could never get into him when I was young(er); I always felt that something was missing, a point of entry, a means by which I could figure out, with ease, what it was that he was trying to articulate. Give me Thomas Wolfe and Joyce Carol Oates, I used to think; give me writers that vomit their emotions onto the page. (Which is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Wolfe and Oates are great, great writers, and Norman Mailer, a personal favorite, is nothing if not Hemingway's modern heir, and he's written more than a few doorstoppers in his time.)

His clarity and seeming simplicity are the same reasons I could never get into crime writers like Elmore Leonard and Robert B.Parker when I was a teenager, but now gobble them up like gobstoppers. Both of them studied Hemingway's clean, delicate prose. Both of them understand that, yes, sometimes more is more, as John Irving states, and I firmly believe, but also that, you know what? Less can be more, too. Sometimes brevity can fill volumes.

Now I've come to believe that the good art is all about what's left out, the spaces between the sentences, the gaps between the punctuation. It's why Stanley Kubrick continues to perplex and astound his supporters and detractors; he doesn't provide the kind of cinematic indentations that would lead you to any kind of quick, emotional understanding.

I have to dive into Hemingway further. I tried to read a lot of his stuff back before there was such a thing as the Internet or email; now I have to investigate more fully what I've missed. Teaching a few of his short stories to my classes at the University of Cambodia a few years back made me realize how dense he was in his insight. Now I'm steadily realizing, on the cusp of thirty, that I don't really know much about writing at all. But I'm eager to learn.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Great ending point Scott.I truly
believe that the wisest of us are
the ones who realize how little
most of us really know and aren't
afraid to admit it.